Sohdi became the sole breadwinner when her husband died 10 years into their marriage. Now, for two months each year, she harvests wheat far from her home in Charihar Bheel, Pakistan. While she’s away, her children stay at home by themselves. They cannot receive a formal education because there is no school nearby.
Ever industrious, Sohdi also farms her own land to provide food for her family. She plants millet, guar, lentils, mung bean and sesame, hoping each year to reap enough to get to the next harvest.
But nature has been kind and harsh in unequal measure in Sohdi’s village. In the past, guar beans harvested in October were sufficient to feed Sohdi’s family, and even generate income for much of the year. However, unusual rainy seasons have affected Sohdi’s food production for three years now: two years of drought were followed by terrible flooding. This left the ground desolate, and Sohdi’s family at risk of being hungry.
In 2021, a year of drought, Sohdi was identified by a community member as needing aid, and program staff from Community World Service Asia met with her. Sohdi received help through the PWS&D-supported Humanitarian, Early Recovery, and Development project which is providing food aid to 1,125 households.
Sohdi said there was a time when she and her family strictly ate three meals a day, with nothing in between, because that was all the food available. But in the month after the aid, there was enough food that her kids could eat between meals too. When the time came to receive the second instalment of aid, they still had some of the earlier food items remaining.
The first instalment of food aid came just in time, as Sohdi sold off the last of her guar to purchase wheat flour. Meanwhile, her son Chanesar, who had been sent to the harvest in Sindh, returned with a hundred kilograms of wheat.
Sohdi notices that her children seem to be in better health than before. She shares, “I and so many others like me who faced the same situation in 2021 were lucky that we had food assistance.”
Freedom from Debt
After receiving the food aid in 2021, times were still hard for Sohdi. The memory of the drought was fresh in her mind even a year later, when she watched eight weeks of heavy rain drown her previously parched crops.
Sad but determined, Sohdi was more resilient to the changing climate due to the support she had received. The earlier food aid meant she had saved some of the money earned by her eldest son, without which she would likely have had to take a loan. “Had the food assistance not been in place, we would have owed the local storekeeper nothing less than PKR 60,000 [around a year’s wages],” she says.
For Sohdi and so many others like her, it is hard to avoid the cycle of debt, with a large portion of earnings going to repay previous loans. Now, Sohdi is embracing freedom from debt and dreaming for the future—like Chanesar’s upcoming marriage, and the prospect of sending his siblings to a school near their grandparents.
“I am fortunate to be totally free of debt right now,” she says, with hands held together in a gesture of thankfulness. “If the crop is a success in November, we will have plenty of food and cash for the wedding.”
PWS&D is continuing to help people who don’t have enough food to eat. You can support PWS&D’s food security work by becoming a monthly donor. Learn more.
*This project receives support from Canadian Foodgrains Bank. PWS&D is a member of the Foodgrains Bank, a partnership of 15 churches and church agencies working together to end global hunger. This project is being undertaken with generous support from the Government of Canada.