By Saleem Shaikh
ISLAMABAD, September 24: International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) has launched an ambition US$ 120 rural development support programme to boost and diversify climate-vulnerable agricultural incomes and employments in Gilgit-Baltistan region.
The programme will benefit at least 100,000 rural families in the Gilgit-Baltistan,where over 90 per cent of the population eke out their livelihoods from agriculture.
According to details, IFAD is providing US$67 million to finance the Economic Transformation Initiative in the Gilgit-Baltistan region. The Government of Pakistan will cofinance with $23.63 million and lead the programme.
In this regard, the financing agreement was signed on September 17 at IFAD headquarters in Rome, Italy, by Tehmina Janjua, Pakistan’s Ambassador in Italy, and Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of IFAD, according to IFAD press statement.
IFAD officials say the initiative would focus on augmenting agricultural productivity, introducing high-value cash crops and linking farmers to markets. It would also improve on existing infrastructure such as irrigation systems and rural roads in the mountainous region.
“Pakistan is a country with a large population of young people; over 55 per cent are below the age of 25,” said Hoonae Kim, Director, Asia and the Pacific, IFAD.
“However, spiking incomes and creating diversified economic opportunity for rural communities and especially young people is essential for effective rural transformation,” he added.
poverty in remote rural areas of the country is largely due to small per capita landholdings (0.6 – 0.8 acres), inadequate access to markets, lack of access to credit, inputs and support services, limited off-farm employment opportunities, and policy and institutional constraints, studies conclude.
Officials in the federal climate change ministry say that the US$120 million rural uplift programme, is a timely move and should strive to boost climate-resilience of mountain agriculture sector in Pakistan’s north, which provides livelihoods to tens of thousands of people.
Farmers in Gilgit-Baltistan are in grip of serious climate risks, particularly rising temperatures, flash floods, erratic and shifting rain patterns,” said Irfan Tariq, director-general at the climate change ministry in Islamabad.
Director Environmental Protection Agency of Gilgit-Baltistan, Shahzad Shigri, says the natural extreme weather events have seriously dented the mountain farmers’ ability to keep growing crops, many of which have already reduced area under farming and migrating to nearby urban towns like Gilgit, Mansehra.
“However, tapping the IFAD’s financial support for adapting mountain agriculture in GB province to shifting weather patterns and resilient to the extreme weather events can not only help tackle emerging issue of food insecurity but also poverty and mal-nutrition, which have increased manifold due to climate change impacts,” he said.
He suggested that while implementing the initiative, it must be ensured that diversifying income sources of the mountain communities, which heavily rely on farming as a source of income.
He hoped that adequate amount of the funding would be spent for agriculture sector’s adaptation to climate risks, which is vital to transforming the lives of mountain communities and dealing with mounting levels f hunger, malnutrition and poverty in the remote region.
This story was done under the ICIMOD Media Fellowship Pakistan 2015.