ISLAMABAD: Italy and Pakistan have signed a agreement for Economic Transformation Initiatives, Gilgit-Baltistan amounting to 20.5 million euro. This is 28 years facility with 10 years of grace period and zero percent interest rate. Muhammad Hammad Azhar, Federal Minister for Economic Affairs witnessed the signing ceremony of Financial Agreement with the Government of the Italian Republic. Under the Economic Transformation Initiatives (ETI) Programme, Government of the Italian Republic will provide infrastructural support, capacity building and technical assistance for the value chain of key agricultural products to the benefit of rural communities of Gilgit-Baltistan. Gilgit-Baltistan is a remote mountainous region, less population with comparatively higher incidence of poverty. Agriculture productivity is generally low due to poor access to quality inputs, huge post-harvest losses (45% for apricot and 10% for potato), lack of local processing and value addition and poor access to markets. Economic Transformation Initiatives (ETI) Gilgit-Baltistan, is the largest developmental programme of Gilgit-Baltistan government. International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is providing USD 76 million over a period of 7 years. Italian government has agreed to join hands with IFAD providing a soft loan of Euro 20.5 million to be utilized for financing the programme activities. The objective of this programme is substantial increase in irrigated crop areas and production and improved connectivity with markets through investments in economic infrastructure. This programme will improve incomes and reduce poverty and malnutrition in rural areas of Gilgit-Baltistan region benefitting around 100,000 rural households.