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Kalash farmers say non-local traders exploiting them

By Zahiruddin
CHITRAL, July 20: The Kalash farmers have alleged that non-local traders exploit them by purchasing their agricultural products at throwaway price before the harvesting season.
Known for their gullibility and innocence, Kalash farmers say that common bean, walnut and grapes are the three main agricultural products of the area but they have to sell these due to their abject poverty.
Jassim Kalash, a resident of Bumburate valley, told this correspondent here that price of one kilogram common was Rs140 in the season while non-local traders bought it from them at less than Rs50 per kilogram. The rate of one kilogram walnut was Rs200 but it was purchased at about Rs100 per kilogram before the season, he added.
“Red grapes are also bought at half price. The fruit merchants sell it in the market at triple price as grapes are purchased at Rs40 per kilogram here while the same fruit is sold at Rs130 per kilogram in Chitral city,” Jassim said. He said that Kalash farmers sold half of their produce before the harvesting season due to their abject poverty. “They are bound to do it to save themselves from starvation,” he added.
Jassim said that beans were cultivated in the month of March and it ripened to harvesting in September while walnuts and grapes were also harvested in the same month. Saidu, a farmer of Rumbur valley, said that they sold more than half of their expected produce well before the harvesting season and remained as indigent as before in the harvesting season which was otherwise known everywhere as the ‘month of prosperity’ for a farmer. He said that he cultivated beans in his three fields and sold the expected produce of two of those to meet expenses of Chilim Jusht festival, purchase wheat for daily consumption and fulfil some other needs.
“I had no money to purchase seeds, fertilisers and pesticides so I was left with no option but to sell out my produce in the months of April to July,” Saidu said, adding that it was also the case of other farmers of Kalash valleys.
“To meet some of my urgent needs, I had to sell the products of five of nine trees of walnuts and the grapes of two of four tree this year,” said Jamati Khan, another farmer of Bumburate.
Hamid Khan, a schoolteacher in Bumburate valley, said that non-local traders thronged the valley in the month of April and May with a bundle of cash and trapped the poor Kalash people. He added that Kalash farmers hesitated to do business with the local shopkeepers, who paid them much lower price.
He said that interest-free loans should be awarded to Kalash people on soft terms without any complications to stabilise them financially within a period of two to three years.
“Kalash are not profligate in their daily life expenses but they are very cautious and possess the capability to free themselves from the exploiters if given a chance,” the teacher said.

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