LAHORE: The Punjab agriculture department has failed to establish the Project Management Unit (PMU) and hiring of staff for the project, ‘Developing Pothohar into an Olive Valley’ due to shortage of funds, which has resulted in the project’s failure to achieve its stated target, Pakistan Today learnt.
Pakistan Today also learnt that the agriculture department through Barani Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) Chakwal had launched the said project in six districts of the Pothohar region in 2015 with a cost of Rs2, 629.786 million, with the government’s share being Rs1, 672.446 million and farmers’ contribution estimated at Rs957.340 million for years 2015-2020.
Pakistan Today further learnt that the project’s objective was to promote the cultivation of two million olive plants of different species in three phases on 15,100 acres of unproductive land for sustainable livelihood opportunities.
Sources in the agriculture department said, “The promotion of high-value crops is a priority for the government and would lead to associated gains like diversification, nutrition, and exports etc which underlines the project’s relevance to the policy”.
Sources revealed that during the four year period since the project had commenced (2015-2019) the plan was only successfully implemented on 7,921.69 acres (52 per cent) out of the 15,100 acres.
“The target of 1,069,137 plants was achieved against a total plantation of 2,038,500; the project achieved 52 per cent of its target,” said a source.
Sources further said, “The Barani Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) located in Punjab’s Chakwal district, is operating the project by selecting suitable sites for olive plantation, technical support on olive grove management, financial support for water resource development, drip irrigation system along with providing general information to farmers.”
“A PMU was planned to run the activities of the project, however, no such unit has been established and BARI is executing the project using its existing staff. A total of 5 positions (3 executive posts and 2 office staff) were also proposed for the PMU”.
“The reason for major gaps in the project’s implementation over the last four years is the failure to form PMU, delayed procurement process, incomplete hiring of human resource and incapacity of implementing partners,” sources further revealed.
While talking to Pakistan Today, project-director Azeem Tariq said, “We have carried out extensive work on the project but we were faced a severe shortage of funds. However, this problem will soon be resolved as the new government has issued the required funds.”