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Hafiz Qaisar Yasin: Mainstreaming climate adaptation and resilience into Pakistan’s development agenda

Posted: 12 July 2023

Pakistan, Alumni, Environment, Impact,

Rising temperatures and other effects of climate change are causing destruction around the world. Hafiz Qaisar Yasin, an Australia Awards alumnus from Pakistan, began doing his part to combat these changes nearly a decade ago. To be most effective, Qaisar saw that strong climate change mitigation measures must be implemented through national policies and development programs.

With this in mind, Qaisar’s passion for curbing climate change led him to apply to participate in an Australia Awards Short Course on Irrigation and Water Resources Management in 2014. He was selected and undertook the Short Course at the University of Queensland in Brisbane. He was then able to apply the knowledge and practices that he learnt from the course in implementing the Punjab Irrigated Agriculture Productivity Improvement Project, which helped more than 600,000 farmers to improve their crop productivity and water efficiency by adopting sustainable and climate-resilient practices. This project garnered Qaisar the South Asian Region Climate Cup; it was also recognised by the World Bank as one of the best Corporate Social Responsibility initiatives in the country.

Qaisar at the launch ceremony of the PRIAT project in Punjab.

Deeply inspired by this experience, Qaisar strove to further enrich his knowledge. Australia Awards supported him in this goal; he received an Australia Awards Scholarship to pursue a Master of Sustainability and Climate Policy at Curtin University in Perth, graduating with distinction in 2020.

“Coming from a family that has its roots in farming, I could see the devastation that floods and rising temperatures were causing to our crops,” Qaisar says. “I knew that our people are not at all aware of the concepts of drip and sprinkler systems or solar-based energy and the benefits that these concepts could bring to farmers.”

One of his major contributions in Pakistan after returning from Australia has been designing and rolling out the Punjab Resilient and Inclusive Agriculture Transformation (PRIAT) Project. The PRIAT Project is a USD300 million World Bank-funded project, aimed at promoting climate-smart green solutions among farmers to build climate resilience and enhance agricultural productivity. Based on his experience in Australia, Qaisar introduced a unique public–private community-driven approach to support vulnerable farming communities in rehabilitating their on-farm irrigation infrastructure with smart technologies, and upgrading crop production practices with green technologies (such as solar energy systems, drip systems and sprinkler systems). The project was rolled out successfully in January 2023 to help more than 500,000 marginalised farming communities to build back better after the 2022 floods.

Drip & sprinkler water system installed in a field in Punjab province.

“After I returned from Australia to the company I was initially working for, I got promoted from Deputy Director to Director Planning and Lead Development,” Qaisar says. “The course I studied on Resilient Leadership has done wonders for my confidence; before, I would be hesitant to speak at public forums and discussions, but now I can contribute proudly with the knowledge I have gained.”

This confidence was demonstrated through Qaisar’s active participation in the 2023 Australia Awards South Asia and Mongolia Regional Alumni Workshop, which had the theme of Building back better: Climate resilience and green economic recovery’. Qaisar delivered a presentation on the promotion of solar powered irrigation in Punjab. The workshop allowed Qaisar to network with alumni from across South Asia and Mongolia working on climate change, share his expertise and learn from others’ experiences.

Qaisar and other Pakistani participants at the Regional Alumni Workshop along with DFAT and Australia Awards representatives.

Qaisar also established a Climate Change Cell in the Department of Agriculture. He encouraged integrative approaches to project design by focusing on community-based solutions, climate smartness, gender sensitivity and nature-based solutions.

“I used my network developed in Australia to engage Australian water/climate experts in various ongoing projects, who have visited Pakistan to help and give their insight into policy formulations and better design implementation strategies,” he says.

Qaisar remains committed to the fight against climate change, and aims to secure larger financing opportunities for programs contributing to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. With every step, he hopes to help Pakistan reduce its carbon footprint.