By Amin Ahmed
ISLAMABAD(dawn): The livelihood of over 1.25 million underprivileged households in four rural districts of Punjab will be improved by increasing the production and productivity of livestock under a project, to be funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
Official sources told Dawn that in addition to a soft loan of $34.5 million, IFAD will also extend a grant of $600,000 for the project, which is up for approval by the Fund’s executive board, scheduled to meet in Rome in September this year. Pakistan will pay back the loan to IFAD over 40 years, including a 10-year grace period.
The project is to be implemented in the districts of Mianwali, Khushab, Bhakkar and Layyah.
Punjab has the strongest agriculture performance in the country, but its dominance in the sector has not translated into rural poverty reduction and there is widespread poverty in the southern and western districts of the province.
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The project will be aimed at increasing production, improving market access for livestock products and facilitating linkages between small producers and a wide range of private entrepreneurs along the dairy and livestock value chains.
This will be achieved through targeted area-specific interventions for increasing livestock production and marketing in a specific targeted area by strengthening the capacity of smallholders to access, and the capacity of local private providers and government institutions to deliver, livestock services; and broader policy and institutional support aiming at strengthening the overall policy, regulatory and institutional framework.
IFAD says the project will limit its scope to the livestock subsectors that have the highest potential for generating impacts on poor farmers, including dairy, small ruminant and backyard poultry activities.
The project will focus on enhancing the production of home-based poultry and the fattening and marketing of small ruminants in arid, semi-arid and desert project areas; and enhancing the production and marketing of dairy products in areas with surplus milk or potential for increasing milk production.
Livestock is a key element in the mixed farming system of smallholders and has a high potential for growth and poverty alleviation in Pakistan, particularly in Punjab where about 30 to 40 per cent of income in rural areas is derived from livestock-related activities.
The sector has the highest potential for reaching landless men and women who have few other assets. According to the project document, the livestock sector represents the largest agricultural commodity in Pakistan, and it accounts for 56 per cent of agricultural GDP and 11 per cent of the GDP.