Project launched to uplift Balochistan's rural economy

April 16, 2024

Ahmed Khan Malik

A European Union-funded project has been launched in Balochistan to uplift the province's rural economy. Growth for Rural Advancement and Sustainable Progress (GRASP) project is implemented by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in partnership with the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) and the Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The project has been described as a game-changer for the economic development of rural areas of Balochistan. Development of agriculture and livestock sectors, particularly strengthening the value-chain in diverse sectors of the agri economy, is critical for the development of Balochistan. The project aims to promote small and medium enterprises venturing in agri-businesses. Nadir Gul, Chief Operating Officer of PPAF, told WealthPK that the GRASP project would make a positive impact in the 10 districts of Balochistan, where it is being implemented, and which are the most vulnerable regions, enabling market growth and generating employment opportunities for the poorest communities. 

He commended EU and ITC for their valuable investment in the region, which has helped improve access to finance for agri-based SMEs and accelerated the trend of entrepreneurship in the less developed areas of the province. "Their contribution is crucial in promoting economic development and improving the lives of the underprivileged," he added. Jahanzeb Khan, GRASP provincial lead Balochistan, termed it a unique intervention that would bring positive change in the communities and usher a broader development of the province through a revolution in the agriculture sector. "SMEs make up the bulk of businesses in Pakistan. To achieve broad, sustainable economic growth, these firms must grow and create jobs for the increasing workforce," he added. "Grants awarded to the SMEs reflect a strategic approach aimed at uplifting them through gender mainstreaming, policy shift, access to finance, networking, capacity building, and product improvement programmes."

Balochistan is the largest province of Pakistan in terms of landmass. The province is blessed with natural resources and contains approximately two-thirds of the country's coastline, which allows for ample livelihood opportunities in terms of trade and fisheries. However, Balochistan has the second highest incidence of multidimensional poverty in Pakistan (after the tribal districts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa). Overall, 71% of the population in Balochistan is multidimensionally poor; rural population 85% and urban population 38%. According to Pakistan Bureau of Statistics, 45% of Balochistan's population is illiterate (30% males and 63% females). The illiteracy rate is higher in rural areas compared to urban areas (50% of the population is illiterate in rural and 32% in urban areas).

Credit: INP-WealthPk