Pakistan is a strategically important country, where the development challenges are considerable. It is ranked 146th out of 187 countries in the 2013 UN Human Development Index, which estimates that more than one-fifth of the population live on less than US$1.25 a day with limited access to basic services.
Australia’s aid focuses on health, education, and agricultural and rural development. Aid is guided by the Australia–Pakistan Development Partnership, which is focused on achieving a stable, secure, democratic country through broad-based social and economic development and poverty reduction, in line with the MDGs. The program is based on four pillars: enhancing basic service delivery in health and education; increasing agricultural productivity and improving rural livelihoods; strengthening democratic governance; and supporting vulnerable populations through humanitarian assistance. The second pillar of this program is detailed in the Australia–Pakistan Agricultural and Rural Development Strategy (APARDS). It includes the Australia–Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP), which aims to build Pakistan’s technical capacity to improve agricultural productivity and increase the incomes of Pakistani farmers through collaborations between the Australian and Pakistani agricultural sectors.
Agricultural issues to be addressed in Pakistan include water availability and salinity, cereal productivity, and cropdiversification and -management practices. Increasing pressure on availability of water resources for irrigation exists due to competing demands for urban and industrial uses. Poor irrigation-management practices, combined with poor drainage and soil management, have resulted in significant salinity. High-value horticultural crops such as citrus and mangoes for both domestic and export markets are an important source of farm income; however, cropmanagement practices are often suboptimal and losses along the value chain are high. Cereal productivity is lower than in equivalent environments elsewhere in South Asia, and there is also unrealised potential for smallholder diversification. Pakistan is one of the world’s largest milk producers, with approximately half of that production coming from dairy cattle. However, unit animal production is very low, despite quite good genetic potential, due to poor nutrition and mismanagement, failure to control diseases and lack of proper marketing. This is compounded by a fragmented research effort and weak extension support services.
ACIAR works closely with the Government of Pakistan, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade - Australian Aid other donor partners, NGOs and the Pakistani private sector to provide R&D and technical capacity building, technical support and carefully targeted R&D interventions to underpin development programs in Pakistan. ACIAR also collaborates closely with DFAT in the implementation of APARDS, notably in relation to the ASLP.