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Abdul Rahim Swat Entrepreneurs

Vendor thankful for support from the American people

MEDA is working with USAID in the scenic but war-torn Swat Valley in Pakistan to help 7,200 conflict-affected residents rebuild their lives after the area was overrun by the Taliban. The Entrepreneurs Livelihoods Recovery Program aims to revitalize economic activities in the region through the distribution of micro-grants and by purchasing local goods.

“USAID has given a new lease of life to the dying economy of Swat,” says Abdul Raheem, a local vendor of agricultural supplies. “The wheel of life is running wherever US assistance has reached.

He notes the Taliban invasion into Swat and the adjoining area three years ago gave a severe blow to the local economy. “Our businesses declined, leading to an upsurge in unemployment. I had about 50 laborers working at my warehouse. However, due to lack of business opportunities, I had to reduce the number of those working for me to 10.

“We were in debt, and our creditors in Lahore, Multan and Karachi began to lose faith in us.  … Our days of pain and agony ended when the Taliban were hounded out of the area. People started returning to their lands, schools reopened and the market places bustled with customers. The city, where death had ruled for almost three years, rejuvenated with laughter and smiles.

Abdul reports the assistance from USAID has helped revitalize the economy further by purchasing local products. “The total procurement of USAID at the moment stands at more than Rs. 3 million (about $35,000), which previously was only Rs. 1 million. In Swat's history, this is unprecedented.

“My revenues have multiplied three times in less than a year's time. Previously, I used to deliver single consignment of fertilizers, urea and other agriculture products during a month. But now I have more than 200 trucks lined up for delivery in this season, helping to restore the lost faith my creditors had in me.

He has also seen increased employment opportunities not only for men, but also for women, providing women with the opportunity of contributing to family income.

“In Swat, we realize that the money from USAID is the taxes paid by the people of the US. And I wish I could tell them how much their help in these trying times means to us. We would never have been able to rise from the rubbles of destruction had this assistance not come in. People in Swat are very happy and on behalf of the business community, I want to thank US and its people for their kindness and thoughtfulness.”