By Ali Jabir

ISLAMABAD, Nov 13 (APP): Billion Tree Afforestation Project (BTAP) implemented in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has supported impoverished women, mostly widows and orphans, owning small lands, to earn a decent source of livelihood. Mostly widowed and destitute women without any source of income were given priority to help establish nurseries.

The women were initially provided with seeds and basic guidance to set up a nursery in their garden or available land. They were provided free of cost seeds and basic technical assistance to raise tube nurseries in gardens or small pieces of lands owned by them where the KP Forest Department used to buy those seedlings on market rates. Moreover, plantation on motorways, railways, watershed areas and badlands were also focused in the BTAP.

The project added an additional 208 million plants in one billion tree plantation. These were managed through sowing, prevention from forest fires, grass cutting and aerial broadcasting, which gave 20-25 per cent successful results.

Talking to APP, a beneficiary of the project, Naseem Akhtar said, “We were very poor and after my husband’s death, we had no source of livelihood. My daughter and son raised the nursery with me. I have watered the saplings with great effort. When I received the cheque of Rs100,000, it was impossible for me to express my feelings”. “I could not imagine to earn such a handsome amount of money in such a short span of time”, she added.

The BTAP Project Director, Muhammad Tehmasip Khan said that a massive afforestation target was not possible for the Forest Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to achieve on its own. Therefore, private sector and local communities were engaged in the process.

The project director said that before launching the program, the challenge was to manage unimpeded saplings supply to reach the maximum target of billion trees plantation across the province.
 Most of the people of local communities chipped in with the forest department whereas interestingly 20 percent women were incorporated in the total number of nurseries set up by the local people, he said.

Mahnoor Jan, another beneficiary of the project said that two of my graduated sons were working in Lahore and Karachi-based factories. “When I told them about the nursery, they came back and helped me in raising the nursery,” she said adding that after getting Rs650,000 from Forest Department for saplings, they had setup their own small business in Swat.
Muhammad Tehmasip Khan said that raising nursery was an uphill task, especially when the individual is untrained. He said that about 20 percent of the nurseries were setup by women produced saplings for billion tree plantation whereas 80 percent private nurseries chipped in to meet the target.
Mahnoor Jan said that the ‘forest female extensionist’ has properly trained and helped us in making tubes for saplings.

She also used to visit on regular basis to inspect the saplings which made the women engagement successful in BTAP. The project director said the project was completed with an amount of Rs12.5 billion against the total cost of Rs19.448 billion.

 He said that the payment of their saplings had been delivered through transparent process and in a dignified manner, which made the women feel empowered and a useful member of the society. Khan said, “KP has retrieved 593,282 hectare forest cover with an overall 1.208 billion plants with average of above 80 percent survival rate recorded for departmental plantation. 

The SUPARCO has visited 500 BTAP sites through satellite images and drone and detected 88-95 per cent change in forest cover. “The director said that around 1862 woodlots of 1-20 hectare had been established to encourage small land owners for plantation on their lands. However, on priority 20,735 ha saline and water logged area was rehabilitated under BTAP, he added.

He said free seedlings distribution for farm forests was strictly monitored. 

The other plantation initiatives both at departmental level and third party monitoring of the project was also carried out.