Ghulam Akber clutches his bag of cotton seed and knows he is holding his future. The seeds are the key to 22-year-old Ghulam rebuilding his life. More than anything, he needs a new house. But to get a new house, he needs money; to get money, he needs a crop; to get a crop, he needs the seeds.
One year ago Ghulam could not have imagined he would be so desperate. His village, located close to Manchar Lake in the Sindh province of Pakistan, was a successful farming village. Each of the 600 residents lived in stone houses. They had land and machinery and a plentiful crop almost ready for harvesting. But then the floods came and destroyed everything.
“We were very happy before the floods,” he says. “We had houses and our crops were ready for harvest. But then the floods came and we lost everything – the houses, the crops, our seeds, our equipment. We tried to take some of our possessions with us but as the floods got nearer we had to leave almost everything behind.”
The village was completely submerged by water, forcing Ghulam and his community to flee to Hyderabad, the largest city in Sindh. Here, they had to do something they had never done before: they had to rely on handouts just to survive.
“We lived in a tent in a camp near Hyderabad for three months,” he said. “It was a very tough life. There were lots and lots of people in the camp and we had to rely on NGOs for food. Sometimes we would eat twice a day, other times just once, depending on how much food was brought to us. We were very happy to be able to move home, but it was very sad when we saw how badly everything had been destroyed. There was nothing left when we got home.”
Today, the community is back living in their village but it is not the village they remember. The houses are gone, replaced by tents. All they have now are memories and a determination to rebuild their lives. Trócaire (Caritas Ireland) is supporting the community.
“We are trying to cultivate our land again but it is difficult because we do not have the tools anymore,” says Ghulam. “Trócaire brings cotton seeds and fertiliser to us and we are very thankful for that because it is allowing us start our lives again. We still do not have enough houses. There are 83 families living in this village [approximately 600 people] but only ten or fifteen families are back living in houses. The rest of us are still in tents, which is very difficult for us. We have no money so we cannot finish building the houses. We need better shelter because the rainy season is coming again.”