ISLAMABAD   -   The World Bank (WB) approved US $171 million to support agricultural productivity in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), by improving irrigation, strengthening small farmers’ skills, and supporting farmers to add value to their products. 

According to the WB, farmers in KP face challenges of low water use efficiency and lack modern technology, skills & knowledge to engage in high value agriculture value chains. This results in an underdeveloped rural economy with high vulnerability to climate changes. The KP Irrigated Agriculture Improvement Project will help address these challenges by rehabilitating community watercourses; establishing water users’ associations; introducing high efficiency irrigation systems and laser land leveling; strengthening farmers’ technical skills, and filling knowledge gaps on agriculture market opportunities and constraints.

“Agriculture accounts for a fifth of Pakistan’s economy and employs nearly half the labor force in the country,” said Illango Patchamuthu, World Bank Country Director for Pakistan. “This project will boost the rural economy in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa by benefiting millions of small farmers to diversify crops, improve productivity and increase household incomes.”

Most of the project beneficiaries will be smallholder farmers with less than 5 hectares (12.5 acres) of land, who account for 96 percent of all farmers in KP.

Approximately 150,000 farm families (around 1.1 million people) will benefit directly from the project, mainly through community watercourse improvements, the statement said adding that in addition, about 5,000 families will benefit from tanks and ponds, and 2,000 families from Higher Efficiency Irrigation Systems.

 The project will contribute to an improved and more climate resilient community water management system. 

It aims to increase water and agriculture productivity to respond to market opportunities. As the performance of KP’s irrigated agriculture improves, the project will contribute to a more vibrant and dynamic rural economy in the province.

“Cultivated land per capita is very limited in KP and only about half of it gets irrigated. KP will need to use its limited natural resources of land and water more efficiently to meet its growing needs for food,” said Muhammad Riaz, Senior Agriculture Specialist and Team Leader of the project. “The project will help strengthen the province’s potential for higher water productivity and profitability with smarter technologies and infrastructure.”

Efficient use of water and climate smart agriculture are among the priority areas identified in Pakistan@100: Shaping the Future, a flagship initiative that identifies frontier interventions for Pakistan to become a prosperous country by 2047.

The International Development Association, the concessional financing arm of the World Bank, is financing the project, the statement concluded.