Altaf Hamid Rao.
MIRPUR (AJK): “As we face the COVID-19 pandemic, livelihoods of millions of farmers have been adversely affected across the country”, FAO – the global Food and Agricultural Organistion has said
“To protect livelihoods of food producers and all food chain workers who help ensure that there is enough food for all, FAO is actively extending support to farmers and vulnerable rural communities in the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa while taking all necessary precautions to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, the organization told media on Monday.
Promoting Vegetable Enterprise Establishment in Tribal Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:
Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, FAO is helping safeguard livelihoods of local communities by upscaling food security efforts for the most vulnerable. 480 farmers including 127 women farmers were provided vegetable seeds to help them establish vegetable enterprises and produce vegetables in walk-in tunnels. Even before the pandemic spread across many districts across the province, these small-holder farmers often struggled to provide for themselves and their families. With limited access to health services, water and food, these farmers face many risks on a daily basis. While farmers in these districts may be entrepreneurial in spirit, they usually lack the opportunity to farm as entrepreneurs. With the provision of improved vegetable seeds, FAO aims to facilitate these farmers in developing linkages with local and national markets.
Transforming a sector: High-Yield Seed Potato in Tribal Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa:
Potato cultivation is a season-bound activity. During the pandemic, FAO ensured implementation of planned activities, including distribution of potato seeds to 840 farmers. High-quality certified seed tubers of one metric tonne per farmer were distributed. Potato holds great promise for reducing hunger and poverty for smallholder farmers, especially when they are properly trained on improved farming and harvesting practices and market linkages. FAO through its farmer field schools is arranging regular sessions on potato crop, disease management and developing supply chains to expand seed potato availability, thus enabling farmers to build seed enterprises. The delivery of inputs was made setting highest standards of precautions to reduce the risk of virus spread.
Backyard poultry distribution to vulnerable communities in Tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Backyard poultry farming is increasing in the tribal districts offering rural families both food and financial support while also helping these communities address food secuirty and malnutrition. These interventions aim to especially provide economic and social benefits to women farmers. FAO provided backyard poultry packages to 2 354 households with 10 birds each, while 30 birds each along with feed bags were distributed amongst 354 housheolds identified as most vulnerable.
Large ruminants distribution, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
FAO is playing its role in ensuring food security, reducing poverty and bringing stabilization in the Newly Merged Districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. While on the one hand, FAO is distributing various agricultural packages to vulnerable small land holders, it is also promoting enterprises for enhancing economic activities in the area.
For the purpose of promoting such enterprises, an activity for “establishment of feedlot fattening units of large ruminants through provision of highly growing/meat producing calves” had been planned supported by DFID. 49 people in North Waziristan and South Waziristan received packages comprising of 10 cattle/buffalo male calves, 50 kg bags of animal feed and 1 fodder chopping machines each. Amongst these 49 beneficiaries, 4 women in South Waziristan and 5 Women in North Waziristan also received their packages. A similar activity will also be carried out in Kurram and Orakzai districts. These smallholder farmers are also participants of FAO’s farmer field schools which help build their capacities in large and small ruminant’s management.
Fruit nursery plants distribution in Kurram, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
Establishing fruit plant nurseries in the tribal districts of KP has seen great success for nursey growers who have successfully established their nursery enterprises. Amid the COVID-19 outbreak, FAO distributed 90 000 fruit plants to 6 fruit and forest nursery growers in Kurram district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Each fruit nursery received 15 000 plants including 5 000 plants of citrus, 5 000 guavas, and 5 000 apple plants while 2 forest nurseries received 10 000 mulberry plants. FAO will further support these nurseries develop market linkages to ensure sustainability. Strong precautionary measures were taken while distributing these plants to keep workers safe in the wake of COVID-19.
Walk-in tunnels installation and seeds distribution, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
FAO has introduced Walk-in tunnels in the tribal districts of KP which has enabled farmers to produce off-season vegetables increasing their profitability. 60 tunnels, 30 in Kurram and 30 in Khyber districts, have been installed along with provision of high quality vegetables seeds. Farmers have been trained in walk-in tunnel vegetable production. They have received hands-on training in sowing seeds, production of healthy seedlings for transplantation in walk-in tunnels, plantation beds and spacing and usage of the hygrometer.
Farmers field school and awareness session on COVID-19
Farmer field schools in the tribal districts are still underway while ensuring safety for the participants during COVID-19. These sessions are conducted in order to keep the farmers informed and build their capacities so that the season-bound agriculture activities are not affected. The farmer field school facilitators have also included COVID-19 as a special theme in their sessions. Since these farmers do not have access to information, farmer field schools have proved to be a viable platform for raising awareness against COVID-19.
Market infrastructure civil work in progress, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa
FAO is also ensuring establishment of market infrastructure to help farmers bring their produce to the markets. Keeping in view the impacts of COVID-19 on the lives and livelihoods of farmers, FAO has taken certain measures to complete the construction work of packing and packaging shades, meat shops, milk selling points, irrigation schemes etc. Timely completion of these activities will enable the farmers continue their agriculture activities while building their agri-enterprises.
While COVID-19 has created obstacles for farmers, FAO with the support of the local administration is helping smallholder farmers who play an important role in the food supply chain for the entire population secure their livelihoods.