PESHAWAR (APP): Lachi Khan , a middle age man in late 50s, was hopeless of getting any financial or agricultural benefits from the vast rugged arid land he inherited in Muslimabad village of Kohat district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Like his fellow villagers, he considered his property as useless and left it unattended for decades by spending most of his life in Gulf to eke out living for himself and his family.
But suddenly lady luck favored him and disenchantment turned into optimism of getting a huge financial benefit from the same seemingly useless infertile land after its utilization in the Billion Tree Tsunami Afforestration project launched by Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government under its Green Growth Initiative.
Khyber Pakthukwha government has launched an ambitious project in November 2014 of planting one billion trees in the province to fight deforestation by increasing forest cover from existing 20.3 percent to 22 percent.
Under the project, KP Forest department planted 43,500 plants on the land of Lachi Khan in Muslim Abad area, spreading over an area of 40 hectres, while sowing has also been made on the mountains near the same land which spreads over an additional area of 40 hectares.
"The sapling planted under the project on Lachi Khan 's land will grow and reap in a period of four to five years resulting in a windfall profit of millions of rupees for the owner," said Ali Haider, DFO Forest KP.
If we made a rough estimate that Lachi Khan will sell each plant after its maturity in five years at the rate of Rs. 2000.
He is expected to earn an amount of Rs. 80.7 million (87,000,000) on the basis of 43,500 saplings planted on his land, calculates Ali Haider.
Whereas, Ali went on to say, the sowing made on 40 hectares of mountainous land is additional benefit to him and his fellow villagers who have joint ownership rights.
Like Lachi Khan , Zahidullah of Wanda Sher Dil village in Lakki Marwat district is also expecting a positive turn around in his life.
On Zahidullah's 40 hectre of land mostly saline and water logged due to its vicinity to river Kurma, 4500 saplings have been planted that have grown as small plants in a period of one year.
"We are utilizing private land because we have paucity of state owned land for execution of the project and in order to convince people we have to offer them benefits," Khattak added.
He said in Farm Forestry this concept is promoted among people to utilize their land for planting forest and receive financial benefits after reaping of plants. Most of these plants are later regenerated naturally, he added.
"Under the Billion Tree Tsunami Project, plantation has been made at around 500 sites and most of the land utilized was useless for owners who were using it only for grassing purpose," informed Shabir Ahmad, Project Director BTTP.
Under the Farm Forestry sector of the project, the department has planned to plant 200 million saplings.
Shabir said after launching of the project, about 11,000 nurseries have been set up by private sector in the province that are providing saplings to the Forest department.
A new concept of `Youth Nurseries' is introduced for employment of youth or rural women. From these nurseries, Forest department will purchase around 25000 saplings and the owners in result will earn a significant profit ranging between Rs. 12,000 to 15000 per month.
The grass grown on these plantation sites will provide additional benefit to owners and can give a boost to livestock sector in the province.
Similarly, 3500 enclosures have been developed in different forests and people have been appointed as watchman for these enclosures, he added.
Shabir informed that apart from utilization of these trees for timber purpose, a number of plants, mostly grown naturally in the area, have great demand in market for use in preparation of medicines for different ailment including fatal.
In this connection, he gave example of `Taxus Bacsata' plant which is used in medicine for treating of different kinds of cancer.
Some plants are aromatic and have more market value than timber related trees and these are also grown during the plantation drive.
The ambitious BTTP is expected to bring around three million hectare additional area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while the existing forest cover is 1.5 million hectares, he claimed.
Malik Amin Aslam, Global Vice President, International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Chair KP Billion Tree Tsunami Projects says the BTTP is generating thousands of green jobs and decent employment, especially for youth and rural women of the province.
In a media talk, he said this is happening because of the outsourced and private sector driven model of forest growth, as well as the community driven forest protection.