Prof Rehmat Karim Baig
Chitral has been a self-dependent society for certain geographical constraints.
The men and women worked together to run family finances and did hard work to remain self-sufficient unless seriously affected by any calamity. The females were skilled in wool technology of the time and ran cottage industries and made all kind of garments from the wool of sheep kept and raised by themselves.
All male and female woolen dresses were made from the patti made by women. Hence keeping sheep was necessary for each household. The males also processed goat hair and made rugs for domestic use. Some were also sold or bartered. In this way, the units of society contributed to the economy. Food was also given on rationing system. The women adept in this skill are now old and no more in good health to do the work but the girls of the new generation are not ready to learn that old skill.
The reason is that they all go to schools and then do homework in the afternoon and then resort to cell phones and continue chatting for long hours. The household still do keep a number of sheep and get the wool shorn after each 3 months which means they are shorn 4 times a year and this amount piles up and becomes a burden inside the house. As there is no member of the family to process it or some part of it so the whole lot is put into bags and thrown into the river as there is no buyer of this product. This happens in the valleys of upper Chitral. This valuable organic product is thus thrown away as a trash. It can support the economy but nobody cares for it.
The arrival of machine made products in the shops has turned the minds of the younger generation. They take such old skills as wastage of time and against the norms of the digital era. The girls flatly refuse to do any kind of wool processing. The mobile has diverted their attention and energies to that magic device. It is a great disservice to our culture. The same is the case with goat hair. The old cottage industry has become a thing of the past. No buyer is to be found in the market to buy all such valuable raw material and supply it to main cities where the industries concerned would be potential buyers. The skins of the goats, sheep and cattle are thrown away as garbage and no buyer is to be found to collect and sell them to the leather industry.
The NGOs may take interest and hire skillful people to educate the ignorant masses who have failed to understand the value of their products which they throw away as garbage. The industrial units may also carry out a survey and patch up a network to save the organic raw material and turn them into useful items instead of importing leather goods from abroad or sell the goat hair rugs to markets where such organic things are valued. A valley where there is a population of one thousand households produce a good amount of wool per year which would bring some income to the communities concerned.
I have seen with my own eyes bundles of wool being carried down by strong current of the rivers and streams to unknown destinations which makes me worried about the future of this community.