ISLAMABAD: More than 4,000 farmers’ households in the newly-merged districts of Khyber Pakhtu­nkhwa have switched over from illicit crop cultivation to growing cereals and vegetables as a result of the completion of a project funded by the United States government.

The project funded by US government’s International Narcotics and Law Enfor­cement (INL) and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations provided alternative livelihoods to farmers including 1,200 women in Bajaur, Khyber, Torghar and Mohmand districts with the provision of wheat, maize, onion, tomato, cucumber and sunflower seeds and olive plants.

In addition, the farmers were imparted with training and agriculture machinery and tools including shovels, spray pumps, tractors and leveling and harvesting machines in order to grow high-value licit crops.

The $984,000 project ensured farmers, vulnerable to poppy cultivation, to have alternate, more lucrative, legal crop cultivation opportunities to pursue that promote a more secure and prosperous Pakistan and region, said INL Director Mark Tervakoski at the project closing ceremony on Friday.

KP Agriculture Minister Mohibullah Khan, and Director-General of the Agriculture Extension Department Abid Kamal also participated in the ceremony.

Speaking on the occasion, Acting FAO Representative in Pakistan, Rebekah Bell highlighted the cooperation under the just completed successful project and said FAO’s partnership with INL and the KP government has been excellent in the promotion of high value crops to create stable sources of livelihoods for the vulnerable communities in the newly merged districts.

Previously, farmers were engaged in or vulnerable to illicit crop cultivation in the newly-merged districts.

INL and the federal government have collaborated on counter-narcotics (CN) activities since the 1980s. INL counter-narcotics programmes developed the capacity of Pakistan’s CN agencies, such as the Anti Narcotics Force (ANF), to disrupt narcotics trafficking. INL programmes improve the livelihoods of families living in KP by providing economic alternatives to poppy cultivation.

For more than thirty years, the United States and Pakistan have worked together to reduce the supply of poppy and other illicit drugs by increasing access to alternative livelihoods opportunities for the most vulnerable farmers of KP province.

Published in Dawn, August 7th, 2021

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