Agriculture is the mainstay of Pakistan's economy.
Basmati is a long grain rice grown in India and Pakistan. Among others, Axfood’s own brand Garant basmatiris comes from this region. Pakistan is one of the world’s largest rice producers, however climate change is posing significant challenges, with harvests failing and groundwater levels diminishing. The agricultural sector in Pakistan is unregulated and working conditions harsh. Particularly vulnerable are the women, who have less opportunities for education and lower salaries compared to men.
In order to improve working conditions and increase the income of small-scale farmers and seasonal workers, Axfoundation runs a project in collaboration with Axfood, Unil (Norgesgruppen), the rice supplier RolRyz and several rice processing companies in Pakistan. Oxfam Sweden is implementing partner. The main aims of the project are to strengthen women’s influence, improve working conditions, develop sustainable cultivation methods thereby minimizing risks while improving farmers’ incomes.
The training is in line with a certification standard for rice, the Sustainable Rice Platform, SRP. The farming methods contribute to increased productivity and generate positive effects for the environment, climate and working conditions. Through the project, the farmers have gained direct access to exporting companies instead of selling to local intermediaries.
Participants take part in the SRP training.
“It has been a great experience to witness how women have been empowered through the project.” – Viveka Risberg, Program Director Sustainable Production and Consumption, Axfoundation
Participating women are economically and politically strengthened.
In order to strengthen farmers’ and workers’ rights the project has assisted in creating farmer organizations, where more than half of the participants are women. This is a great step forward when it comes to strengthening women’s role and rights in rice cultivation.
By involving rice exporters in the project we minimize the use of expensive middlemen and create stronger ties with farmers. The Rice Institute and Agricultural University in Faisalabad also contribute with training, education and research inputs.
The project also includes Multi Stakeholder Platforms, with quarterly meetings in Pakistan, which aim to advocate for political rights. Through these meetings, rice farmers are given the opportunity to discuss social, economic and environmental challenges with politicians, authorities, civil society organizations and researchers.
Axfoundation develops, tests and shares this model, which strengthens farmers’ organizations, with other actors in the Swedish market and work towards a sustainable rice sector.
“Axfoundation wants to spread the Sustainable Rice Platform standard in the Swedish market, so that more actors aside from Axfood demand sustainably produced rice.” – Viveka Risberg, Program Director Sustainable Production and Consumption, Axfoundation
The project has been ongoing since 2017. Since then, 2,500 farmers and workers have been trained in sustainable cultivation methods and working conditions.
farmers trained in sustainable rice cultivation according to the Sustainable Rice Platform standard
grower organizations formed in Pakistan with 2,250 farmers
percent of the leading positions are held by women
percent reduced water usage in rice cultivation
percent reduced Co2-emissions
percent increased productivity
demonstration plots established to train farmers in direct seeding for rice, a resource-saving technology
stitching units established to increase women's income off season
Axfoundation spearheads this project together with retailers, suppliers, small-scale farmers and civil society organizations with the aim of improving working conditions and increase the income of small-scale farmers and seasonal rice workers. Partners in the project include:
Axfood, RolRyz (rice supplier), Sida (partial funder), Oxfam Sverige, Oxfam Pakistan, Doaba Foundation (Pakistan), Sustainable Rice Platform standard, Rice Research Institute (Pakistan), the Agricultural University in Faisalabad (Pakistan).
Press and Media
Ur Regeringens budgetproposition 2019: ”Partnerskap mellan svenska och lokala företag i Asien har bidragit till att förbättra jämställdhet, miljömässig och social hållbarhet samt böndernas inkomster inom risproduktion.” (s. 35)