Ag Tech and Research News

Empowering Pakistani Women Farmers with Zinc Enriched Wheat Varieties

28 June 2024, Pakistan: Pakistan ranks 145th out of 146 countries in the Global Gender Gap Index 2024. This concerning performance reflects significant gender disparities, prompting calls for renewed efforts to enhance gender equality in all key sectors. Women play a vital role in agri-food systems, but their working conditions and economic opportunities are impacted by gender inequalities. They receive less opportunities to access knowledge, capacity building trainings, and the latest agricultural practices. 

To address the issues of gender inequalities and malnutrition, HarvestPlus conducted several capacity building training sessions to empower smallholder women farmers to cultivate biofortified zinc-enriched wheat varieties in Pakistan. The sessions provided essential nutrition education and highlighted the benefits of cultivating biofortified crops to combat malnutrition and improve family health. The hands-on trainings also featured the latest agricultural practices, input use, weed control, postharvest storage techniques, product development, and marketing of nutritious crops. Additionally, HarvestPlus provided a 30 percent subsidy on zinc-enriched seed to vulnerable women farmers, helping to increase their access to zinc-enriched crops varieties.

“I participated in a training session organized by HarvestPlus in my village and learnt about zinc-enriched wheat varieties. It was very useful training for me and other farmers in the area. Following the key learnings from training, I cultivated zinc-enriched wheat variety Akbar 2019 and got a bumper yield of 2,400 kgs per acre this year, compared to 1,600 kgs of other conventional non-biofortified varieties in previous years,” said Naseem, a women farmer from Khanewal district of Pakistan. “Our income increased with the better yield of the wheat and my family is now eating nutritious food made from zinc-enriched wheat. I have saved the zinc-enriched wheat seed of Akbar 2019 for the next cropping season. I shall educate and encourage the neighboring farmers to cultivate zinc-enriched wheat varieties to achieve better yield, good health, and increased income,” she added.  

“My wheat crop yield has increased, and our family is eating nutritious food, since I started cultivating zinc-enriched wheat Akbar 2019,” said Jameela Bano, a women farmer from Khanewal district of Pakistan. “I received one bag of 50 kg seed of zinc-enriched wheat variety Akbar 2019 on a subsidized price. Thanks to HarvestPlus for transforming our lives and empowering us with knowledge and ability to grow nutritious crops, contributing to improve health of our families,” she added.

Over 4,000 smallholder farmers including 2,070 women, received in person trainings on nutrition and agronomy in eight districts across Pakistan, during 2023-24 cropping season. In addition, millions benefitted from the material developed and disseminated through digital media. Through these comprehensive training programs, HarvestPlus is not only improving nutritional outcomes of smallholder farming families but also fostering gender equality, and empowering women within agricultural communities.

“We must collectively act to empower women and girls with equal opportunities and rights to build a more inclusive, and prosperous future for all,” said Yaqub Mujahid, Country Manager at HarvestPlus Pakistan. “To address micronutrient deficiencies, increase food security, and enhance economic empowerment and livelihoods, HarvestPlus has started a new project ‘Expanding Nutrients in Food Systems’ with the support of the Government of Canada,” he added.   

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