ISLAMABAD: The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations will implement a Sustainable and Regenerative Management of Rice Production in Pakistan, for which the Global Environment Facility (GEF) approved funding of $6.9 million last week.

The project aims to enhance sustainable rice production landscapes in Sindh, one of Pakistan’s major rice-producing provinces. It will restore 15,000 hectares of land and improve farming practices on 50,000 hectares, including protected areas, reducing approximately 460,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions, benefiting nearly 75,000 individuals, almost 50 per cent of whom are women.

Officials of FAO told Dawn that following approval of the project concept by the GEF Council last week, the project is currently in the preparation phase, with the expected start date of its implementation being June 2025.

The project will channel transformational change through four key interventions — strengthening policy and governance framework, increased financing and private sector engagement, innovation and technical support for landscape level interventions and knowledge sharing.

The project is part of the Food Systems Integrated Programme (FSIP), co-led with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

FAO is set to drive transformative change in the rice food system and contribute towards achieving global environmental benefits, such as restoring lands, conserving biodiversity, and reducing GHG emissions, according to FAO.

The Sustainable and Regenerative Management of Rice Production in Pakistan will support the National Food Security Policy (NFSP) in achieving national food security and nutrition goals through sustainable development of the agriculture sector.

It will also aid Pakistan in fulfilling its environmental commitments under the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the UN Convention on Biological Diversity (UNCBD), and the Ramsar Convention, as well as the Global Methane Pledge and the Bonn Challenge, and scale out this transformation by integrating it into the private

value chain and trade networks for sustainable rice and agriculture products.

At the provincial level, it will support the Government of Sindh’s Agricultural Policy, which provides a geographically specific framework and contributes to reducing rural poverty and malnutrition, making more efficient use of natural resources, enhancing climate resilience and diversifying the agricultural sector.

In addition, the project will enhance the existing investments at the provincial level by the Green Climate Fund and the World Bank to strengthen the resilience of agricultural value chains in the province and build back better following the 2022 floods.

FSIP, co-led by the FAO and IFAD, will direct $252m in project financing and $2.2 billion in co-financing to 32 countries.

The FSIP focuses on transforming global agri-food systems from farm to table so that they are sustainable, nature-positive, resilient, inclusive and pollution-free. The programme will deliver global benefits for biodiversity, addressing land degradation and climate change, along with improved food security, nutrition, incomes, livelihood sustainability and resilience.

FAO will implement projects in 22 countries including Pakistan to support National Food Systems Transformation Pathways or other government-led frameworks and meet environmental commitments, such as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework and the Paris Agreement.

Published in Dawn, February 18th, 2024

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