The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) has unveiled a dynamic portfolio of 40 diverse projects strategically dispersed across various regions of Pakistan.

These initiatives, with varying scopes, financial parameters, and target audiences, underscore the FAO”s commitment to fortifying the agriculture and food security sectors in the country. In an exclusive panel interview with this agency, Country Representative Florence Rolle and Assistant FAOR (Programmes) Dr. Aamer Irshad highlighted the proactive role of the FAO in numerous initiatives and programs aimed at strengthening Pakistan’s agriculture and food security sectors.These initiatives span a spectrum, including enhancing agricultural productivity and sustainability, supporting livestock and fisheries development, and implementing food security programs to alleviate hunger and malnutrition. Rolle outlined FAO’s 20232027 priorities with Pakistan: enhancing food availability, strengthening climate-responsive planning, and improving agricultural value chains.The focus includes nutrition policy, climate frameworks, support for enterprises, disease control, and women’s empowerment in agriculture. She explained that project selection is based on a thorough consultative process, aligning with the United Nations Sustainable Development Cooperation Framework (UNSDCF) 20232027. The FAO”s Country Programming Framework (CPF) for 20232027 involves consultations with relevant ministries, departments, academia, UN agencies, and resource partners at both federal and provincial levels.The FAO”s involvement extends beond traditional agricultural support. The organization actively engages in sustainable natural resource management, providing humanitarian assistance during emergencies, and collaborating closely with the Pakistani government on policy development. Additionally, the FAO supports research and innovation while helping Pakistan adapt to the challenges posed by climate change.Highlighting the FAO”s commitment to accountability, Rolle underscored the presence of a robust monitoring and evaluation system with units in Islamabad and across provinces. This system plays a pivotal role in shaping program effectiveness by providing guidance based on lessons learned. Discussing assessment methods, Dr Aamer Irshad emphasized the efficiency and accuracy of modern scientific tools, particularly satellite technology, in evaluating crop damage.Rolle acknowledged challenges in assessing areas adjacent to large riverine regions and reiterated the FAO’s advantage in utilizing satellite technology in such scenarios. As a UN agency, the FAO collaborates closely with governments worldwide, operating primarily in partnership with government entities at federal and provincial levels. The organization also engages with academic institutions, research organizations, and NGOs, employing a versatile approach tailored to the specific context and needs of each project.Aamer discussed the Living Indus initiative, a government-backed endeavour where the FAO serves as the technical lead. In addressing threats to the Indus basin, she emphasized the pivotal role of mass involvement, particularly among the youth, in mobilizing support and creating awareness. Touching upon the crucial role of youth in agriculture, Rolle emphasized their significance in driving economic growth.She highlighted the need to attract educated youth to the agriculture sector, noting the sector’s evolution toward precision farming, digital technologies, satellite monitoring, and research-based practices. Dr Aamer Irshad emphasized the necessity of modernizing the sector to make it more appealing to the younger generation. Despite agriculture contributing 22% to the country’s economy, she stressed the need for strategic reduction without compromising productivity.Large farms benefit from supportive government policies, while smallholder farmers face challenges due to insufficient profits and a lack of business acumen. The UN representative proposed a comprehensive plan involving specialized education, financial incentives, rural infrastructure improvement, awareness campaigns, and technology adoption to make agriculture more attractive to educated youth.In a broader perspective, Rolle highlighted FAO”s contributions to all Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), particularly those closely related to six key sub-sectors within agriculture: zero hunger, water resources, fisheries, climate change mitigation, livestock management, gender, and food losses. As the FAO continues to spearhead initiatives in Pakistan, its comprehensive approach aims at transforming the agriculture landscape and contributing to the achievement of the SDGs.

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