Islamic Relief Pakistan and local communities jointly campaign for a better deal for farmers in Bagh & Neelum districts of AJK. The initiative for bridging the gaps between the state and citizens led to a consultation meeting under the project named “improving household economy through sustainable agribusiness support” was organized in Azad Jammu & Kashmir. The meeting was attended by Minister for Information Sardar Abid, Minister for Education Mian Abdul Waheed, Minister for Electricity Faisal Rathoor, Minister for Forestry, DG Livestock Dr. Khalid Mahmood Mirza, DG Agriculture Department and members of civil society.
Speaking on the occasion, Country Director Islamic Relief Pakistan Adnan Cheema said forestry, livestock and agriculture are the backbone of livelihoods for the communities, particularly those living at high altitude and remote valleys of Azad Kashmir. Owing to conventional agricultural practices, low private & public sector employment opportunities and increase in population has stretched natural resources – agriculture, water, and forestry – to the limit. In many areas, soil has lost its nutrients, and farmers have to use more chemicals and manure to get the same production. Knowing these challenges Islamic Relief ran a three-year project on agribusiness & livestock support in Bagh and Neelum districts benefitting over 24,000 people. Besides providing hands outs, we are engaging communities towards self-sufficiency initiatives, he informed.
Minister for Education Mian Waheed stressed the need to increase support to farmers at state level. Communities and district authorities need to work together to collect information on the seeds required locally so this can be fed into the following year’s budget, he said. We appreciate Islamic Relief work and its commitment in breaking vicious cycle of poverty.
The Minister for Information Sardar Abid said that we need to improve coordination between communities and agriculture officials in getting better impacts of livestock and agribusinesses. The involvement of different stakeholders including government service providers, community organizations and disaster risk reduction committees would contribute in the ownership leading to sustainability of services independently, he added.
“Continued access to basic services required for improved livestock and agriculture in AJK. To ensure the coordination with district and state level departments and political leadership, state level consultations are required in achieving sustainable solutions, Minister for Electricity Fasial Mumtaz Rathoor urged. We shall table a Bill in the parliament on “utilization of Land” to uplift the lives of farmers and secure our agricultural land, Minister committed.
On the demand of communities, DG Agriculture announced to establish toll free helpline for farmers. DG livestock also committed to launch a complaint mechanism in his department so rural communities can lodge their complaints about services of Government livestock department.
Previously Islamic Relief has hosted similar kind of planning meetings at district level in Neelum and Bagh bringing politician, state departments and communities together and facilitated the process of dialogue. At state level, we have arranged an interface meeting with Government and communities so the voices of the local could be heard, said Asim Shahzad Campaigns Coordinator IRP.
Our object is to bridge the gap between state and citizens so that new policies could be chalked out through a participatory process. We have given a platform to the government departments and communities to collect a variety of responses on the issues faced by either side. Bridging the communications gap through engaging communities with the government is a way forward for everybody, said Sarmad Iqbal Campaigns Specialist Islamic Relief Pakistan.
Islamic Relief Pakistan is committed to scaling up its efforts to facilitate dialogues between the state & citizens across Pakistan & AJK to strengthen the governance.