Tariq Mehmood is a resident of Choi village, UC Najafpur. He has a Bachelors in Commerce from Degree College in Murree and over a decade ago worked in the Administration department of a tech-based company in Islamabad. While he lived away from his home and family, he was making over PKR 75,000 a month and was content with his life. Unfortunately, his working tenure was cut short when the company decided to move its operations from Islamabad to Karachi and after working four great years, Tariq had to leave his job and return to his hometown.

With a family of six to feed and no foreseeable income generation option, Tariq’s life was met with one of the lowest points. Although his brothers were helping him out initially with finances it was not enough to meet the growing expenditures of the household. Tariq decided to initiate a poultry business with his savings and loans. However, despite immense effort and substantial financial investment, the business failed due to market competition and rumors regarding bird flu. Tariq, in spite of hardships, kept going. He soon started managing a tuck shop, next to a local school in his area and undertook small-scale livestock farming. While some income did start pouring in, it was still not enough for him and his family.

Things truly turned around when WWF-Pakistan, during the first phase of its Integrated Watershed Management and Livelihood Improvement Project in Selected Sub-catchments of Khanpur Dam funded by The Coca-Cola Foundation, trained many locals including Tariq on nursery raising. He had always been a nature lover but did not know that it could somehow be turned into a profitable venture. WWF’s training not only gave him a skill but rather a passion.

With continued support from the organization, Tariq started raising a nursery. Every day after dawn, he would go to his nursery and work to change the direction of saplings and monitor growth. After working for several hours, he would go run the tuck shop. In the evening, he would again stop at the nursery before heading back home. With hard work and interest, Tariq successfully raised a nursery with 10,000 tubes of kachnar and amaltas, out of which WWF-Pakistan bought 5,000 for block plantation under another project.

Tariq is now making a decent living for himself from the nursery. His earnings are finally at par with what he was making in Islamabad; he is easily managing household expenses, sending his daughters to school and is expanding his livestock farming through the income generated from the nursery. Tariq is now expanding his nursery and has already added black pepper and cardamom to the existing mix. He has also employed a helper for the nursery at PKR 6,000 per month.

In the second phase of the project, Tariq is not only continuing with raising his nursery but is also actively involved in community mobilization. He is well respected in his community and is heading the local Community Based Organization (CBO). He regularly conducts community meetings, assists in nursery trainings and helps in identification of recharge pits in the area. He wants his community to develop and is always willing to lend a hand of help whenever required. Tariq has also gifted several saplings from his nursery to his neighbors as goodwill.

Tariq is now content with his life. “WWF-Pakistan has not only helped in uplifting my financial status but has given me this unique gift of nursery raising, which is now my life’s goal. I have always loved nature- trees, plants and animals. However, to be able to turn it into a living has truly been magical. With God’s help, I am planning to expand and commercialize my nursery on a four kanal plot. I have already found investors, who have seen my work and are ready to finance.” He further adds, “I am truly thankful to WWF-Pakistan and its team, which has supported me through hard times. I will continue to play my part in the society and give back in any way possible.”

Maryam Inam is Senior Communications Officer, WWF-Pakistan.