By Imran Nazir

ISLAMABAD – The Board of the Green Climate Fund (GCF) has approved an Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) project designed to transform Pakistan’s Indus River Basin by improving agriculture and water management to make this vital food-producing region more resilient to climate change.

The Green Climate Fund (GCF) has provided FAO with a grant of nearly US $ 35 million for this work.

While the provincial governments of Punjab and Sindh have committed an additional US $ 12.7 million in co-financing to be managed by FAO.

Welcoming the GCF’s decision, Maria Helena Semedo, FAO Deputy Director-General, Climate and Natural Resources said it was a critical moment that calls for bold climate action that could stimulate concrete solutions to help build resilience.

The approval of this project, the first FAO-led GCF project in Asia is an important step forward in FAO’s broader support to countries to respond to climate change, in partnership with the GCF.

Climate change threatens a vital source of food security and livelihoods, she added.

In the Indus River Basin, agriculture employs nearly 26 percent of Pakistan’s labour force and produces more than 90 percent of the country’s agriculture outputs.

However, extended droughts and floods have affected millions of people in recent years.

Such extreme weather events were expected to become more frequent and severe in Pakistan as a result of climate change, it added.

As temperatures continue to rise and precipitation patterns continue to change, water will become increasingly scarce and difficult for farmers to utilize, jeopardizing the food security and livelihoods of Indus Basin farmers, as well as overall food security in Pakistan.

“This new FAO project  will help shift Pakistan and its Indus Basin agriculture from a current situation of high vulnerability toward an alternative paradigm wherein better information, water management and farming practices will significantly increase resilience to climate change,” said Mina Dowlatchahi, FAO Representative in Pakistan.

“This is a major commitment and we look forward to working with government and other partners for the direct benefit of some 1.3 million rural people and indirectly for millions more, she added.”

The Indus Basin, she said, was home to more than 90 million rural inhabitants and the world’s largest contiguous irrigation system covers some 18 million hectares.

Agriculture consumes roughly 90 percent of all available fresh water supplies in Pakistan and in the context of changing climatic conditions, the nexus between water and agriculture was hugely important for Pakistan as a country, she remarked.

“The core of this project involves coordinated actions to pool data, information and knowledge, through the use of technology and institutionalizing routine processes to disseminate this knowledge to agriculture and water management authorities, extension workers and ultimately to farmers,” said Taka Hagiwara, Service Chief for Asia and the Pacific of the FAO Investment Centre and the Project’s Technical Team Leader.

“The knowledge, together with improved access to credit, will enable farmers’ adoption of proven good practices such as Climate Resilient Agriculture (CRA) and On Farm Water Management (OFWM),” he added.