US boosts incomes of Balochistan’s poor households

ISLAMABAD: The United States under a development project has boosted incomes of more than 9000 households—mainly farmers—in the border districts of Balochistan by 20-50 percent.The 16 million dollar project launched in 2006 is funded by the American people through the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and delivered by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Balochistan government.Ending this summer, the project will either directly or indirectly benefit more than 240,000 individuals in five border districts of Balochistan.The project is helping communities improve their production of apples, grapes, onions and other crops as well as livestock such as sheep and cattle.With USAID funding, FAO is teaching villagers to sort their products and assisting farmers in finding more profitable markets. The project is also helping villagers form community organisations to share their skills and increase their bargaining power.

One of the many villages that have benefited from this assistance is Saragurhai, Quetta District. The USAID-funded project worked with a local company, EDO Livestock, to help the Saragurhai’s women’s community organisation improve shearing, cleaning, and sorting of wool to increase its market value. The project has also helped villagers to find buyers at the Multan wool market.“I sold 10 maunds (400 kilograms) of wool in Multan and earned Rs 1,700 per maund instead of the Rs 400 that I usually get,” said one of the women. Approximately one-fifth of the participants are women.Similarly, in apple-growing communities, the USAID-funded project introduced sorting of apples by quality, which has increased revenues from apple sales by 30 percent.In livestock-raising communities, the USAID-funded project helped farmers take more control over setting the price for their animals. Cattle-raisers used to travel to Quetta to sell their livestock, losing value along the way. No more. In cooperation with the government of Balochistan and district governments, the project established cattle markets in four districts. As a result, animal sales quadrupled in the past three years, and sales revenues increased significantly. – Dailytimes