76 per cent of rural families in agrarian region of Sindh in Pakistan are landless, making their ends meet by cultivating land owned by a mere 1.3 per cent of the entire province’s population, which includes families of feudal and tribal chieftains. 51 per cent of the farmers were earning less than Rs20,000 a month, compared to the landlord’s monthly income of Rs1 million. Two-thirds of the province’s estimated 40 million population lives below the poverty line and half of its children are bereft of education
Land ownership in the province is concentrated among a few families and the average size of their land holding is reported to be between 3,000 to 10,000 acres, according to a study by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research. The elite remained less affected during the recent floods because they occupied elevated, better land. The small farmers suffered the most as they lived on marginalised and low-lying lands.
Economist Dr Kaiser Bengali, who supervised the research,said a common refrain from half of the internally displaced persons living in relief camps was that, “We don’t want to go back to our villages, there is nothing left for us, except our debt.”
36.6 per cent borrowed money from sardars and waderas, who charged them heavy interest rates. Only 4.3 per cent obtained loans from institutionalised banks and financial organisations Medium-scale farmers, who own less than 50 per cent of the land, were shown as the most indebted with 115 per cent.
Women’s empowerment was revealed at almost zero in the decision-making process and none of them are able to vote. Only 5.7 per cent of all rural women in Sindh are able to independently make healthcare decisions.