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Feature: China actively helps Pakistan in poverty alleviation

DATE:2016-04-12       SOURCE:Xinhua News Agency

ISLAMABAD, April 11 (Xinhua) -- Barren fields, children dropping out from schools, rising debts, agony and hopelessness was all that Pakistan's local farmer Ghulam Sarwar had in his miserable life.


That was until the Chinese government helped him grow healthy and high yielding banana plants that finally saw his fortunes turn and made him a happy family man within a couple of years.


Sarwar, a 41-year-old farmer from the Tando Allahyar district of Pakistan's southern Sindh province, was a fairly well-off farmer with 3 acres of land (1.214 hectares) until 2009 when the "bunchy top virus" devastated his banana fields and made it hard for him to feed his own family.


"It was worst time of my life, I spent all my savings in one year and borrowed more. I could see only darkness everywhere," Sarwar told Xinhua. "That was until 500 free plants of a Chinese banana variety 'William-8818' brought me out of suffering and financial crisis and reenergized and entirely changed my life."


Sarwar was among the thousands of Pakistanis who lost their means of earnings after the viral disease destroyed more than half of 85,992 acres of land used for banana cultivation in Pakistan, according to official statistics.


Senior Director at the Pakistan Agricultural Research Council (PARC) Abdul Ghafoor said, "In 2009, China and Pakistan launched the Pak-China Cooperation for Agricultural Research and Development, a joint venture with 255.712 million rupees (2.452 million U.S. dollars) to maximize the productivity per unit of land in six fields, including cotton, banana, oil seeds, maize, sugarcane and efficient irrigation systems."


"The main purpose of the project is to achieve food security, poverty reduction, economic efficiency, export competitiveness, human resource development, production and promotion of hybrid seeds in collaboration with Chinese experts," said Ghafoor, who heads the project that was due to end in June but will be extended to 2018.


The germplasm (seeds or tissues) or crops acquired from China have successfully passed trials at different areas of Pakistan and the hybrid seeds have been distributed among poor farmers, with the support of the Chinese team led by Ye Wei from the Hubei Seed Group of China.


During the past two years, at least 130,000 banana plants of three different Chinese varieties, William-8818, Brazilian and Pisang, have been distributed among the farmers, especially in Sindh, which accounts for 87 percent of Pakistan's total banana cultivation. Under the project, an agriculture lab in the Thatta district of Sindh has also been upgraded to 200,000 plants annually to facilitate the local banana production.


Sarwar is utterly delighted because the 500 William-8818 plants have more than doubled his income to almost 500,000 rupees (4,807 U.S. dollars) annually, as the plant is tall, weather resistant and produces a better shelf-life banana bunch, with an average weight of 30 kg. It is 150 percent more than that of the previous variety's bunch, which weighed an average of 12 kg.


The project director told Xinhua that Pakistan's banana plantation is based on traditional methods, but he hoped that all the previous varieties will be replaced with Chinese verities in the next four to five years. He said that will not only give Pakistan self-reliance in banana production, with international quality standards, but also support it in poverty reduction.


According to a World Bank report in 2014, more than 50 percent of Pakistan's population of 192 million is living below the poverty line of 2 U.S. dollars a day.


The World Bank report said the country has made impressive progress in reducing absolute poverty, however, a large portion of the population remained vulnerable to falling back into poverty as 13 percent of the total population lived on an amount between 1.25 1.50 U.S. dollars per day.


According to Pakistan's national poverty line of 3,030 rupees (29 U.S. dollars) income per month, the ratio of the population living below the poverty line has fallen from 64.3 percent in 2001 to 29.5 percent in 2014, thanks to local and foreign-funded poverty alleviation initiatives.


Minister of Planning, Development & Reform Ahsan Iqbal told Xinhua that international economic observers projected a rise in Pakistan's economic growth to 4.5 percent in 2016 and then further to 4.8 percent next year, supported by strong growth in industry and services as well as the projects under the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).


China has been constructing a 2,442-km-long economic corridor in Pakistan with 46 billion U.S. dollars of investment that will link the western side of China to Pakistan's southwestern deep water port of Gwadar.


Under the CPEC, a number of projects, including industrial parks along the corridor, energy projects, railway and road infrastructure, and science and technology cooperation, will create hundreds of thousands of job opportunities for Pakistanis.


Minister Iqbal said out of the 46 billion U.S. dollars, 35 billion U.S. dollars are being invested in energy projects that will breathe new life into Pakistan's energy-starved industries and will also pave the way for Pakistan to make its Vision 2025 successful and halve the poverty ratio.


"Pakistanis are envisioning increased prosperity ahead, because Chinese investment can elevate Pakistan into the category of fast-emerging economies of the world. But, besides investments, Pakistan desperately needs Chinese support in the skill development of its workforce and transfer of modern technology to make the development sustainable," Director of the Independent Bureau for Human Issues, Professor Saeed Chaudhary said.


He said the immense benefits from Chinese investment in agriculture, textile, engineering, minerals, chemicals, tourism and other sectors of Pakistan are reaching grassroots levels and have greatly and quantifiably helped alleviate poverty in Pakistan.

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