A project to increase productivity and sustainability was launched in Punjab, Pakistan. The launch of the capacity building project for smallholders potato growers in Punjab was hosted by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and took place on February 18.
Supported by the Netherlands Enterprise Agency, during two and a half years the project is meant to help increase productivity and sustainability of 960 smallholder potato growers by delivering a comprehensive training and extension program in four core districts of Punjab (Sahiwal, Okara, Kasur and Pakpattan), with special focus on strengthening the role of women. The project will be implemented by the Center for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI) and leading Dutch agricultural institute Wageningen University & Research (WUR).
The launch was attended by Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research Syed Fakhar Imam, CABI Senior Regional Director Asia Babar Bajwa and Pakistan Farmers Associates President Afaq Tiwana. CABI Director Strategic Partnership Ms Janny Vos and WUR Research Manager Ir. Herman Schoorlemmer virtually participated in the event. In his welcome remarks, Dutch Ambassador Wouter Plomp said that food security is a growing concern globally, especially in the region of the project, due to impacts of climate change and rapid increase in population. ‘Meeting up with nutritious food demand is a challenge for Pakistan, and the Netherlands has the knowledge, technology and skills to help Pakistan overcome these challenges. For instance, Pakistan imports 13.000 metric tonnes of seed potatoes from the Netherlands per annum’, he added.
The Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research appreciated the support of the Dutch government in building the capacity of farmers, and expressed the commitment of the government in strengthening the agriculture sector as it is the backbone of Pakistani economy. Acknowledging the achievements of the Netherlands in agriculture and being the second largest exporter of agri- products, the minister hoped the Pakistani farmers will acquire techniques and skills to enhance their productivity.
According to CABI, potato is a major crop in Pakistan with great potential to grow. ‘It presents both the prospect of revenue increase for producers as well as opportunities as a source of foreign reserve by increasing exports’, the center mentions in its news article on the launch of the project. ‘The primary issue for potato growers is the availability of healthy and certified seed. Yields in the Punjab province of Pakistan is approximately 20t/ha, which is comparable to China. But this is well below yields in Europe, North America and Australia – all having yields of more than 40t/ha. This project will help build the capacity of potato farmers in Punjab to not only use better-quality seed but to also engage in enhanced post-production practices such as better handling, storage and transport systems’, Dr Bajwa mentioned.
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