Jan 25 - 31, 20

ASF has signed a grant contract of Rs. 3.20 million financial support with World Wide Fund for Nature Pakistan (WWF-P) for preservation of the natural Chilghoza (Pine-nut) forest in district Zhob, Balochistan. Presently, the Chilghoza trees are routinely cut and sold as timber by local communities to generate income. The total cost of the project is Rs. 6.8 million out of which ASF shall invest Rs. 3.2 million.

Under the arrangement, WWF-P will take a number of initiatives in the region, which will have a positive impact on the livelihood of local inhabitants by providing alternate sources of income generation and thereby protect the Chilghoza forest from further destruction. 'Takht-e-Suleiman' and 'Shin Ghar' areas of the Suleiman Range , which lie at the borders of NWFP and Balochistan provinces, have 26,000 acres of naturally grown pine tree forest, producing approximately 100 tons of pine-nuts (Chilghoza) every year.

"Livelihood of around 5,000 inhabitants of both the areas is highly dependant upon the forest. Chilghoza is harvested and sold in raw form to the middlemen who exploit the situation to their own benefit by paying Rs. 420 per kg compared to the market price of Rs. 720. Since the inhabitants do not earn enough money to survive throughout the year, they cut and sell Chilghoza trees for a meager sum, for timber, which has resulted in the deforestation of a huge area," said Mr. Khalid Khan, CEO ASF while talking to Page.

Khan said that with the available funds, WWF-P will initiate activities to train the local community in post-harvest techniques and mechanical processing & packing of the product. The local community will also be provided with access to new markets to attain better prices. The project will build the entrepreneurial abilities of the farming communities of the region. Under the program the local tribes are expected to ban further cutting of the trees by the current year end, he added.

"WWF-P is also working in the target areas since long and has motivated the local community to make available all possible resources and invest in the infrastructure cost to make it a successful project. Furthermore, in order to discourage deforestation, WWF-P with the support of the local community will establish fruit orchards (starting with high yield varieties of grapes) so as to provide an alternative source of income generation," explained Khalid Khan.

As per the arrangement, the project will be initially managed/operated by WWF-P and later the ownership will be passed on to the local community. WWF-P has already formed a number of Community Based Organizations (CBOs) in the region and these CBOs will be developed into clusters with an aim to eventually merge them into an independent, registered Chilgoza Growers' Association. The project will include capacity building programs, distribution of mechanical equipment for harvesting, construction of water reservoirs, procurement of processing & packing machineries, establishment of Chilghoza plant nurseries and establishment of fruit orchards.

It is expected that with the implementation of the proposed project, economic activities will be stimulated in the region which will improve the livelihood of local inhabitants as well as save the forest from further destruction.

Agribusiness Support Fund (ASF) is providing the farmers, farmer groups, and entrepreneurs demand-driven technical and managerial services on a matching grant basis to improve their productivity, competitiveness, and creditworthiness to access financing for their enterprises.

ASF is a "Not for Profit Company" registered under Section 42 of the Companies Ordinance. It was established by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture & Livestock (MINFAL) with the support of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in the context of the Agribusiness Development and Diversification Project. The company is governed by a private-sector led, independent Board of Directors and is based in Lahore.

Agribusiness Support Fund's Appraisal Panel has approved grants for projects worth Rs 20.5 million for Agribusiness Sector Small and Medium Enterprises (SME).

The grants were approved in the 21st meeting of the appraisal panel, which include support to a variety of projects including hiring of foreign consultancy services for establishment of state-of-the-art modern dairy farm, support for participating in an international exhibition, support for setting up of an imported complete bottling line for fruit juice production, field survey and feasibility study for setting up of an outlet for organic fruits. Grants have also been approved for support for production of jam and squash, vegetables and flowers production, vegetable seed production, pickle production, cultivation of gladiolus, setting-up of cold storage and import of high efficiency irrigation equipment. Collaboration with Biyar Local Support Organization (BLSO) for provision of Extension Services for capacity building of farmers of Biyar area on vegetable seeds production, fruit processing and good agricultural practices is also another project approved in this meeting.

The enterprises were also supported in establishment of mini pack houses at farm level and in creation of skilled workers.

The Appraisal Panel also approved grant projects worth 5.3 million for Farmers Enterprise Groups (FEG) with focus on reducing poverty in rural areas, especially in NWFP, FANA and AJK.

Grants are aimed at bringing a change by increasing revenues of farmers at grass roots level by extending support to 45 FEGs (around 450 Farmers in the groups) in establishing dehydration tunnels for drying fruits & vegetables, preparation of different type of fruit juices, establishment of fruit nurseries, green houses for raising seedlings and off season vegetables, potato seed production, tunnels for apricot drying and raising of offseason vegetables, pickle production on commercial level and mushroom cultivation.