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Broadening economic opportunities in Chitral

Pakistan has 45 million population of youth bulge aged 15-29 years, of whom 28 percent are jobless, according to ILO’s Global Employment Trends Report 2013. This trend in the perspective of Chitral with reference to jobs and employability gives a hint of bolder fraction of unemployed youths in Chitral. The rural set- up of Chitral has an exclusive dynamics of different life style, business and economic opportunities than the rest of the country. The regional implications and dynamics whether topographical or cultural are obstacles in the way of creating an environment for business. The headquarters of tehsils’ in district Chitral has a different approach to life and business even to economic opportunities. Some areas in both lower and upper Chitral has opportunities of business and investment, but lower Chitral’s district town has become a hub of increasing business particularly the opening of Lawari tunnel even winter season for traffic after tunnelising it for necessary traffic. Small-scale entrepreneurial drive may not qualify to give the success bench mark in the area but the business approach in every area with unique texture of customers, gives substantiation to it from the rest of the country in terms of dealing with customers. Out of 98,671 hectares in Chitral, only 22,552 hectares area is under cultivation in Chitral, in which major chunk of uncultivated terrain mostly plateaus and mountainous tracts are owned by government. Government neither uses this land nor leases it out to the people for cultivation in Chitral. The value chain study report places the cultivable land in the limit of 2pc in Chitral which further shrinks the capacity of agriculture to sustain the population in the area. This limited terrain in Chitral is increasingly used for construction of houses, further decreases small scale subsistence farming in Chitral. Notwithstanding, there are many reasons for decreasing productivity in Chitral are: shortage of water, poor or no canal system, traditional method of farming, relying on the same crop cultivation, no involvement of government, unavailability of high yielding seeds, and most importantly the lack of agricultural research and organic hybridization  of crops for different topographic and climatic region of Chitral. It is important to mention here is that in upper Chitral some focus has been placed more on working on the promotion of handicrafts and ways for economic opportunities for women than agriculture sector. The later has comparatively more potential for productivity and income generation than former. The praise also goes to Aga Khan Rural Support Programme some years ago to pilot many projects for the introduction of new fruits and skill development (handicrafts, sewing, embroidery, weaving, knitting for women), and concept of micro saving for both men and women in Chitral region. The AKRSP guided fruits preservation and marketing trainings and facilities have had some positive impact on thinking fruit stuffs not only an item for domestic usage after supper in winter season but has a potential to an option of earning some income. To mention the emergence of the codling moth in fruit and other plants in some areas of Chitral, its spread to other areas, has disturbed the productivity some years later, and still it exists. Was it the result of excessive usage of pesticides or insecticides or any organic birth? still needs a research for initiating preventable measures in the focused areas of upper Chitral even today. The increasing new cash crop farming in place of farming for traditional subsistence in Lokthow region is the clear indication of the awareness given by NGOs and some people. They infused the people with the idea of self-employment and entrepreneurship has changed the farming trend and replacing poor small scale subsistence farming altogether. Comparatively the people of Lotkhow area are more business minded, economically sound and self-employed than the other valleys of Chitral. Some tall claims were also made of providing institutional support and finance to the poor in the region for their economic development but the reality is that the micro-financing were one-dimensional and profit driven.  The social business and creative capacity building has still been laying outside the focus of both government and micro financial institutions in Chitral. Some people in Chitral can be credited for creating public awareness, providing enabling environment and underpinning the idea of self-employment among the people of Chitral. They came up being a change agent and their approach to business was for common good and cause-driven. They grasped the potential in both land and the people of the area to launch the social entrepreneurship. They came forward for a cause of common good and the development of the area, has changed completely the former landscape of different villages in Chitral. The possible ways to develop social entrepreneurship both in society and educated youth can be initiated to bring the uncultivated land terrain under cultivation with a hybridized crop with institutional support of public and private partnership. The university campuses and commerce colleges in Chitral can take initiatives of entrepreneurship short courses, lectures, themes and seminars by bringing the creative and innovative ideas of the students into the regional context. Those who have the expertise in self-employment and entrepreneurship particularly in Chitral can also contribute through the forum to identify ways and means for earning and learning how to earn. It is very important for government to open up a poor credit worthy loan schemes in banks for the local entrepreneurs and giving credence to the services of the people who serve the people for the benefit of all. Dr. Muhammad Younus  writes ‘any program that merely meets the physical needs of a poor person or even provides a job is not a true development program unless it leads to the unfolding of his/her creative energy’ should be the guiding principle for broadening economic opportunities in Chitral. The writer is a teacher and based in Chitral.]]>

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