Esa Khan grew up on an apple orchard nestled in the scenic mountains of Nagar seeing his family grow apples, that have been his family’s source of income for decades. He saw his father and grandfather grow apples with fresh water from the glaciers and find commercial buyers to supply them. Every now and then, he would hear that a part of the apple produce got wasted because of delays in finding buyers.
This is a major challenge in the region, where despite producing ample fruit, large quantities end up getting wasted. Nestlé Pakistan identified this challenge and has been enabling growers like Esa preserve and protect produce by purchasing apples directly from them and making them an integral part of its value chain.
Gilgit Baltistan’s economy relies on agriculture and horticulture. Over 90 percent of the population is engaged in practicing their centuries old tradition of growing fruits and irrigating them with natural glacier water. Grown in the majestic Hunza, Nagar, and Ghizer valleys, these apples are close to naturally organic. While it is important to maintain this standard, it is equally important for growers to diversify their produce and derive multiple sources of income.
Nestlé Pakistan, in collaboration with the Gilgit Baltistan Agriculture Department and the regional farming cooperatives, is working to explore new varieties, improve quality and increase the quantity of their produce. Nestlé’s Creating Shared Value (CSV) is an initiative where they extend support and directly engage with communities across their value chain. Not only does this add value to the business, but it also helps local communities thrive as a result of socioeconomic development.
A relatively newer challenge for growers like Esa, that their earlier generations did not witness, is climate change. Unpredictable weather conditions adversely impact the produce. As a result, growers are unable to yield the quantity they did in the past, which affects their livelihood.
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Nestlé, in collaboration with the Agriculture Department of Gilgit Baltistan and local support organizations, is working closely with small-sized local apple growers in the region to diversify their products and improve their livelihoods by increasing horticulture production through good agriculture practices including tree pruning, pest management and post-harvest management.
“Fruit losses are enormously high in this natural organic region. We are helping our growers to minimize fruit waste and increase value.”
Mehboob Elahi – Supplier Development & Sustainable Agriculture Manager Nestlé Pakistan.
As a result of these efforts, in 2021, Nestlé sourced high-quality apples from Hunza, Nagar, and Ghizer valleys, where fruit trees are nourished with glacier water, enabling farmers of varying scales to reduce fruit waste and increase value. These apples sourced from Gilgit Baltistan are then used in manufacturing cereals for children.
“Earlier, delays in sales would waste 40% of our apples but now due to Nestlé’s timely bulk purchases, our sales have approximately reached 100%”
Esa Khan – Apple Grower, Nagar
These efforts are line with UN’s Sustainable Development Goals: 8 – Decent Work and Economic Growth. 12 – Responsible Consumption and Production. 13 – Climate Action. 17 – Partnerships for the Goals.