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Ibrahim Khilji: Improving lives for small scale agribusiness owners in Pakistan

Posted: 13 February 2020

Pakistan, Experience, Impact, Private Sector,

Australia Global Alumni

Australia Awards alumnus Ibrahim Khilji is supporting agribusiness development in Pakistan by developing markets for small-scale agribusiness owners through direct intervention.

As Provincial Coordinator at FAO (the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations), he works in selected districts in Balochistan, an underdeveloped province of Pakistan, as well as Khyber Pakhtunkhwa’s newly merged areas. Ibrahim’s work mainly focuses on value chain development, better post-harvest treatment and marketing. His efforts have helped farmers and agribusinesses in Balochistan earn a better living, created employment opportunities and mobilised private investment.

Before embarking on his Scholarship journey to Australia, Ibrahim completed his Master of Business Administration in Pakistan at Shaheed Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology in 2007. He worked for the development of the private sector in Balochistan for eight years in a role at Small and Medium Enterprises Development Authority. There he developed a keen interest in agribusiness, since Balochistan is known as the ‘fruit basket of Pakistan’. He saw the need for better supply chain management and pro-poor market development because of the amount of horticultural produce going wasted due to poor harvest and post-harvest practices. He wanted to work with relevant stakeholders to promote agribusiness in the province; however, he soon realised that he did not yet have the skills or capacity to fulfil this ambition. He also wanted to learn more about agribusiness and the dynamics of coordinating specialised agents engaged in agriculture production.

In 2013, Ibrahim saw a newspaper advertisement for Australia Awards and realised that this could be the opportunity he needed to develop the skills to achieve his vision. His application was successful and in 2015 he completed his Master of Agribusiness from the University of Melbourne with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.

“I would not have been able to undertake my Master’s degree studies without the financial assistance from Australia Awards,” Ibrahim says. “I feel incredibly privileged.”

Ibrahim enjoyed his time in Melbourne, finding it a spectacular place to undertake his Master’s degree. “The University of Melbourne, as a global institute fostering an inclusive environment where diversity is celebrated, has attracted and retained the best employees and students from all over the world,” he says. “Studying and living in Australia was one of my life’s most precious experiences and has taught me how to embrace and appreciate diversity and co-exist with people from different cultures.”

Upon returning to Pakistan, Ibrahim worked very closely with farmers and agribusinesses by joining the Market Development Facility (MDF), an Australian Government-funded program operating in Asia Pacific. Since agricultural commodities produced in Balochistan face severe problems throughout the supply chain, he decided to help farmers reduce their losses and get better returns. “There is a need to build farmers’ capacity and connect them to high-end markets,” he says.

As Business Adviser at MDF, Ibrahim designed and managed interventions to stimulate innovative practices by working closely with a large variety of strategic private and public players to unlock the growth potential of strategic engagement areas within the economy.

Ibrahim reflects that his Australia Awards Scholarship turned out to be a professional breakthrough for him.

“I chose Pakistani commodities as my thesis topic and got plenty of constructive feedback from my professors at the University of Melbourne,” he says.

Ibrahim, like many scholars before him, also acknowledges the Australian practice of bringing knowledge from the field to the classrooms.

“My education equipped me with the required skills to identify critical gaps that existed in agribusiness, and then design and implement appropriate interventions. The program boosted my critical thinking skills as well as my self-esteem,” says Ibrahim.

With his improved knowledge and skills, Ibrahim is benefitting his country through the creation of additional full-time jobs and increased income-earning opportunities for households, especially the poor and the underprivileged.

Ibrahim has had a positive, enriching and fulfilling experience in Australia.

“Australians are good-natured and easy-going people. To this day, I cherish the memories I made in Australia. I am thankful to the Australian government for the opportunities I received through Australia Awards. It has greatly influenced me in progressing my career,” says Ibrahim.

“The knowledge I gained in Australia has helped me design interventions and build better livelihoods for smallholder farmers through improved agricultural productivity,” he adds. “This has also helped me work towards increasing incomes and improving the quality of life of the farming communities in far-flung areas of Pakistan.”