When construction worker Abdul Rahman lost his job to Pakistan’s coronavirus lockdown, his choices looked stark – resort to begging on the streets or let his family go hungry.
But the government has now given him a better option: Join tens of thousands of other out-of-work labourers in planting billions of trees across the country to deal with climate change threats, Reuters reported.
Since Pakistan locked down starting March 23 to try to stem the spread of COVID-19, unemployed day labourers have been given new jobs as “jungle workers”, planting saplings as part of the country’s 10 Billion Tree Tsunami programme.
Such “green stimulus” efforts are an example of how funds that aim to help families and keep the economy running during pandemic shutdowns could also help nations prepare for the next big threat: climate change.
“Due to coronavirus, all the cities have shut down and there is no work. Most of us daily wagers couldn’t earn a living,” Rahman, a resident of Rawalpindi district in Punjab province, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
He now makes 500 rupees ($3) per day planting trees – about half of what he might have made on a good day, but enough to get by.
“All of us now have a way of earning daily wages again to feed our families,” he said.
The ambitious five-year tree-planting programme, which Prime Minister (PM) Imran Khan launched in 2018, aims to counter the rising temperatures, flooding, droughts and other extreme weather in the country that scientists link to climate change.