Gojal area of the Karakorum mountains

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introducing the area

food security

 quotes about food security
 key testimonies featuring food security

crops growing in Shimshal, PakistanAlthough food security does not appear to be an issue today, a number of narrators talk about greater poverty, limited food supplies and lean periods in the past. Then people lived on what was produced in Shimshal: "When we talk about the former times we talk about poverty, because there was lots of poverty; nothing except from our own resources was available. In this village whatever we possessed we were required to live within that income. Nothing except a pill (bowl; small quantity) of dried apricot was imported from outside" (Pakistan 13). According to several narrators, wealthier members of the community prepared and ate wheat bread, whereas bread made from barley and pea flours was used by poorer people.

Given Shimshal's location and the difficulty of importing food stuffs it was particularly important for households to ration their resources effectively throughout the year: "Our everyday needs were met through local products such as flour, butter, qurut (local cheese) etc. We would use these resources with great caution and planning, because of the scarcity of resources..." (Pakistan 27). Several female narrators talk about women's role in carefully storing and managing a household's resources throughout the year.

All households have their own store for grain and dried meat etc. Several narrators mention a community grain store and two of them refer to this as belonging to the Mir. The grain store provided people with an opportunity to borrow grain at times when supplies were low and to pay this back after harvest. There is some suggestion that this grain was borrowed for the purposes of planting as well as for consumption. One woman describes the grain store: "…those who would use good quality fertiliser and would care for the crops would get more food grain and those who would use poor quality fertiliser and not care for their crops properly they would get insufficient grain to meet their needs. Such people would borrow food grain from the dambore (store for food grain) of the Mir of Hunza to fulfil their needs. The [same amount of] food grain was then deposited in to the dambore when [these people's] new crops were ready." (Pakistan 27). At the end of the Mir's reign the grain store was transferred to the Jamat Khana khazana (treasury) and it continues to provide the same purpose.

The Karakoram Highway has increased the availability of different products in the Northern Areas and has made it easier to bring foodstuffs into Shimshal. Today food produced in Shimshal is supplemented with certain products from outside such as tea, sugar and rice. One narrator explains, "…with the passage of time our food changed and now we use a variety of foods… The present food is better than the food in the past… Now the construction of the road has facilitated the import of rice, pulses etc. from down country. It is for this reason that the food has improved…" (Pakistan 10). The completion of the link road will increase the availability of outside products to everyone in Shimshal.

quotes about food security

"Muhammad Ali Shah was responsible for the Mir's other store from where poor people would borrow seeds for their fields. They would also lend one gharbal each to the poor so that they could celebrate Chaneer without any problem. Then they would return this food grain back to the store when their new crops are ready by the autumn.… I have never borrowed food grain from the Mir's store because I had a small family size: only my wife and me."
Baig Daulat, M/75, farmer/numberdar, Pakistan 6

"…whatsoever production we had in our village; it was our exclusive source [of living] and reference (prestige). Importing anything from outside was quite impossible as it is practised today. I will also mention to you that if we had anything in paucity, we would borrow it from others and then it would be returned to one another."
Asmat, M/55, driver/retired soldier, Pakistan 3

"There was a lot of poverty in those days and an inadequate ration was provided for the use at Pamir. My mother-in-law was very cautious in using this meagre ration stock throughout our stay at Pamir, because she knew that guests would come from the village and it would be required to invite them for food, as it was our tradition. So she would manage the foodstuff very carefully."
Qandoon, F/57, farmer, Pakistan 4

"The senior woman of the family would issue rations from the stock and the junior or daughter-in-law would prepare the food. It is not like that today, [now] everyone has free access to the food stock. For example any of my daughters-in-law, whoever is available at home gets the food from the stock and prepares it… Actually I am custodian of the treasury (food stock) of my house but my daughters-in-law act in accordance with my advice."
Hayat Begum, F/60, farmer, Pakistan 9

"In former times, daw daw (soup) was used for breakfast and thick bread from pea flour was commonly made and the rich people would also make breads from wheat floor in addition for lunch and the same bread for dinner. Those who were well off would prepare mutton or vegetables. But those who could not afford meat or vegetables would take the dry crispy bread… That was the best available food at that time and there was no choice. We were compelled to take that food. But with the passage of time our food changed and now we use a variety of foods… The present food is better than the food in the past."
Muhammad Baig, M/67, farmer/weaver, Pakistan 10

"We were not taking patock (thick bread) like we are taking today during our travelling, our patocks were enough to show off our poverty. Most of the people used to take baqla patock made of barley flour, only people like you were taking gidim patock (thick bread of wheat flour) during their travelling. People used to divide their patocks among each other and they did respect each other."
Gonik, M/55, farmer/numayindar, Pakistan 25

"Almost all the supply of livestock products, such as qurut (local dried cheese), wool, meat, butter and animal hides as raw material for making shoes, were made in Shimshal. The only supply we would import from the down valley was the dried fruits. Salt ore was also supplied from Shimshal to the whole Hunza state, so, as a whole, Hunza and Gojal were dependent on Shimshal for some of the essential supplies such as salt and dairy products. Therefore we cannot say that Shimshal was a poor community. It was rather a prosperous community in comparison with other areas of Hunza but the entire region was in poverty at that time as compared to that of today."
Johar, M/43, engineer, Pakistan 35

"In the olden time it was like this my daughter that, we used to eat chapatti made of green peas. A bowl full of cheese was our food. There we collected nilterk (wild mountain vegetable) cook it with cheese, and that was our diet. There was no tea. Now they go there and make tea… no one eats cheese I heard. No one eats yogurt. People prefer tea nowadays. We used to offer yogurt and peas with chapatti for shpuns (herders) now it is said to be like this… time changes."
Mushk, F/50s, farmer, Pakistan 22

key testimonies featuring food security

  No.   Name   Sex/Age   Occupation   Location  
Summary Transcript   10   Muhammad Baig   male/67   farmer/weaver   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   22   Mushk   female/50s   farmer   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   25   Gonik   male/55   farmer/numayindar   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   27   Gulbika   female/65   farmer   Gilgit  
Summary Transcript   3   Asmat   male/55   driver/retired soldier   Shimshal  
Summary Transcript   6   Baig Daulat   male/75   farmer/numberdar   Shimshal