ISLAMABAD - Farmers in Khyber and Kurram agencies of Federally-Administered Tribal Areas received assistance from Food and Agriculture Organisation with help of Japan International Cooperation Agency to rebuild their lives as they continue to return to their homes after years of displacement.

The farmers were provided assistance under “Project for Assistance to Recovery and Development of Agricultural Economy in Fata”. The project that concluded on July 31st, accomplished restoration of farm productivity and agriculture-based livelihoods by rebuilding productive assets and strengthening productive skills of the returnees and by developing capacity of the public and private sector service providers.

The farmers were provided high quality seeds for wheat, maize, oats and different vegetables. They also received help for keeping their livestock healthy. Land was reclaimed to make it fit for cultivation and irrigation channels constructed to provide water for the crops. About 77,200 households (33,143 in Khyber and 44,057 in Kurram) of Fata received this assistance which helped the returning small farmers to produce food and earn income for their families.

A ceremony to mark conclusion of the project was held here which was attended by Ambassador of Japan Takashi Kurai, Chief Representative of JICA Pakistan Yasuhiro Tojo, top officials from development agencies and representatives of government of Pakistan. Speaking on the occasion, Takashi Kurai said, “We had supported recovery of Fata including rehabilitation of community infrastructure. In addition to the assistance to provide basic services, recovery of livelihood of returnees is very important for their stable lives and stable return of TDPs. Japan would continue assisting people of Pakistan including returnees in Fata and TDPs to keep peace in this country.”

Yasuhiro Tojo, Chief Representative of JICA Pakistan Office, while expressing his views, said, “One of the most important components of this project was the capacity building of women, who are vastly contributing to agricultural economy of the region. Therefore, to train them to impart appropriate knowledge on farming and livestock was crucial to ensure the sustainability of Fata”.

Highlighting the achievements of the project, Minà Dowlatchahi, FAO Representative to Pakistan, said, “It is important that we assist the government of Pakistan in fulfilling its responsibilities in enabling the safe return of the displaced persons to their homes. In this connection, we appreciate our strategic partnership with JICA. With the support from JICA and Embassy of Japan in Pakistan, FAO assisted a significant number of displaced persons and helped them begin a better life by revitalising agriculture-based livelihoods, economy and contributing to a more stable society. We hope that this partnership will continue so that we can play our part in ensuring better and healthier lives for the people of Fata.”

Secretary Production and Livelihood at Fata Secretariat, Abdul Latif Khan, while appreciating the project, said, “The assistance from JICA and the Embassy of Japan in Pakistan not only helped the Fata people to fulfil their economic and food security pressing needs but also played an important role in maintaining peace in the area by creating livelihoods and job opportunities. On behalf of the government of Pakistan and Fata Secretariat, I extend thanks to FAO for effective delivery of Japan’s assistance to the needy and vulnerable population in Fata”.

A few farmers who had travelled to Islamabad to take part in the ceremony briefed participants on how they had benefitted from the project.

The economy of the Fata region is based on subsistence agriculture and livestock rearing providing livelihood to about 97 per cent of the population. The economic growth rate of Fata region has been historically significantly slower than rest of the country. The situation further accentuated with the military operation undertaken by security agencies which led to involuntary exodus of population to settled areas in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) as displaced persons. As per government policy, they are being repatriated to their areas. In July 2015, FAO, with the financial assistance of the Government of Japan, launched the project to provide support for its project titled, “Assistance to Recovery and Development of the Agricultural Economy in Fata”.

A recent review of the project progress indicate that most of early returning households received assistance in restoring their economic activities and livelihoods, while the recently returned households are in the process of receiving assistance.