Securing agriculture in Baluchistan

Securing agriculture in Baluchistan

By: Ms, Neelam

Baluchistan province is famous for its agriculture and mineral resources. The agriculture sector provides livelihood to more than half of the population of Baluchistan, its favorable climatic condition helps to produce high-quality fruits. It is also called the Fruit Basket of Pakistan, Apple is the major fruit of Baluchistan contributing more than 80% to the total Apple production of Pakistan, therefore, has a significant impact on the household income of the farmers in the region. Farmers have been growing and exporting Apples for many years yet they are unaware of modern farming techniques, alternative pest management systems, and marketing techniques that could increase their yield. Many farmers were compelled to quit farming due to the decrease in the quality of their products as a result of irrigation and other challenges. Export potential reduced dramatically due to deteriorative effects on the quality of Apples. The farming problem is increasing rapidly in the rural areas, The main problem confronting the farmers is the shortage of irrigation water, major constraints include scarcity of water, unavailability of agricultural inputs, lack of strong agriculture system, agricultural marketing, inadequate storage facilities, and modern agriculture techniques, lack of packaging skills, poor transportation facilities, lack of value-adding practices for local markets, pre and post-harvest losses due to old agriculture methods, basic hygiene issues and untrained labor force.

Apple’s value chain is the largest value chain in Baluchistan. About 10 % of apples are marketed in Baluchistan, while the remaining 90% is marketed to the other parts of Pakistan. Due to the lack of adequate storage facilities, most of the apples are stored in other cities of the country.

Stakeholders that are involved in agriculture activities to help the farmers of Baluchistan are making collaborative efforts to improve the current situation. The agriculture extension department, Planning, and development department, NGOs, UN agencies such as UNIDO and FAO are also supporting and strengthening relevant government departments through different activities for reducing food losses and improving Apple Value Chain in the province.

The Project for Agri-food and Agro-industry Development Assistance in Pakistan (PAFAID), funded by JICA and implemented by United Nations industrial development (UNIDO) is considerably contributing to building the capacities of relevant stakeholders to strengthen the systems and enhance capacities of relevant officials for rendering services to the industry to bring sustainable and positive change. The aim of the PAFAID project is to enhance the productivity and compliance capacities of relevant stakeholders in the Apple Value Chain in Apple producing areas of Baluchistan, including Quetta, Pishin, Ziarat, Qilla Abdullah, Qilla Saifullah, Mastung, and Qalat districts.

A series of interventions are initiated by UNIDO under its PAFAID project. Developing Good Agriculture Practices (GAP), training of master trainers from the agricultural extension department, and rollout of the training to farmers is one of the key components of this project. In these connections, UNIDO organized a month-long Training of Trainers for the master trainers of the Agriculture extension department to train them on GAP. The GAP covers all the important topics on Good agriculture practices to improve productivity, safety and quality, environmental protection, record keeping, traceability worker’s safety, application and storage of fertilizers, pre and post-harvest management, packaging, and transportation, profitable marketing skills, and waste management. In order to build the capacity of farmers, the master trainers will impart the gained knowledge to the apple-producing farmers in their respective districts which in turn will contribute to profitable marketing to generate better revenue. UNIDO also developed a handbook in Urdu for farmers on GAP requirements which will help farmers in adopting the GAP. Along with GAP training, UNIDO is supporting the Plant Protection Department in upgrading the Regional Pesticides Quality Control and Research laboratory which will enable the laboratory to undertake the required tests to ensure food safety. UNIDO is also supporting the Baluchistan Food authority to train their Food Security officers on good Hygiene Practices so that they further ensure that the Food business operators are practicing and applying this safety measure in their business for better hygiene and food safety to eliminate the health risks in the province. In order to acknowledge the role of women and ensure their valuable participation in agriculture, gender mainstreaming is ensured in all PAFAID activities. UNIDO PAFAID project is expected to create a significant impact in the long term by contributing to improved livelihood.

The writer is an Agriculture officer.

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