The Geneva-based International Trade Centre – the joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization – is launching a project to reduce poverty in Pakistan by strengthening small-scale agribusinesses in Balochistan and Sindh.
The project known as ‘Growth for rural advancement and sustainable progress (GRASP) will help small and medium-sized enterprises in horticulture and livestock become more competitive by making improvements at all levels of the value chain.
A nine-month inception phase just started, which will assess the capacity of firms and needs at the farm and consumer levels. During this phase, value chain analyses will be carried out for selected sectors, to be refined through stakeholder consultations in Sindh and Balochistan.
Demand for safe, nutritious and quality food is rising in Pakistan, and by improving product quality at every stage, from planting to production to packaging and transport, small-scale agribusinesses including those led by women and youth will increase their productivity and profitability.
Geo News had an exclusive conversation with Advisor for Commerce of the government of Pakistan, Ambassador of the European Union in Pakistan and Executive Director of the International Trade Centre.
Mr Abdul Razzaq Dawood
Advisor for Commerce, Textile, Industry and Production, and Investment Government of Pakistan
Q. How will this project impact the trade sector in Pakistan?
A. Economic recovery and sustainable growth are at the heart of the current government economic policies. The Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) project of the European Union (EU) and International Trade Centre (ITC) comes at a time when the government is geared up for reform and improvement in the economic sectors. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) make up the bulk of businesses in Pakistan. In order to achieve coherent, broad-based and sustainable economic growth, there is a need to focus on SMEs and unlock the potential in livestock and horticulture besides other sectors in the country. We look forward to an improvement in the business environment, selected agriculture value chains, productivity and agribusiness services with the support of our partners.
Mr Jean-François Cautain
Ambassador of the European Union to Pakistan
Q. Why do you think GRASP project is important for Pakistan?
A. Agriculture contributes to 40% of Pakistan’s economy and still 60% of the population live from it directly or indirectly. However, Pakistan’s rural economy still has difficulties to both lift millions of people out of poverty and add value to many agriculture products. We see the two issues intertwined and after broad consultations with a large number of stakeholders, we have decided to fund activities aiming at improving the situation. With a sizeable amount of funding, a grant of 48 million euros, around 8.6 billion PKR, this new initiative of the European Union, GRASP, which stands for Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress project, will support activities at different levels, from the farmer to eventually the exporter, reinforcing the capacities and incomes of each actor including SMEs in rural Pakistan. This project will fit well for example in Sindh province where the Poverty Reduction Strategy adopted last year foresees the creation of the rural growth centres.
Q. EU has been working to support sustainable agriculture in Pakistan in the past as well. How is this effort different from your previous ones?
A. GRASP project has been designed as an all-inclusive project, fully integrating rural and urban features of agriculture and industry sector via SMEs development. The programme will support the vertical and horizontal development of targeted SMEs clusters, particularly in the two sub-sectors of agriculture i.e. dairy and horticulture. The value addition along the whole supply chain will help in transforming the rural economy, particularly in Balochistan and Sindh provinces. The integration of small producers into supply chains will lead to enhanced income-generating opportunities. A strong element of the project is also to ensure that both men and women will equally benefit. The GRASP programme will also contribute to the creation of a productive business environment and facilitate the establishment and development of profitable businesses by applying appropriate and environmentally sustainable technologies. The holistic value chain approach should make the programme more realistic and practical. And of course successful!
Q. Are you confident that you found the right partners for this project?
A. I am very pleased that the International Trade Centre is our international partner for this project. The ITC is well-known for its support to SME competitiveness for inclusive and sustainable growth through value addition. They will bring invaluable experiences from other countries. In Pakistan, during the consultation process for this project and thanks to our footprint in Pakistan for many years, we have an extensive network of partners both in the public and private sectors that will be mobilised to make GRASP a success for the benefit of many Pakistanis.
Ms Arancha González
Executive Director International Trade Centre, Geneva
Q. Given that considerable work focused at improving agriculture-related livelihoods is already going on in Pakistan, how will this project in particular benefit the sector?
A. Pakistan is a vast country with enormous potential in its agriculture sector. Many commendable efforts are already ongoing to improve productivity, competitiveness and through that generate benefits for farmers, in particular, those in more precarious conditions. But more can be done. Agriculture is at the forefront of the impact of climate change and there is, therefore, need to build a more resilient sector, supporting climate-smart farming. Technological progress is also impacting the agriculture sector. Supporting micro small and medium enterprises adjust and leverage technological change will be essential to improve their competitiveness. Finally, consumers around the world are demanding higher quality products. With standards becoming stricter, there is need to help smaller players meet them to access markets. These are precisely the priorities of GRASP. Focusing on the horticulture and livestock sectors in Sindh and Balochistan provinces. This initiative seeks to help farmers and small agribusinesses navigate these challenges to improve livelihoods and contribute to broad, sustainable economic growth. With funding from the European Union, ITC support will be directed at improving the business environment, improving product quality at every stage, from planting to production to packaging and transport and connecting farmers to markets. We will start from what the market is demanding but we will focus on improving people’s lives.
Q. What has been the response of your partners towards this project?
A. We are grateful to the European Union for entrusting ITC with the implementation of this initiative. We are most thankful to the Government of Pakistan for their confidence and partnership. ITC has a long-standing history of partnering with Pakistan to support a more inclusive trade. We are proud to join hands at this moment when Pakistan is working to achieve the United Nations Global Goals to eradicate extreme poverty by 2030. Partnerships are essential. Without collective action, we will not be able to make a difference in the lives of those who need our help the most.
Q. Will the rural Pakistani woman benefit from GRASP given she often works without wages in the fields during the day and takes care of the household and children for the rest of her time?
A. Empowering women economically is a priority of the International Trade Centre. Women are central to inclusive growth and to ‘good trade’. This is a matter of smart economics. A cricket team that only brings half of the team to the tournament cannot win the World Cup! An economy that only includes half of its population shows weaker growth and therefore less wealth for its people, men and women. If women’s participation in Pakistan’s economy was equal to men’s this would boost Pakistan’s GDP by 60%. This is why we will work to ensure that women also benefit from our support under GRASP by bringing them into the conversation, supporting jobs and strengthening women’s organizations. Women will be engaged in all stages of the value chain. In this way, they will not only benefit individuals but also contribute to their communities and to a more competitive Pakistani economy.