Improving the livelihood and working conditions of the vulnerable workers

Assessment of skill gaps and Decent Work deficits in selected agro food value chains

Over 30 representatives from Govt. of Glgit Baltistan Province; UN; INGOs; Academia an famer’s groups unanimously validated the key findings of the Assessment Study, presented by Baltistan Cultural Development Foundation (BCDF) at the workshop in Gilgit. The study was commissioned under One UN project on Agro-food value chains, jointly being implemented by ILO and UNIDO. The study aimed to identify the skills gaps and decent work deficits in the value chains of cherry; apple and trout fish in GB province. The findings will help design the skills development initiatives to address the identified gaps and help farmers and processors to bring improvements in the working conditions and livelihood.

Press release | Gilgit, Pakistan | 11 May 2018
GILGIT(ILO News): At a gathering of over 30 stakeholders, the Government of Gilgit Baltistan (GB), United Nations (UN), Academia; INGOs; and farmers endorsed the preliminary findings of an assessment study on Skill Gaps and Decent Work Deficits in selected agro food value chains. The study was commissioned with financial support of One UN Fund, under the ILO’s Project on “Improving livelihood and working conditions in agro-food economy through value chains development”.

“Over 90% of the population of GB province is engaged in agriculture, therefore this sector holds significance for GB’s growth and poverty reduction”, said Mr Sajjad Haider, Secretary, Department of Agriculture in his opening remarks. Acknowledging the ILO and UNIDO for initiating interventions in GB province, he stated that GB province is faced with number of challenges including difficult terrain; long distance between Islamabad market and GB; absence of cold storage which makes it difficult to transport the produce to mainstream market, resultantly substantial produce gets perished. He further mentioned that IFAD has initiated a long term project in GB province with initial focus on the value chains of apricot and potato, therefore, the Department advised the ILO and UNIDO to intervene in the value chains of cherry; apple and trout fish, which have huge potential for economic growth. He assured that the Department will continue extending required support for the implementation of One UN Joint project.

Appreciating the information shared by stakeholders during validation meeting, Ms Munawar Sultana, National Project Coordinator, ILO for One UN Joint Project, briefed the participants on expected outcomes and the key elements of One UN Joint Project together with ILO’s mandate and key pillars of the Decent Work Agenda.

The Assessment Study covered a cross section from all geographical proximities of Gilgit Baltistan with particular focus on the areas with higher production and potential for selected value chains of cherry; apple and trout, Mr Wazir Ejaz CEO, Baltistan Cultural Development Foundation (BCDF) explained while presenting the key findings. The study aimed at identifying skills gaps and decent work deficits in the selected value chains, impeding the desired level of productivity and economic returns. The study also brought set of viable solutions/measures as to strengthen and enhance stakeholder’s capacity and help them adopt decent work practices.

Access to training in commercially viable skills was identified as one of important gaps. The findings found the skills development system in the region quite weak. For instance, training in fruit processing was generally limited to preparing jam, jelly and pickle at domestic level, which are commercially not viable. In particular, the opportunities of technical training in trout farming were found missing. The former skills development projects offered by JICA; Agri Business Support Fund and Aga Khan Rural Support Programme (AKRSP) imparted training in farm management; dehydration of fruit; oil extraction; and marketing of produce. These projects could impart training to a select groups of farmers, however the quality of training replicated by those trained farmers was not at par with the actual training they received, said farmers from Hunza.
Eighty one percent of the respondents in the Assessment Study strongly identified capacity gaps related to plantation of improved varieties of apple as the most important area for intervention. Knowledge and skill gaps pertaining to preparation of commercially viable value added apple products came out as the second most important element, highlighted by 73% of the respondents. The farmers strongly requested support for the provision of tool kit for pruning, cutting and harvesting as to improve efficiency and productivity levels.

On Trout, the weak institutional capability of key actors surfaced visibly. Establishing and managing new hatcheries emerged as one of the major needs, as the existing hatcheries are unable to cater for the demand of fish farmers for fry and fingerlings. The inability to identify and manage fish disease at various stages, appeared as the most important skills gap for trout production (59% respondents); while lack of skills and knowledge on appropriate feeding management was prioritized as the second most important gap.
Overall, the lack of knowledge and skills on proper supply chain management was also reported as one of gaps which further makes the fish farmers vulnerable to dealers and middle men.

On decent work, majority of the farmers still rely heavily on conventional tools and practices, which leads to low efficiency; productivity and yields. Only 8% of the farmers have the membership of formal and informal (unregistered) farmer’s association, and the majority lack negotiation skills for better rates of their produce. Over 80% of the farmers were found unaware of occupational safety and health (OSH) issues in farming e.g., hazards related to pesticides and chemical fertilizers; use of preventive and protective implements; respiratory and skin infections; ergonomic related health challenges; effects of using inappropriate conventional tools and farm inputs; potential fire and accident among others.

The findings of the assessment will help design skills training programmes in the three value chains in GB to address the skills gaps and decent work deficits as to improve livelihood and working conditions.