ISLAMABAD - Australian government would invest US$ 13 million under its Agriculture Sector Linkages Programme (ASLP) Phase-II to improve living standards of small farmers in Pakistan.

The first phase of this programme was launched in 2005 for the support of Pakistan’s agriculture sector which remained successful. While commenting on the Phase II of the programme, Australian High Commissioner in Pakistan, Margaret Adamson said recently, it has been the cornerstone of Australia’s support to Pakistan’s agriculture sector.

She also highlighting the achievements of the ASLP Phase I and said it included the uptake of furrow irrigation by nearly 1000 citrus farmers in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, resulting in up to 40 per cent reductions in water usage, and the first successful shipment of mangoes to Europe by a farmer’s consortium.

The High Commissioner informed that Australia is now importing fruit from Pakistan and termed it one of the achievements of the programme.

She said that collaboration between government, business and research bodies, supported by Australian expertise, led by Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has been a leading force in the dairy, citrus and mango sectors in Pakistan, and has provided a model for future engagement in agriculture and water between the two countries.

Margaret Adamson said that ASLP will be followed by a similar program that will be known as the Agriculture Value Chain Collaborative Research (AVCCR) programme.

Under design at the moment, it will draw on Australian expertise to assist Pakistan improve agricultural productivity, add value to raw agricultural products and improve access to markets for those products. AVCCR will complement Australian government’s engagement with other investments in agriculture to provide strategic support to the Pakistan Government in the agriculture sector,” she added.

The High Commissioner said, “Our common climatic conditions, ecological diversity and federal systems of government are an obvious platform of mutual interest to share knowledge and to establish research and technical linkages between our two countries aimed at a sustainable future, food security,environmental protection and economic prosperity for our people.

And our mutual interest is strengthening in light of the impacts of climate change on our ecosystems.” Commenting on Australian aid to Pakistan, she said the other priority areas are: Infrastructure, trade facilitation and international competitiveness; Effective governance: policies, institutions and functioning economies; Education and health; Building resilience: humanitarian assistance, disaster risk reduction and social protection; Gender equality and empowering women and girls.

However, she said sustainable development of the agriculture sector is critical for economic growth and to build resilience in vulnerable communities.

Within this context, the contribution of women is significant as around 72 per cent of working women have some association with the agriculture sector, she added.

She said with so many women involved, it is both economic sense as well as consistent with gender equity that we focus on women’s economic empowerment to end poverty and maximize development outcomes.

Australia’s aid program to Pakistan has a major focus on generating sustainable growth and employment through increased trade and investment, and improvements to agricultural productivity, water resources management and industry.

She informed the Australian Government is investing in a series of programmes designed to support Pakistan’s growth and prosperity.

Pakistan has prioritized enhanced trade and investment with neighbouring countries and there is potential for greater regional connectivity in South Asia.

“We are working closely with the Ministry of Commerce and the World Bank through a $10 million investment in the Pakistan Trade and Investment Policy Program to spearhead national efforts to promote and bolster exports and trade,” she added.

Margaret Adamson said that Australia is also keen to support Pakistan to address constraints to job creation, including in rural areas, to increase livelihood opportunities for poor men and women. “We will continue to draw on our world’s class expertise to help Pakistan enhance agricultural productivity and expand revenue streams for farmers, including through improved water management practices and adding value to raw agricultural products,” she added. “We hope, in turn, this will contribute to improving Pakistan’s food security and nutrition levels, and women’s economic empowerment,” she said.

She opined that economic growth and prosperity in Pakistan will not occur without water b the life blood of our planet.

“We already know that both our countries face urgent water scarcity challenges,” she added. She stressed to ensure sustainable usage for human health, agriculture, and industry for the environment itself. She informed that Australia is providing support to Pakistan’s various ministries and government agencies responsible for water with the help of the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO).

By mapping and modeling Pakistan’s greatest water resource “ the Indus Basin” policy makers and technical experts will gain greater knowledge and understanding of how to best manage this precious resource into the future.