Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress

25 September 2019
Courtesy of GEO News

ITC launches a project to reduce poverty in Pakistan by strengthening small-scale agribusinesses

Small enterprises make up the bulk of businesses in Pakistan. To achieve broad, sustainable economic growth, these firms must grow and create jobs for the increasing number of people entering the workforce. Livestock and horticulture – which account for 70% of value added agriculture – have particularly strong growth potential due to rising demand, opportunities for climate adaptation and participation of women.

The International Trade Centre (ITC) – a joint agency of the United Nations and the World Trade Organization – has launched 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 (SMEs) in horticulture and livestock become more competitive by making improvements at all levels of the value chain.

Demand for safe, nutritious and high-quality food is rising in Pakistan. 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.

Abdul Razzaq Dawood, advisor for commerce of the Government of Pakistan; Jean-François Cautain, former ambassador of the European Union in Pakistan; and ITC Executive Director Arancha González shared their views on the initiative in an interview initially published on GEO.

Abdul Razzaq Dawood

How will this project impact the trade sector in Pakistan?

Economic recovery and sustainable growth are at the heart of current government economic policies. The GRASP project of the European Union and 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 business environment, selected agriculture value chains, productivity and agribusiness services with the support of our partners.

Jean-François Cautain

Why do you think the GRASP project is important for Pakistan?

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 ($52.8 million), around 8.6 billion Pakistan rupees, this new initiative 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.

The EU has worked to support sustainable agriculture in Pakistan in the past. How is this effort different from your previous ones?

GRASP has been designed as an all-inclusive project, fully integrating rural and urban features of agriculture and industry sector through SME development. The programme will support the vertical and horizontal development of targeted SMEs clusters, particularly in the two sub-sectors of agriculture, 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 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!

Are you confident that you found the right partners for this project?

I am very pleased that the International Trade Centre is our international partner for this project. 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 extensive networks of partners both in the public and private sectors that will be mobilized to make GRASP a success for the benefit of many Pakistanis.

Arancha González

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?

Pakistan is a vast country with enormous potential in its agriculture sector. Many commendable efforts are already ongoing to improve productivity and 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-sized enterprises (MSMEs) 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 EU, 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.

What has been the response of your partners towards this project?

We are grateful to the EU 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 more inclusive trade. We are proud to join hands at this moment when Pakistan is working to achieve the Sustainable Development 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.

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 the rest of her time?

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 alike. 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 individually but also contribute to their communities and to a more competitive Pakistani economy.