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Poverty Alleviation: Balochistan stands in need of ample planning

Balochistan is the most poor and least developed province of Pakistan. The Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) uses a broader concept of poverty than income and wealth alone. It reflects the deprivations people experience with respect to health, education and standard of living, and is thus a more detailed way of understanding and alleviating poverty. In 2016, the country’s first ever official report on multidimensional poverty was launched by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Reform. The report was compiled with technical support from UNDP Pakistan and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI), University of Oxford. According to the report, nearly 39 percent of Pakistanis live in multidimensional poverty, with the highest rates of poverty in Balochistan. Disparities also exist across provinces. The report found that 71 percent people in Balochistan live in multidimensional poverty.

Balochistan needs a comprehensive poverty alleviation strategy that needs to be implemented with political will. The province possesses enormous potential in all sectors of development and need is to tap this potential to reduce poverty level in the province.

Agriculture and livestock

Agriculture and livestock development on modern lines can reduce the prevailing poverty at drastic level because 75% of the province’s population lives in rural areas and associated directly or indirectly with agriculture and livestock. Bulk of population heavily relies on agricultural goods and services for their livelihood. Similarly, the livestock development can alleviate poverty in the province, as livestock is the primary sustainable source of living for over 70 percent of local population. The province is rich in livestock resources contributing about 40 percent of Pakistan’s total livestock population. The main consumers of its livestock include leather, carpet and pharmaceutical industries. The province caters to the needs and demands of leather and carpet industries by sustaining the supply of Hyde and wool to these sectors.

Livestock contributes Rs. 20 billion with share of meat 40%, milk 35%, eggs 13%, skin, hides & wool 10% and others 2%. The province annually produces 28000 tons of beef and 204,000 tons of mutton. Ironically, the provincial government allocates a nominal amount for the development of this sector,

A marked improvement in agriculture can make the province self-sufficient in food.

The main problem confronting the farmers of Balochistan is the shortage of irrigation water. The long term water management program in Balochistan will meet a long felt need of the province for adequate quantity of water for agriculture, especially the expanding acreage of fruit orchards. The government should encourage the small farmers by initiating an easy loaning policy for them to get bulldozers and tractors so that acute problem of land leveling and land development in remote areas of the province, could be resolved. There is a dire need to overcome the scarcity of water through construction of medium and large dams and efficient utilization of irrigation water and restoring the productivity of agricultural land through control of water logging, salinity and floods. A strong agriculture research system is needed to efficiently and fully tap fruit export potential of Balochistan — the country’s fruit basket.

 

Present Situation

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FOA) Balochistan Agri Business Programme, funded by the Australian Government is currently working in 6 districts of Balochistan. Since 2012 the project has been working on water resources management, community mobilization, Marketing, crop production, livestock and female income generating activities. Farmers Field Schools were introduced as extension approach and for training and knowledge development in Balochistan. Following the pattern of initial establishment and consolidation of Community Organisations (COs), and movement towards economic activities, 29 farmers marketing collectives have now been formed in the six districts. In 2013, FOA sent a group of farmers, experts and government officials from Balochistan to Australia in order to educate over 20,000 local farmers in the province about latest agricultural techniques. The farmers were selected for the project on the criteria of their ability to pass on the knowledge gained to their communities from different districts of the province. The provincial livestock department also benefited from this training experience.

Balochistan Community Development Program is underway in four target districts in the province. The program focuses on the social mobilization of communities, rehabilitating and building community social infrastructure and strengthening the capacity of the local government to plan and supervise inclusive development. It seeks to impart skills to engage with government so that local people can realize a wider participation in the national development processes. The overall objective of the program is to support the government in reducing the negative impact of economic deprivation, poverty and social inequality, and to turn this into opportunities to build and empower resilient communities that participate actively in development activities.

Micro Financing

Micro financing can prove a vital approach to alleviate poverty in the province. It has emerged out to be an effective tool to combat wide spread poverty in the third world countries. Provision of credit to the people at grassroots level and small firms is an excellent strategy to boost economic activities and generating job opportunities. The development of micro-finance sector can bring about a real change in the lowest strata of society and improve the socio-economic status of the poor segments of the society. Micro-credit may be used as an effective tool to combat wide spread poverty. An informal credit supply is not the answer to ameliorate poverty, as the poor frequently turn to the informal credit suppliers that put crippling terms and conditions for micro-credit. Efforts should be made to maximize to outreach of the clients for promotion of private banks willing to invest in the micro credit.

Skill Development

There are multiple factors pushing local people below poverty line in Balochistan. Unemployment is a major factor. Unemployment is rampant not only among the unskilled labour but also among the educated youth, as the province lacks industry and a developed private sector. The development of Gwadar port and industrial zones in the port city are expected to create job opportunities for local youth. The province’s technical vocational education and training system lacks meaningful participation of stakeholders, and not geared to meet the market needs. There is dearth of technical training institutions in the province, and if there are some, they are not capable of imparting and developing skills required for competitiveness, productivity and employment. There is a need to standardize training, raise its social perception, make it available to marginalized sections of the society and improve the mechanisms for its delivery.

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