Community Services

Apricot farmers of Thalley; A community that deserves UoL relief’s attention

Shazia Cheema

Rotten apricots layered on the uneven paths, intense smell of decay and mud spread across the town. Soon it will be winter again and inhabitants of the small town of “Thalley” will find refuge in their small dark cellars for another winter. The only possible thing for them is to wait for the winter to end. That’s their course of life, a circle in which they are entangled in for generations.

Baltistan, the abode of world largest mountains offers ‘Thalley Valley’ with an altitude of 4,572m above sea level. The lush green valley and beautiful scenery is marvelous. But, what is not known about this place is that this small remote town has no industry, no proper farming, and no job market. The list of what they have is not long. Each family has one or two sheep, goats or a cow, a small house with few utensils, and lots and lots of apricots. During the winter season, an entire family along with its cattle, sheep or goats, moves to a tiny basement to spend long scorching cold winter with each other, inside that cellar.

In months when life outside is unbearable, folks and animal share their company to maximize the survival ratio. They long for that very first bud which will give them the news that they survive yet another winter and here comes the spring again. They get out of these dungeons and cherish life, drink ample and eat plenty. The moment first flower blossom on an apricot tree, the smell of life spreads and gives hope to them.

A flip flap, one side is past and other is future, so obvious, waiting couple of months ahead, smiling. Smiling at the apricots, how short life they have, how quickly the sunny color will fade into dark mush, piles of it rotting around. People of Thalley pretty much accustomed to that brutality toward apricots. Considering themselves helpless, they quietly watch their only valuable to rot. Being quite could never have been the answer, especially for people like Mrs. Farah Mahmood.

Madam Farah is an extensive tracker, hiker, and photographer. As a tracker, she has come across many remote areas. Her explorative nature took her to this small town and the contrast of colors grasps her attention. Her camera’s eye captures both the extremes: sunny side of Thalley, as well as its gloomy and sad side.

A ray of hope through Ma’am Farah

Under the UoL Relief Trust which is already working on several projects like re-inhibition of earthquake survivors, schools for remote northern villages, health care, and food supplies for flood victims, Farah initiated yet another project that UoL added on its list of beneficiaries. She and her team structured a plan of Apricot Harvesting and Drying Project; a multiphase project started with door-to-door mobilization of the local community to be part of saving the apricots. Farah wishes apricots to become a commercial venture for the Thalley farmers.

The UoL Relief Trust boosted Farah’s plan in a dynamic way.  The Relief Trust hired a consultancy firm named Star Farm, an affiliate company of Metro Group that arranged educational workshops and lectures to 40 willing farmers. The hired firm is to advance the project until 2021. A long side scheduled workshops; the UoL Relief donated Solar Driers and all other related equipment e.g. drying sheds, drying, and storage equipment to facilitate the people of ‘Thalley’. Apricot is the nerve of Thalley economy. It is a huge project which requires funding to maintain the consistency of pace. A small favor can change a life and changing life is all what UOL Relief is about.

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