ISLAMABAD: The Japanese government has announced grant assistance worth $7.7 million to support Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) control in livestock of Pakistan and promote economic opportunities in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) through agricultural development.

During a ceremony on Tuesday, Ambassador of Japan Takashi Kurai and FAO Representative in Pakistan, Mina Dowlatchahi, exchanged and signed notes for the two projects — which would be implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations. Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sikandar Hayat Khan Bosan, was also present on the occasion.

A grant agreement on the details of implementation of the project was signed between Chief Representative of Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and FAO representative, Dowlatchahi.

The FMD is the most prevalent and economically important infectious disease of livestock in Pakistan. The project will significantly improve the FMD outbreaks surveillance and rapid response mechanism for disease control and reduce the incidence of the disease in the country.

The $2.7m project would help curtail the losses caused by the disease and improve productivity of livestock contributing to food security and improved resilience of livelihood of livestock farmers to animal disease threats.

According to official statistics, Pakistan has a large livestock population including 82.1m cattle and buffaloes, and 102.3m sheep and goats. Livestock is an important source of income for the producers year round and milk sales alone represent a cash flow of $7.7bn annually mostly to smallholders consisting of 8.5m families in rural areas. The FMD severely affects milk production in addition to mortality in calves and loss of body condition and draught power.

In recent years, FAO has completed three projects addressing FMD control in Pakistan with the assistance of the Italian government and US Department of Agriculture, resulting in the implementation of the national FMD control programme and progression of Pakistan from stage one to stage two in 2015.

The Japanese assistance of $5m for the second phase of the restoration of livelihood project in Fata will help reduce poverty and promote economic opportunities in the region through agriculture development which will support stabilisation and economic growth in the area.

In 2015, Japan funded $5m for the first phase of the restoration of livelihood project, and FAO successfully supported approximately 77,000 households to resume agricultural production that helped improve food security and livelihoods. Under the second phase of the project, the Japanese government through FAO will provide support to about 32,000 households in the two targeted agencies of Fata — Kurram and Khyber Agencies.

Speaking on the occasion, food security minister Bosan said that the government considered agriculture as a key area of focus to ensure food security for all segments of the society. The growing agriculture sector not only played a vital role in boosting national economy but also reducing poverty and improving access to food, he added.

Ambassador Kurai believed that the two projects would not only contribute to the improvement of production of agricultural goods but also to the socio-economic development of Pakistan.

FAO representative Dowlatchahi stated that the projects would contribute to the development of the agricultural sector in Fata by improving food security, boosting economic activities and markets and as a result help achieve peace and security in the area.

JICA Representative Tojo said that the project would make a significant contribution toward stabilisation of the area and essentially focus on agribusiness and value chain development to boost commercial agriculture in the region.

Published in Dawn, February 28th, 2018

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