VU improving lives of rural poor in Pakistan

Three Victoria University academics are working to improve smallholders’ livelihoods in Pakistan.

Professor Peter Sheehan, Mr Jim Lang and Professor Bhajan Grewal from the Victoria Institute for Strategic Economic Studies (VISES) recently spent a week in Pakistan discussing enabling policies for benefiting smallholders (small farms) in the dairy, citrus and mango industries of Pakistan.

The Victoria Institute for Strategic Economic Studies has been awarded funding of over $900,000 over three years for developing enabling policies for benefiting smallholders in these three sub-sectors of Pakistan.

This project is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and is the first Agricultural Sector Linkages Program (ASLP) project in Pakistan on developing policies, and one of the few dedicated to explicitly improving smallholders’ livelihoods.

The purpose of the visit was to hold a Planning Workshop with Pakistani partners in this project and discuss the progress made so far and proposed activities with the Project Coordination Committee, which includes the most senior people in Pakistan who will eventually be responsible for getting the recommended policies approved and implemented.

The major areas of policy development that were discussed in these meetings are:

  • agricultural extension services for smallholders;
  • access to markets and trade, including exports;
  • access to affordable credit for smallholders;
  • Quality and prices of agricultural inputs used by smallholders;
  • smallholders networks/associations/cooperatives; and
  • the position of women and youth.

Professor Grewal said "these are the key areas in which improvement in smallholders’ livelihoods depends crucially on new government policies, as smallholders lack the information, knowledge, finance, and capabilities for gainfully linking with markets for their products."

"Furthermore, federal and provincial governments need to improve market infrastructure (rural roads, cool rooms, and storage facilities etc.) for improving accessibility and functioning of agricultural markets."

Agriculture remains the most significant engine of growth for Pakistan’s economy. It contributes more than 21% of national GDP, employs 45% of the labour force and generates nearly 64% of the total value of Pakistan’s exports.

However, Pakistan’s agriculture is dominated by small farms, which account for 86% of all farms and 47% of total area under farming. Because smallholders are also the poorest and most food-insecure sections of Pakistan’s population, improving livelihoods of smallholders is of crucial importance for Pakistan.

During their visit, Professors Sheehan and Grewal and Mr Lang met with the partners to review progress and plan activities for the rest of the year.

For more information on VU’s involvement in the project, please contact Professor Bhajan Grewal on [email protected].

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