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December 7, 2019

Fortune smiles on Dir farmers: Nurseries of strawberry saplings becoming popular

Peshawar

December 7, 2019

DIR: The farmers in Usheri Dara of Upper Dir district are making a fortune by growing strawberry plants and taking the saplings to downtown Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab for onward cultivation.

More growers are turning to the cultivation of strawberry saplings as it has become a lucrative business. The nurseries of strawberry saplings have sprung up in the whole of Usheri Dara and parts of Nehag Dara in Upper Dir in recent years. The growers received training about the cultivation of strawberry seedlings in 2014. The training was arranged by the Sarhad Rural Support Programme (SRSP) under the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund’s (PPAF) Green Value Chain Development Project in Nehag Dara. Back then, the seedlings of strawberry plants were experimentally germinated in Usheri Dara where these produced wonderful results. Under the project, the farmers were trained and convinced to cultivate strawberry plants as an alternative to other crops. The profits earned by some farmers prompted others to go for the cultivation of strawberry and it led to the mushroom growth of such nurseries in Usheri Dara. They say that they are now earning millions of rupees every year. Medar Khan is one such farmer in Usheri Dara, who says that strawberry saplings were produced in Usheri Dara successfully four years back. He said about 200 labourers worked in one nursery.”There are many nurseries in the valley and all the people are making millions of rupees,” he added.

Another farmer said that the saplings of strawberry of Usheri Darra were famous all over the country and were taken to Punjab, downtown Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and others areas. He said that up to 20 million saplings of strawberry were taken to Punjab only from Palam, Jabar, Tarptar union councils of Usheri Dara. A farmer said that the fruit of the strawberry saplings from Usheri Darra was very delicious and juicy. “It yielded fruit twice a year,” he said. A farmer, Khurshid Khan, said that it was cultivated on about 1,500 to 2,000 acres of land only in Ushri Dara. Zahid Khurshid, team leader of the project said that in 2014 strawberry runners’ propagation was implemented as an intervention for farmers of Upper Dir under PPAF Green Value Chain Development Project. He added that a total of 100 women farmers were selected in two union councils including Sawonee and Palam and they were imparted technical training. The official said that each farmer was given just 2000 runners. Strawberry Runners Multiplication was undertaken for the first time in Dir. The agri-ecology of the district was predicted to be excellent.

Swat is the main district having the highest production of runner plants due to the most suitable climatic and soil conditions. The area under the cultivation of strawberry runners increased over the years to meet the high demand. More than 90 percent runner is produced in Swat and is supplied to other parts of the country. However, repeated cultivation and disease persistence have started decreasing the overall yields of the land in Swat. To overcome this market gap, Upper Dir was seen as the next choice.

“It was very exciting to find out that our little intervention has actually changed the agriculture landscape of the area,” Zahid Khurshid said. He said that the whole valley of Usheri was now becoming popular for runners and was the first choice of farmers from down districts. A very quick count suggests that the total production of the valley was way above 20 million runners. Muhammad Tariq, a resident of Usheri Dara, said that he was a member of the SRSP committee. He said that new technology be introduced and proper arrangements made for the transportation of the strawberry saplings to Punjab, KP, and other parts of the country so that the farmers could earn more money.