The Kitchen Gardening initiative of the Balochistan Agricultural Project empowers local women to harvest crops to feed their families. The knowledge and skills gained through the initiative has allowed women to improve family nutrition and supplement their income.
Problems and Purpose
The Balochistan Agriculture Project is an initiative organized by USAID and UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization in Pakistan. The project’s primary aim is to help communities and individual farmers increase production, sales and revenues for crops and livestock.In addition to supporting local organizations, the project helps train farmers how to grade, package and market their projects, find better-paying markets and how to work with buyers and suppliers to increase profits. Another goal of the project is to inspire and facilitate the participation of women in income-earning activities. Its aim activities include training farmers to increase livestock and crop production, develop oppurtunities for 20,000 women, introduce crop varieties and better production technologies and improve irrigation systems. Through such means, the project seeks to increase the incomes of 14,300 households by 20% in 700 communities in the districts of Killa Saifullah, Loralai, Mustang, Quetta, Zhob, Musakhel, Pishin and Sherani in Balochistan.
The project’s successes range from helping local farmers mobilize, conduct research and find new markets in Pakistan for unpopular crops such as dried mulberries, to teaching local women new carpet weaving techniques, to introducing farmers to mechanical sheep shearing to enter the wool industry.
The focus of this case study is its kitchen gardening initiative which empowers local women by teaching them how to harvest crops to feed their families. With this vital knowledge, families save more income on groceries and food and women are empowered to take care of their community, family and their own needs. Through this initiative, women are given an opportunity to improve family nutrition and incomes, even within the gendered constrictions within Balochistani society.
Background History and Context
A UN Inter-agency assessment of Pakistan’s food crisis found that high inflation rates result in malnutrition, increase in healthcare costs, social unrest and higher drop out rates from school because low income families or families with no income have to spend more on less nutritional food. Another issue that underpins this is that Pakistani women in poorer families often have no means of income to change or contribute materially to the family’s maintenance and prevent their children from starving, malnourishment and other security risks.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
The Balochistan Agricultural Project is a joint initiative by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (UN FAO). USAID is a US government agency focused on alleviating global poverty and democratizing societies through sustainable development practices. The FAO is a branch organization of the United Nations dedicated to food security, the eradication of hunger, malnutrition and the elimination of poverty through sustainable management and utilization of natural resources to benefit present and future generations.
Participant Recruitment and Selection
More than 500 women in three different districts were identified and selected for participation in the programme. The women came from low- to no-income families and were instructed on agricultral and gardening practices by female, locally professionals from public universities studying or specializing in agriculture. The workshops are organized by the managerial staff from either the UNFAO or USAID.
Methods and Tools Used
Groups of women with little or no incomes choose female teachers professionally trained in agriculture and home economics from a local university to teach them how to grow and maintain a backyard garden; how to harvest vegetables and fruit from their gardens; and how to preserve and process the fruits of their labour.
Deliberation, Decisions, and Public Interaction
There is little information on the specific methodological design of the project: how it was implemented, the materials used to teach and how the participants interacted with each other in the workshops. However, it is possible to infer the general structure from reports on one district's experience.
In the district of Loralai, 280 women were taught by 5 local women. The 5 teachers attended a 2-week master training course at an agricultural university in Faisalabad. The trainers were selected by participating communities and usually consisted of women who were literate, and experienced in organizing vocational and health workshops in the region. There is little information available on the deliberative channels used to choose and match the teachers to the student groups. The community-selected trainers conducted 5 day interactive workshops on planting seeds, using fertilizer, controlling plant disease, and improving seasonal home cultivation, as well as another week of learning canning, making pastes, pickles, jams and jellies as marketable products.
Media and the organization's website coverage on the project emphasizes its local, organic element, however, there is little information on how the organizations played a role as participants, facilitators and development of the curriculums etc. For example, a local organic movement might focus on different values, reasoning and partnerships for the project as opposed to a development initiative with neoliberal discourse on capacity-building.
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
As a capacity-building project, it not only taught and trained women vital life-sustaining practices for meeting their own needs, but it also, established successful links between them and local markets to sell their output. On a more individual level, though traditionally men take the responsibility of cultivating commercial crops, through kitchen gardening women are growing seasonal produce year-round to diversify their family’s diets, save money and sell their own products for additional income. The project, in its entirety, has accomplished many other development and economic results such as income increase for 11 000 beneficiaries by 40%, 18, 600 acres of land cultivated and the formation of 627 community organizations, among which 227 are female organizations.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
Because it is a development initiative, the project’s focus is mainly capitalistic, with hopes of increasing the economic productivity of farmers, women and economically-marginalized communities, with little engagement with other intersections of oppression in Balochistan. A strength of the initiative is that local women are taught by locally trained and connected experts in agriculture. There is little evaluative or critical information available on the project beyond the official websites of the organizations. The project is currently in its performance evaluation stage.