ISLAMABAD: The World Bank (WB) has approved $200 million to support Pakistan in its efforts to transform its agricultural sector by adopting climate-smart technologies to improve water-use efficiency, build resilience to extreme weather events and increase income of small farmers in Punjab.

The ‘Punjab Resilient and Inclusive Agriculture Transformation’ (PRIAT) project, approved by the bank’s executive directors on Friday, will benefit about 190,000 small, family-owned farms and 1.4 million acres of irrigated land in rural communities in the province.

It will also provide training to small- and medium-sized farm owners on water conservation and more sustainable, climate-resilient agricultural practices, including for women.

Female farmers have assumed a growing share of responsibility for agriculture in Punjab, yet there are several factors leading to their lower productivity. Approximately 74pc of women depend on agriculture as a source of livelihood, but only 40pc are formally employed. Half of the rural women are engaged as farm and family labour and around 75pc of these receive no payment for their work

Since the project is located on the Indus River, it involves rehabilitation and enhancements to existing watercourses and farm channels. Overall, the project would have positive environmental and social impacts in contributing towards resource efficiencies, livelihood improvements, crop productivity, targeting small farmers and farmers in underserved areas, and reducing conveyance and application water losses, according to the project document.

The agricultural sector in Punjab is central to Pakistan’s economy and food security as it accounts for 73pc of the country’s total food production, and the project will increase agricultural productivity through efficient and equitable access to water for small farms. It will support farmers at the community and household levels to adopt climate-smart farming practices and technologies that improve crop yields and conserve water resources in Punjab.

“In recent years Pakistan’s agriculture sector has suffered losses in crop yields and livestock, damage to irrigation infrastructure, and food shortages due to climate change, particularly severe droughts in the Punjab province,” said World Bank Country Director for Pakistan Najy Benhassine.

“This project aligns with the Punjab Agriculture Policy 2018, which promotes massive expansion of water conservation efforts, enhancing sustainability and resilience in the wake of climate change, and private sector participation to help boost the productivity of the sector,” he said.

PRIAT will support farmers implement innovative, climate-smart technologies to help the Punjab government achieve economies of scale to transform the agricultural sector. The project will engage the private sector in sourcing appropriate technologies and providing training tailored for water user associations and individual households to improve water conservation practices and agriculture productivity.

“The agriculture sector has a huge opportunity to both build climate resilience and improve economic conditions by generating access to domestic and international markets,” said Task Team Leader for the project, Guo Li. “PRIAT will help accelerate the government’s efforts to transform the agri-food system through market-oriented production activities that add value, increase competitiveness and generate higher incomes for farmers,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 17th, 2022

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