Karachi (Muhammad Yasir) Standard Chartered Bank is launching an agri-entrepreneur programme in Pakistan to support young people recover from the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. The programme is part of Futuremakers by Standard Chartered, the Bank’s global initiative to tackle inequality by promoting economic inclusion for young people, including those affected by COVID-19. Delivered by the British Asian Trust with funding from the Standard Chartered Foundation, the 18-month programme will provide specialised skills training, mentoring and networking support to 1,000 young people between 19-35 years in rural and peri-urban areas of Punjab and Sindh. British Asian Trust will work with these young people – of whom nearly 90 per cent are women – to grow profitable and sustainable agricultural enterprises by developing and selling products in agriculture value chains with strong local potential. The enterprises will provide a range of activities including selling dried chillies, moringa and other agricultural produce; farming mud crabs; selling fodder for local livestock; and selling market vegetables, jams and pickles. As well as improving skills, the programme aims to increase incomes and access to finance to create more sustainable businesses.
Rehan Shaikh, CEO, Standard Chartered Pakistan, says: “We are thrilled to launch this programme as part of our wider Futuremakers initiative to empower the next generation to learn, earn and grow. The livelihoods projects delivered by the British Asian Trust share our goal of supporting the empowerment of vulnerable communities so they can be independent and create further employment opportunities in the country. With this programme, we hope to enable the young Agri entrepreneurs play an important role in further development of Agricultural eco-system and value chain. Agriculture continues to play a pivotal role for Pakistan economy and we are excited to play our part in supporting the renewed focus and initiatives of the Government and State Bank of Pakistan aimed at providing sustainable economic conditions and futures for people linked with this critical sector.”
Richard Hawkes, Chief Executive of the British Asian Trust added: “We are excited to launch this programme with funding from the Standard Chartered Foundation, as part of Futuremakers. We believe that by harnessing the strength of our aligned agendas, we can make a real positive impact on the lives of these 1,000 participants.” Economic and social outcomes for people in multidimensional poverty in Pakistan were poor before COVID-19, particularly for vulnerable and marginalised groups such as women and young people.
As a result of the pandemic, Pakistan has suffered lower business activity, production levels and imports and exports. The impact has also been felt by the agriculture sector. According to the United Nations Development Programme 2020, the agriculture sector – the primary source of employment for women and girls in rural areas – is rated as 90 per cent vulnerable to the impacts of COVID-19. Even before COVID-19, women faced a variety of structured sectoral gender inequalities that prevented them from accessing skills, resources and markets that would help improve their livelihood security and income. In Sindh, 78 per cent of rural women work in pre and host harvest activities but only 33 per cent of women participate in marketing or sales of those commodities. The British Asian Trust has run multiple livelihoods projects in Pakistan since 2016. It has impacted the lives of thousands of women, girls and young adults in a positive way. The programme will harness valuable input from local implementing partners Shirakat and Sindh Agricultural and Forestry Workers Coordinating Organisation (SAFWCO) for market assessments, community mobilisation, vocational skills training, micro-entrepreneurship development training, building market linkages and access to financial services among other things to help participants gain economic stability.