The United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), launched a new pilot project to introduce mobile enabled advisory and financial services for peach and potato farmers and fishermen in Swat, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. As a result of this project, over 1,700 small and medium sized farms and 15,000 people in Swat will gain access to mobile banking. With information and financing more readily available, farmers can learn practices to increase their crop yields, gain increased access to markets, and conduct efficient and safe financial transactions.
“This pilot initiative will provide a platform to establish the basis and modalities for the promotion of mobile enabled advisory and financial services in the agriculture sector, starting with the peach, potato and fisheries sectors of Swat,” said USAID’s Mission Director Gregory Gottlieb at the Islamabad event. “As the economic return from offering these services to remote farmers is calculated, it will promote the sustainability of continued support for farmers that can potentially lead to a reduction in wastage and higher prices and an increase in access to new markets,” he added.
Shahi Rome, a peach farmer from Swat said, “We need weather updates in order to be informed about possible rain or hail storms so we can decide in time when to spray and irrigate. Through timely information my efforts and investment will not be wasted.” Working in partnership with USAID through its Firms Project, the Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa will provide advisory and market information, and Telenor Pakistan – one of the largest telecom service providers in Pakistan – will provide technological assistance for the mobile service.
USAID Mission Director Gregory Gottlieb, Minister for Agriculture and Information Technology, Government of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Mr. Shahram Khan Tarrakai, Chairman Pakistan Telecommunication Authority Syed Ismail Shah and Director and Head of Products & Financial Services, Telenor Pakistan, Mr. Khurram Malik attended the launch of the pilot project and spoke at the event.
The initial phase of the project will test the commercial viability of private sector enterprises, including multinational corporations, to launch similar services in other sectors and regions of Pakistan.
USAID’s Firms Project is part of a comprehensive U.S. economic growth assistance program which includes expanding irrigation by 200,000 acres to spur farming near Gomal Zam and Satpara Dams, and increasing the incomes of 250,000 farmers and female agricultural workers through training and increased access to market networks, which allows them to earn more for the crops that they grow.