2010 was a devastating year for many Pakistanis. In late July, torrential monsoon rains triggered massive floods that moved steadily from the mountains in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south, killing more than 1,900 people and affecting between 18 and 20 million Pakistanis. Now, their future, and the future of Pakistan, depends, in many respects, on the extent and success of the recovery effort.
The floodwaters covered an area the size of Italy, much of it agricultural land. Some 23 percent of Pakistan’s crop land has been damaged. Farmers feared that there would be no harvest next year, not only because the fields had become water-logged, but also because the floods ruined their seed stock.
The farmers usually plant wheat, but standing water prevented most of the planting this year. So, the United States Agency for International Development, or USAID, initiated a project which will help farmers cultivate sunflowers as a cash crop. The $15 million dollar program, which will benefit eight of the hardest-hit districts in Sindh Province, enables the Rural Support Program Network, the Sindh Rural Support Organization and the Sindh Abadgar Board to provide farmers with training, seed, fertilizer, and help in preparing the soil to supplement or replace their usual wheat crop.
As part of the program, these agencies will also train farmers how to harvest the sunflower crop, and will link them with buyers interested in purchasing the seeds and processing them into sunflower oil.
"This project," said USAID Economic Growth Officer Sarah Parvez, who represented the U.S. at a launching ceremony in Madad Pur Khoso Village, "will jump-start the local economy by creating direct and indirect employment and increasing farmers' incomes."
This project is just one example of the more than $590 million on flood recovery and relief efforts provided by the United States, in addition to humanitarian airlifts and rescue missions by the U.S. military. The military's involvement in the effort ended in early December, shortly after air lifting its forty thousandth person affected by the floods. But the recovery effort, led by USAID, continues in full swing.
The United States is committed to helping Pakistan to rebuild and recover from the worst natural disaster in its history, one that had taken such an enormous toll on the people of Pakistan.