FAISALABAD: The Government of Pakistan will not abandon the USAID funded US-Pakistan Centre for Advanced Studies in Agriculture and Food Security project.
The said project is important for the country and the funding agency’s decision to terminate it could not be accepted. This was said by Higher Education Commission Chairman Dr Mukhtar Ahmed while speaking to The Express Tribune. On July 21, 2017, the USAID had announced that it would terminate the project with immediate effect.
Mukjhtar Ahmed added, “It is one of the most vibrant projects in the field of food security and its goals are vital to boost up our agrarian economy. Therefore, the government cannot abandon it owing to the abrupt decision of the USAID administration to close it down.”
He maintained, “I am fully aware of the consequences and backlash of the situation if the projects were abounded under such unfortunate situation. We are not only monitoring the situation, but we are utilising all our resources to make this project a success at any cost.”
He pointed out that the USAID administration had been asked to reconsider its decision taking into consideration the ground realties, importance of the project and substantial funds that had already been utilized. “We are holdings meetings with the functionaries of the USIAD and I am fully confident that we will succeed in reversing the decision of the termination of the project,” he hoped.
The HEC chief said, “We have high-stakes and hopes with this project as number of top research scholars of the county are already working day and night to come up with solution oriented strategy in the field of the food security and academic.”
He elaborated that top leaders in the field of the research and academia from UC Davis (a top university in USA in the field of agricultural research) and UAF will bring a revolution in the research and academic sector in consonance with emerging challenges, including climate change and insecurity of food. In reply to a question, the HEC chairman said, “In worst situation, the government will take over the entire project and its schemes and will ensure its sustainability and continuity.”
In such situation we might seek restructuring the priorities of the project, salary and packages of the staff and injecting all the financial resources from other sources, including the HEC, he said. Termination of the five-year project would affect more than 79 employees who were working on it since December 2014, he added.
Meanwhile, UAF Vice-Chancellor Dr Iqrar Ahmad Khan told The Express Tribune, “The centre is now entering its most productive period as the partnership between UAF and UC Davis has strengthened with time and the project management systems are now well established. The project would continue to deliver sustainable impacts, long-term relationships between UC Davis and Pakistani scientists.”
He added, “The government has given a guarantee for the project’s sustainability and continuity even after completion of five years to achieve its target-oriented results.”
The UAF had already utilised $6.2 million on account of payment of scholarships, research grants, salary of the staff, purchase of lab equipment, library and other material.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2017.
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