Prof. Rahmat Karim Baig
People of Chitral since time immemorial have practiced subsistence farming. Due to geographical constraints, the farmers could not take any of their products to markets to sell and get cash.
In the old days, it was quite impossible and shortage of food was at high level and all kind of land produce was consumed by the members of the family concerned and loaning of grain was not possible even for the so called landlords. But after the 1950s, the hold of the state and its taxes were withdrawn and the people were in rather better position to work harder. But trader was not possible due to very poor road link with neighbouring states like Dir or Swat. We had no trade relations with Afghanistan via Arandu but a summer trading facility was possible via Dorah pass but food items were not sold.
In the ’60s, some departments were opened in Chitral and some of the efficient Agriculture officers did introduce a number of improved seed qualities and land produce began to improve and better crops on the arrival and use of chemical fertilizers improve yield per acre. Even now we have few agricultural products to bring to the market. Wheat is not sufficient. Corn is sold and bought at local level but also is to be had from the shops. Some varieties of pulses like beans and lentil come to local market. That is some of these are now produced in larger amount and beside local consumption some comes to Chitral market.
The scope of fruit is more promising. Fruit trees have been planted on commercial scales and apples, pomegranates, cherries, grapes are generally seen in proper season. Dry fruit like dries mulberries of various varieties, dried apricots, walnuts, dried apple flakes, pear flakes etc. are also seen in the stock of dry fruit merchants. The price of Chalghuza is fluctuating. The price of walnuts has risen. There are two kinds. The one has brown kernel and is regarded cheaper and the white kernel walnut of higher altitude areas is considered superior.
The Pashtoon traders have reached the last walnut tree in each valley and buy at Rs. 350/- per kg from the owners. The children in each village have come to know about the value of walnut so they never hesitate to collect even by hook or crook the walnut from the owners and sell to the wandering Pashtoon traders. It means walnut stock of a family is now more valued but also vulnerable as it is dried on the roofs of the houses from where palfrey is made at night by men of loose conduct.
It is a crying need of the day that farmers cooperative societies have to be formed on legal basis and the entire surplus product be collected by each unit and sold at one place in each valley where the buyers shall come on a fixed date and open bids and the highest bidder shall pay better price to the owners. This will be an organized way and the highest bidder shall have to pay normal tax to the TMA concerned.
Subsistence farming in Chitral