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ACIAR's South and West Asian program funds agricultural research in Pakistan.
Women in Pakistan discussing dairy farming

Pakistan is at the heart of a regional market with a large population, diverse resources, and untapped potential for trade.  However Pakistan faces a number of challenges to realising its economic potential.  Economic growth continues to be constrained by energy and infrastructure deficits, skills shortages, regional instability and other barriers to trade…  Generating economic growth is the centrepiece of the Pakistan Vision 2025 statement.

In rural areas [Australia aims to] increase livelihood opportunities for poor men and women [by drawing] on its world-class expertise to help Pakistan enhance agricultural productivity and expand revenue streams for farmers, including through improved water management practices, adding value to raw agricultural products and improved access to markets for those products.  This will also contribute to improving Pakistan’s food security and security and nutrition levels, and women’s economic empowerment.

Aid Investment Plan, Pakistan, 2015–16 to 2018–19 (DFAT)

Pakistan is ranked as 147th of 188 countries in the 2016 Human Development Index, but the Pakistani Government is trying to strengthen its economy. 

Energy and infrastructure deficits, skills shortages, regional instability and other trade barriers all limit Pakistan’s economic growth.  The population is set to double by 2050, so Pakistan must create 1.5 million jobs a year to absorb the many young people who enter the labour market each year.  Increasing Pakistan’s female workforce participation from 25% is critical.  The number of people below the poverty line has fallen from nearly a fifth at the start of the decade to barely 6%, and gross domestic product (GDP) growth is expected to rise to 5.2% by June 2017.

High malnutrition rates, poor water and sanitation, and maternal and child health issues all make Pakistan’s workforce weak and unhealthy.  Education is important for Pakistan’s human development.  An estimated 42% of Pakistan’s adult population is illiterate and more than 5.3 million children (57% girls) do not attend school.  Weak public health and education systems make these issues worse.

Insecurity undermines Pakistan’s stability and development, particularly in provinces bordering Afghanistan where economic and human development indicators are amongst the poorest in the country.  Frequent and devastating natural disasters further impede development and economic growth.

Agriculture is central to Pakistan’s economic future.  Agriculture accounts for more than 25% of the GDP and employs nearly half (47.3%) the workers.  Weak markets, production inefficiencies, land ownership issues, unregulated labour conditions, adverse weather conditions, and water shortages all undermine agriculture.

The Pakistani Government’s Agriculture and Food Security Policy will help its agriculture to grow and make it less unequal.  The policy has three pillars:

  1. build an innovation-based sustainable agricultural sector;
  2. use public investment to improve the profitability of agriculture; and
  3. ensure food security and freedom from hunger.

In 2016–17, ACIAR will align its new investments with this policy through ongoing policy discussions at the national and sub-national levels.

The Pakistani Government believes it is important to develop social and human capital, empower women, enhance science and innovation skills, and create jobs for women and the young in rural communities.  Pakistan’s Vision 2025 aims to increase women’s participation in decision-making.  It focuses on:

  1. opportunities to enhance development, adoption and growth of best-practice technologies; and
  2. trialling small-and-medium enterprise development and village community centres for the mobilisation and innovation of rural communities.

Agricultural issues include growing more cereals and legumes, and crop diversification and management.  Natural resource management issues include surface and groundwater availability and managing them at farm and national scales.  Irrigation needs more surface water and groundwater, due to increasing agricultural intensification and competing urban and industrial demands.  For example, in Balochistan province and parts of Punjab province, groundwater aquifers are under stress, and falling water levels economically affect the poor. Poor irrigation management practices, drainage and soil management have increased waterlogging and salinity in Sindh province and the Punjab.

ACIAR has collaborated with Pakistan since 1984.  Recent projects focused on Pakistan’s key fruit crops (mangoes and citrus), livestock (smallholder dairy), agricultural policy and agricultural water management.  ACIAR works closely with the Pakistani Government, DFAT, other donor partners, non-government organisations (NGOs) and the Pakistani private sector to provide research and development (R&D) and build technical capacity.  Technical support and carefully targeted R&D interventions underpin development programs in Pakistan.  The Ministry of National Food Security & Research has implemented the projects through its research arm, the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, working with provincial agriculture departments.

The Agriculture Value Chain Collaborative Research Program (AVCCR) is a new co-investment between ACIAR and DFAT in Pakistan.  It is the third phase in the Australia–Pakistan Agriculture Sector Linkages Program (ASLP).  AVCCR is intended to focus more strongly on collaboration and research in selected agricultural value chains.  Improvements in these strategic value chains will significantly and equitably benefit the rural poor, particularly women.  AVCCR will engage the private sector in partnerships.  Collaborations with the private sector will reduce poverty and help to achieve the Pakistani Government’s agricultural aims set out in Vision 2025.



ACIAR’s priorities for Pakistan are based on formal and informal consultations with Pakistani Government agencies and other stakeholders and the Australian Inclusive Economic Growth Investment Strategy (AEGIS).  Consultations in 2015, at the end of ASLP program, identified high-priority agriculture value chains that the new AVCCR program should consider.

A growing population means Pakistan could run out of food and water.  Pakistan’s Vision 2025 places food, water and energy security as key pillars of its future development. Australia’s aid program will help Pakistan meet these challenges.

Policy research is required to identify and support technical and social research and establish institutions that appropriately manage ensure water and related resources.  Provincial Irrigation and Drainage Authorities manage irrigation water supply.  These authorities, as elsewhere in the world, follow participatory irrigation management (PIM), a relatively simple policy agenda that improves water management by devolving decisions to farmers. This approach has yielded mixed results; productivity gains may be attributable to PIM but irrigation management transfer (IMT) often fails to happen.

ACIAR research priorities include:

  • horticultural crop management and value-chain practices, particularly in high-value crops such as vegetables, mango and citrus
  • dairy and beef production and marketing, including genetic aspects, animal nutrition, disease control, effective extension support and capacity building of researchers; value chains for small ruminants
  • productivity issues and disease risk in wheat; smallholder diversification into other crops such as legumes (chickpea, lentil and peanuts)
  • managing land and water resources; salinity; productive enterprises; policy development, including agriculture markets and water investigation of social policy and capacity obstacles and issues in agriculture markets and water.