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Sunflower crops give farmers new hope in Pakistan

Widespread flooding devastates homes, land and crops, leaving millions displaced.

Widespread flooding devastates homes, land and crops, leaving millions displaced.

Over the past three years, the people of Pakistan have been living a reoccurring nightmare in the form of severe floods that have affected more than 33 million people.

The flooding has caused 2,865 deaths, damaged 3.6 million homes, and destroyed 5.5 million hectares of land.

Why is this happening in Pakistan? Pakistan straddles two major tectonic plates and has a considerable coastline, which ultimately means earthquakes and floods are not uncommon events for over 190 million people occupying this fragile land.

The ripple effect

For millions of people, extreme flooding has become reality. Land, homes, villages and livestock are swept away when the flooding hits. Without a home, families are forced to seek shelter in temporary camps or in public spaces, like schools.

Even worse, food insecurity becomes a major concern when crops are washed away. Without a planting season, farmers lose out on an essential source of income. But the effects are felt everywhere – not just for farmers.

Without a stable source of food, affected families often have no choice but to rely on food distribution, and too often, their dependency on international aid will intensify.

Over the past three years, Plan Canada and Plan Pakistan responded to the floods by distributing food, emergency relief and agricultural support to families who lost their land. But one of Plan’s greatest impacts came from a surprising source: sunflower seeds.

Sunflowers bringing hope in Pakistan
Plan’s sunflower farming projects have supported the recovery of over 37,000 farmers.

Plan’s sunflower farming projects have supported the recovery of over 37,000 farmers.

It’s challenging for any farmer to miss out on a valuable planting season. Recovery doesn’t come easy. But Plan’s sunflower farming projects have supported the recovery of over 37,000 farmers, which helped restore their livelihoods and generate an immediate income.

Why sunflowers? It’s a fast growing crop that can be planted in between planting seasons. Sunflowers tolerate a wide variety of soil conditions and the crop brings in high-yields. With high demand for sunflower oil in Pakistan, sunflowers have become an excellent source of income for farmers, and can help support sustainable growth in communities.

Habibullah’s sunflowers

As a local farmer, Habibullah makes his living planting specific crops each season. But, when the floods arrived, he and his family were forced to abandon their land and all their assets, and flee to temporary shelters on higher ground.

When Habibullah returned to his land, his existing cotton and sugarcane crops were destroyed, driving him and his family into debt.

However, all was not lost. Plan supplied Habibullah with sunflowers seeds and fertilizer which he successfully cultivated once the floodwaters receded.

Plan also supplied Habibullah with specific training on sunflower cultivation, post-harvest management and how to market sunflower crops. To his amazement, his sunflower crop produced 13 units (520 kilograms) in only three months. He sold his sunflower harvest and with the profits, purchased one goat and cotton seed to further expand his crops.

A domino effect
Habibullah tends to his sunflower crops

Habibullah tends to his sunflower crops.

With profits from his new cotton crop, Habibullah then purchased sugarcane seed and fertilizer, and was able to cultivate one acre of wheat. The training Habibullah received from Plan, thanks to your support, has helped him improve his knowledge and update his farming practices – his high-yields of sunflowers speak for themselves!

The impact on Habibullah’s life has been significant. He continues to farm, expand his crops and rebuild his career. All of which will help support his family and strengthen his family’s resilience during disaster.

“The continuous support has enabled me to re-cultivate crops and support not only my family but also contribute towards the economy of my village,” explains Habibullah.

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