ISLAMABAD: A US-funded project has helped reduce water losses in the Gilgit-Baltistan (GB) region by 60 per cent, bringing more land under cultivation to spur agricultural growth in the territory, and raising income and productivity for more than 8,000 farmers.

The US-funded Satpara Development Project, which closed on Monday, ran for seven years and was carried out by USAID to increase access of farmers to irrigation and achieve increased agricultural production and economic opportunities.

As a result of all these initiatives, 1,200 new businesses were established creating more than 4,000 jobs in GB. Horticultural products from Baltistan now have access to larger markets in both Lahore and Islamabad.

The project was named after ‘Satpara Lake’ which is a natural lake near Skardu, supplying water to Skardu valley and fed by the Satpara stream. The completion of Satpara dam downstream of the lake has enlarged the size of Satpara lake.

The Satpara Development Project, funded by USAID and implemented by the Aga Khan Foundation and Aga Khan Rural Support Programme, is a continuation of the US support that helped build both the Satpara dam and its power generation stations.

According to USAID, the project worked extensively with farmers, introducing them to new technology and improved farming practices as well as trained agricultural businesses in better marketing techniques.

The project also built over 130kms of irrigation canals and worked with communities and local authorities to ensure efficient use and good management of the water that flows through them.

Commenting on the benefits she derived from the project, Farzana Bibi, a farmer, stated that it is a great honour for her to own a greenhouse and becoming an entrepreneur. Now, she is able to sell fruits for four times more than what she was earning before.

Speaking on the occasion, Senior Minister for Water and Power and Finance, Muhammad Akber Taban highly appreciated USAID’s support for the people of Gilgit-Baltistan in terms of bringing economic progress to the region. “I have personally witnessed the successes of the Satpara project and the way these interventions are transforming the agriculture and livestock sectors in the region,” he said.

USAID acting Deputy Mission Director, Jeff Goebel which commenting on the strong partnership between the GB government, USAID, the Aga Khan Foundation, and local farming community noted that thousands of farmers in the region now had better economic opportunities.

Published in Dawn, November 27th, 2018

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