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FAO begins agriculture water accounting system for Indus Basin

ISLAMABAD: The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has launched a comprehensive agriculture water accounting system for the entire Indus Basin that will increase resilience to climate change among the most vulnerable farmers in the basin and strengthen government’s capacity to plan and support farming communities against future climate changes.

For this mega project, the Green Climate Fund (GCF) — the new global fund created to support the efforts of developing countries to respond to the challenge of climate change — is expected to approve $35 million at its three-day board meeting that commenced in Songdo in South Korea on Saturday.

The project has an estimated budget of $49.7m, including government co-financing of $12.7m. The project will help shift Pakistan and Indus Basin agriculture from its current situation of high vulnerability towards an alternative paradigm wherein better information and farming practices will significantly increase resilience to climate change, according to project document.

Project will increase resilience to climate change among most vulnerable farmers

The FAO says the project will develop the country’s capacity to get and use the information it needs to tackle the impact of climate change on agriculture and water management by putting in place the state-of-the-art technology.

Lack of coordination across institutions hampers effective and efficient management of the country’s most critical natural resource. Agricultural water consumption at the farm level is difficult to regulate due to outdated policies and the limited integration of water monitoring efforts and subsequent enforcement.

Another barrier is posed by the fact that agricultural extension is lacking at the provincial level with low understanding of climate change threats and responsive practices.

Four water accounting assessments will be undertaken in Punjab and Sindh under the project to be carried out by the FAO in collaboration with the Ministry of Water Resources and the Indus River System Authority (IRSA), using the methodology defined as a part of FAO’s work financed through a technical cooperation programme.

The project will be implemented in five districts of Punjab — Dera Ghazi Khan, Muzaffargarh, Multan, Lodhran and Khanewal — and three districts of Sindh — Sanghar, Badin and Umerkot. It is designed to increase the resilience to climate change of agricultural producers in Indus River Basin and it will directly benefit an estimated 1.34 million rural people in 200,000 rural households.

Socio-economic implications

The threat of climate change to agriculture and the Indus Basin would likely also have serious socio-economic implications for 158 million people that belong to households in the Indus Basin. About 43 per cent of farmers are smallholders, managing landholdings of less than one hectare. They are most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change due to their lack of assets to buffer shocks and access to information, new technologies, finance and government services through which they can undertake adaptive actions.

The project will finance the installation of six new agro-meteorological stations and upgrade two existing weather stations to serve the project districts and improve the current scant coverage for the basin. The information generated by these stations will be shared with stakeholders working on early warning, while the system will be linked to FAO’s global information early warning system and will facilitate the use of the associated use ‘Agricultural Stress Index System’ developed by the FAO.

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