ISLAMABAD: Small-scale farmers in Pakistan will be among the 1.7 million farmers in three countries who will soon receive personalised agricultural advice through their mobile phones as a means to improve their incomes, food security and resilience to economic shocks caused by Covid-19, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) has announced.
Besides Pakistan, two other countries are Kenya and Nigeria, where small-scale farmers will be benefited under an innovative initiative that will receive initial funding under IFAD’s Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF) as a result of a new partnership between the IFAD and Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD).
The farmers using the mobile phone technology will receive low-cost, customised advice to improve on-farm practices, input utilisation, pest and disease management, environmental sustainability and access to markets.
Activities financed under the facility will be implemented through the existing IFAD projects and programmes, as well as through non-state actors — farmers’ organisations, NGOs and private sector players already engaged in supporting the IFAD.
The RPSF aims to mitigate effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on the livelihoods and food security of poor people of rural areas. Funding for these first 11 initiatives, amounting to $11.2 million from the RPSF plus $5.2m in co-financing mainly from governments and implementing partners, will benefit an estimated 6.7m small-scale farmers in developing countries adversely hit by economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Advice to improve their income, food security will be conveyed through mobile phones
The majority of these initiatives, which are embedded in national Covid-19 response strategies, will be implemented through IFAD project teams and other strategic partners to ensure fast delivery.
The activities to be delivered include providing seeds and fertiliser in time for the upcoming planting season, assisting with storage and market transport, supporting local banks to provide credit, and establishing digital platforms for information, training, banking and marketing services.
Working through the existing project teams and IFAD country offices, the initiatives will draw on the existing targeting data to identify and provide assistance to the most at-risk groups. A second round of funding, which includes 22 initiatives and amounts to $13.8m, is expected by the end of August.
The RPSF is a short-term strategy that feeds into IFAD’s longer-term development objectives. The IFAD has initiated the facility with $40m of seed funding from grant resources and expects to mobilise at least $200m from member states and other donors to scale up the support. The Canadian government has already pledged a contribution of $6m. All funds will be disbursed by Dec 31, 2021, as an immediate Covid-19 response.
All IFAD-supported country programmes that are at risk of not achieving their development outcomes due to Covid-19 are eligible to receive funding from the RPSF.
Through the facility, 85 per cent of funds will be used to support 59 of the most at-risk countries with country-level financing, and 15pc will support particularly innovative or strategic regional initiatives.
In Pakistan, the IFAD is currently implementing the National Poverty Graduation Programme which aims to assist the ultra-poor and very poor in coming out of poverty on a sustainable basis. The $82.6m project, with co-financing of $49.9m by Pakistan, will complete in 2023.
The programme being implemented in 17 districts nationwide is expected that 214,000 loans will be disbursed to approximately 160,000 households. In total, the programme is expected to reach over 2m individuals.
For the country-level financing, the IFAD has identified eligible countries based on a widely-used Covid-19 risk index, along with relevant indicators on rural poverty. The amount allocated to individual countries will be determined by the total amount of financing available.
Published in Dawn, August 24th, 2020