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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 October 2005, 14:59 GMT 15:59 UK
Survivors ponder life without livelihoods
Muhammad Khan's wife on the family land in happier times
Muhammad Khan's wife on the family land in happier times
After the powerful South Asian earthquake, people from Pakistan's North West Frontier Province told the BBC News website how their livelihoods were shattered by the disaster.

When landslides submerged his mountainside orchards, Muhammad Khan lost the sole source of his family's income.

"My father planted these trees himself decades ago. The day of the earthquake, his entire life's work was demolished in front of his eyes."

Mr Khan owned acres of apple, apricot, and walnut trees, which brought in about 35,000 a year. This supported his extended family in Pakistan and financed him through a PhD in the UK where he is studying small business development in emerging economies.

Orchards were destroyed by landslides in the earthquake
Orchards were destroyed by landslides in the earthquake
"I was planning to sell a piece of this land to sustain myself and complete research, but now there's nothing to sell. My future is uncertain. I don't know how I can fund myself through the rest of this PhD. I may have to give up everything."

The trauma has reduced Mr Khan's family to a continuous grim silence, and he says that the uncertainty of the coming years is never mentioned.

"We are lucky to have our lives but we have to ask if our life is worth it? What will we do? It's not like we have a welfare state."

No more livings

The mountains of Pakistan's NWFP hosts some of the most fertile land in the country and local populations were heavily dependent on agriculture, orchards and livestock for income.

Rab Nawaz works for the World Wildlife Fund on a project to help rural tribal communities in northern NWFP use natural resources to make a living through kitchen gardening, animal husbandry and orchard cultivation.

Rab Nawaz
Rab Nawaz works in the remote tribal area of Palas valley
He said that much of their efforts over the last ten years have been reduced to rubble as the earthquake destroyed farming infrastructure.

"Whole mountainsides have disappeared. There is just a big gap where the mountain has slipped into the river. There used to be crops here, farming land is no more

"Irrigation channels have been lost and people haven't been able to harvest their crop. What has been harvested was lost when grain stores collapsed in the quake. Many tribal people depended on livestock and these perished in the disaster.

Rebuilding lives

The United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (UNFAO) has sent teams to the affected areas to assess the damage done to local livelihoods and their initial findings echo these experiences.

Cutting grass in October. Credit: PCDP
People in the Palas valley can no longer cut grass for winter fodder to feed surviving livestock
Halka Otto, Operations Officer at UNFAO said, "When the mountain shook entire fields were lost and livestock just slid into rivers, and these are contaminated at the moment. Most livelihoods will need to be completely rebuilt."

The charity Action Aid is involved in livelihood reconstruction but currently aid organisations are battling to cope with the psychological trauma of the losses.

Ancestral land destroyed

Ejaz-Ur-Rehman Khan lost scores of relatives when his ancestral village in the Kaghan valley was demolished.

"I had farming land but the landslides have destroyed that. It's covered with boulders now. Nothing was spared and it took only a minute for everything to be destroyed."

But the bulk of Mr Khan's income came from a tourist inn he set up in Abbottabad. That too collapsed from the force of the quake.

"I don't know where my next meal is coming from. I have no land, no business anymore. I'm trying to do what Robinson Crusoe did and salvage what bits I can but there is little left. After I worked so hard and just started to make returns, it is so sad."

Mohammed Suleyman, whose family farmed wheat and maize, is contemplating leaving his ancestral land in Balakot.

Mohamed Suleyman
Mohamed Suleyman with a young relative living in a tent on the outskirts of Balakot
"We love our land but people are moving away. Our land was so valuable before but now it has no value. Balakot is a place of great darkness now."

Many others who have also lost family members, homes and livelihoods feel there is nothing left for them in these mountains and valleys.


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