“We will perish or survive together”, said PM Khan while addressing the inaugural session International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) held in Rome, Italy. To combat the global economic shocks set off by the Covid-19 pandemic, an effective global strategy needs to be formulated, he added.
While virtually delivering a keynote address at the governing council of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the premier highlighted the dangers of global hunger and malnutrition affecting hundreds of millions of people, warning that the world today faced a “looming agricultural crisis”.
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Agriculture is crucial for human survival and even though the world population is about to hit eight billion, 600m still suffer from extreme hunger, said PM Khan. More than 20 countries are food insecure and around 100m more people are likely to slip below the poverty line because of the pandemic, the premier added. World Food Programme has alerted of the danger of famine in some of the poorest countries and conflict zones, noted the prime minister.
“The world faces multiple challenges in recovering from the pandemic and achieving [the] vital first two sustainable development goals (SDGs) — no poverty and zero hunger,” said the premier. There was a lack of financing, shortage of investment, trade distortions, unsustainable production and consumption patterns, degradation of agricultural lands and forests, an impending water crisis, loss of biodiversity, and polluted rivers and oceans, he added.
Poverty eradication efforts by Pakistan
Prime Minister Imran asked for a new strategy for sustainable food production and consumption to be considered and adopted at the Food Systems Summit scheduled for next year.
As part of national development efforts, he said his government had accorded the highest priority to achieve SDG-1 (no poverty) and SDG-2 (zero hunger).
He shared the measures that Pakistan undertook to mitigate the sufferings of the poverty-stricken citizens including the historic $8 billion relief package given by his government during the Covid-19 pandemic.
PM Khan also informed the participants of the Ehsaas programme through which the poorest families and other vulnerable groups were provided emergency cash assistance by utilising digital technologies and databases.
The government also aims to plant 10 billion trees over the next three years and will set aside eight large areas as national reserves or national parks, he declared.
The prime minister said that “Under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, agricultural modernization has been included as a vital element of our development strategy. This will move us significantly towards combatting hunger and poverty”, he added. He stated that the success of the efforts undertaken by developing countries to combat poverty largely depends upon international cooperation.
PM Khan’s agenda
We need a revolution in our vision of our future. The Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis should drive home the message to all rich and poor, weak or powerful that their destinies are intertwined. We will perish or survive together,” stressed PM Khan.
Reiterating the measures that he had proposed at a special session of the United Nations General Assembly last December for the generation of early financing to enable developing countries’ recovery from the Covid-19 crisis, which included: comprehensive debt relief and restructuring, creation of $500 million in special drawing rights (SDRs), larger concessional financing, and measures to halt and recover illicit financial flows from developing countries to haven destinations and richer countries, the PM said that the world needs to do a lot more if it wants to alleviate global poverty and hunger.
The first point of his global poverty alleviation agenda emphasized on the need to invest in sustainable agriculture infrastructure to facilitate transport, production and distribution of agricultural inputs and food products. PM khan termed the ‘green lanes’ created by China as a good example.
Secondly, the premier said that the governments needed to more actively ensure adequate and fair prices for agricultural and food products. The so-called ‘magic of the market place’ should be balanced by the very visible hand of the State, he stated “We in Pakistan have suffered from market manipulations by monopolists and hoarders,” added the PM. “Farmers should not be left to the mercy of the corporations. At the same time, international agricultural trade must be rationalized. The huge agricultural subsidies provided by certain richer economies distort global markets and make it impossible for farmers in the developing countries to compete,” he commented.
Read More: Using technology to fight poverty & pandemic
In his third point, PM Khan asked for the conscious application of new and breakthrough agricultural technologies and techniques to enhance food production; ensure efficient usage of water and land; and above all improve seed quality. IFAD and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) could play a vital role in that context, he remarked.
The adoption of digital technologies is as vital in agriculture as in other economic sectors. Ensuring internet and broadband access to the rural areas will be vital for their integration into national and global supply chains, said the premier while explaining the fourth point of his agenda.
Explaining the fifth and last point of his agenda, PM Khan said that we must rethink our patterns of food consumption and production. We can eat better and many of us would do well to eat less. We can produce food with greater respect for nature, we can stop the pollution of our lakes, rivers and oceans. We can produce more with less water and without dangerous chemicals, he added.
The premier said that the Covid-19 pandemic and the climate crisis should drive home the message to all – the rich and the poor, weak or powerful – that their destinies were intertwined. “We will perish or survive together. The concepts of geo-strategic adversaries; of regional or global domination; of the political advantages of foreign intervention and occupation and the oppression of peoples, are outdated and will soon be seen as irrelevant,” he remarked.