FAO inaugurates pine nut processing unit in Diamer

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CHILAS: The United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), under the project ‘Reversing deforestation and forest degradation in high conservation value chilogoza pine forest in Pakistan’, has inaugurated a pine nut (chilgoza) processing unit in Diamer district of Gilgit-Baltistan.

“The project was funded by the Global Environment Fund and implemented under the oversight of the Ministry of Climate Change,” said a press statement issued on Tuesday. “The project is additionally contributing 23 million trees to the Ten Billion Trees Programme of the MoCC.”

In Diamer district, chilgoza pine forest covers an area of around 18,000 hectares. The project has involved the local community within the conservation and protection of forests for value chain development.

“Since the key issue faced by the local community was the lack of access to chilgoza processing unit, the FAO, through the project, installed a chilgoza processing unit at Chilas, covering chilgoza cleaning, grading, roasting, packing and labelling,” the statement read.

Speaking on the occasion, FAO Country Representative Mina Dowlatchahi highlighted the significance of the processing unit to ensure more benefits arising from natural resources management. She stated that for the first time in Diamer district, the local people will be able to process their harvest — from grading to packaging and labelling — in one place.

“This will help them obtain a higher price in the market compared to selling cones or unroasted nuts,” said Dowlatchahi. “It is hoped that these economic benefits will increase the efforts and community engagements in chilgoza forest conservation.”

FAO Representative Programme Assistant Dr Aamer Irshad said that the project brings an opportunity to these communities to also learn how to leverage information technology to access high-end markets. This is particularly relevant in times of supply chains disruptions due to Covid-19, he added.

National Project Coordinator Dr Faizul Bari appreciated the cooperation of the forest department for the project, saying forest conservation will help ensure economic sustainability in the area.

“This initiative is much appreciated by local communities as the processing unit will allows them to sell a finished product at a higher price and also will increase the shelf life of roasted nuts up to six months,” he said.

FAO and the forest department representatives jointly inaugurated the unit at Chilas — one of the primary markets of Chilgoza Pine in Gilgit Baltistan — on a pilot basis.

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