How micro-enterprise is improving livelihoods in the Punjab

Climate change is threatening the livelihoods of thousands of cotton-growing communities in Pakistan. Together with WWF and IKEA, Khanewal locals Ramzana Bibi, Sarfaraz Bati and Irum Shehzadi are helping their communities fight back, through pioneering climate-resilient cotton production and developing micro-enterprise.

Kitchen gardening

“God willing, I’ll be able to save enough through hard work to build a bigger house and have my own piece of land,” says cotton picker Ramzana Bibi.

In Punjab, WWF and IKEA are helping cotton-growing families adapt to climate change. Poor harvests mean low wages, and the Climate Resilient Crop Production project offers women like Ramzana entrepreneurial training and support to set up micro-enterprises that boost incomes.

Fermenting change

“About ten years ago, the crops were good but chemicals have destroyed the soil,” says Sarfaraz Bati, a 60 year-old living in a small village outside Khanewal in Pakistan “When I told a guy from WWF about the problem, he suggested using a fermenter. By using fermented water, we use less chemical fertiliser, my crops are healthy and the land is fertile,” says Sarfaraz.

Globally, more than half of all agricultural soils are degraded. Restoring organic matter not only improves yields but also helps tackle climate change by storing carbon. As well as using organic manure to improve soil quality, other climate-resilient techniques that WWF and IKEA promote include using climate-smart cotton varieties, planting crops such as maize alongside cotton to draw away pests and using pheromone traps to control pests.

From nursery to school

“WWF gave me the idea to plant trees. They gave me seeds to start a nursery. So far I’ve planted 2,000 saplings and sold around 1,700. With the money I’ve bought a school bag, books and a uniform, and started studying again. Insha’Allah, I’ll go to college and become something,” says Irum Shehzadi a young woman that lives with her seven siblings in a five-family communal settlement outside Khanewal.

Irum’s ‘micro-nursery’ is one of 25 in Khanewal that have so far produced 40,000 native saplings. By offering training, seeds, soil bags and tools, as well as a sapling ‘buy back’ scheme, the WWF and IKEA project makes it easy and affordable for women to start micro-enterprises that not only generate extra income but that also help poor farming communities combat climate change through agroforestry – growing trees amongst crops. As well as absorbing carbon dioxide, the trees improve soil health, protect crops from adverse weather, help prevent erosion and generate extra income.

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