Recovering from war and living in hope: Fruit and vegetable markets in Pakistan’s Swat Valley

Recovering from war and living in hope: Fruit and vegetable markets in Pakistan’s Swat Valley

Publication details

  • Wednesday | 02 Nov, 2016
  • Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Syed Qasim Ali Shah, Babar Shahbaz
  • Research Reports,Project Publications
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Introduction and research questions
 
The Swat Valley in Pakistan is an important producer of fruit and vegetables. During the years 2007- 2009, activities were heavily compromised: Taliban militants captured the valley in 2007 and there was subsequently a series of fierce army operations against them. This study analyses the impact of conflict
(occupation by the militants and the military operation) on fruit and vegetable supply chains, with a focus on impacts on livelihoods and the recovery of markets. For the purposes of this study, the market is defined as ‘any systematic process for market actors (people, businesses) to buy and sell products and services. This includes not just the way that those goods and services are produced, transported, bought and sold, but also the formal and informal rules that govern those interactions’ (Gerstle, and Meissner, 2010).
 
Swat district is the centre of fruit and vegetable production in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province of Pakistan. Apples, peaches, persimmons, apricots, pears, plums and walnuts are important crops. The area is also well known for producing tomatoes, potatoes, onions, honey, soybeans and trout (Ali, 2010; Khan, 2012). One of Swat’s agricultural specialties is peaches; before the conflict, Swat’s peaches made up more than 50 percent of national production (Khaliq, 2011). Similarly, about two-thirds of provincial apple production is in Swat. Many studies, including the baseline survey conducted by the Sustainable Livelihoods Research Consortium (SLRC) research group for Pakistan, have shown that farming is the most important livelihood activity in the conflict-affected areas of Malakand region of KP in general, and Swat Valley in particular (Shahbaz et al., 2012). The conflict had serious impacts on the sector (for details see ibid., 2012). Nyborg et al. (2012) claim that Taliban militancy and the army action against them led to about a third of agricultural workers losing their livelihood source. 
 
In this context, the specific research questions were as follows:
  1. What are the characteristics of major stakeholders in fruit and vegetable markets in Swat?
  2. How did conflict disrupt the market for fruit and vegetables and how is it recovering? 
  3. What changes occurred with respect to different aspects of the market (composition of crops,availability of inputs, composition of farmers)? Have there been new entrants (post-2008) into the fruit/vegetable/agricultural market in Swat?
  4. What is the role of women in Swat’s agricultural value chain?
  5. How have government and aid actors attempted to support the sector?
In making such an assessment, it is necessary to consider the nature of market and market-related factors – actors, agricultural inputs, transportation, financial resources, access to markets, etc. – and how they can potentially affect livelihoods (Rota and Sperandeni, 2003).