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Friday, June 14, 2024

The survival of food systems in Pakistan

Pakistan being primarily an agro-based country with an annual 2.0% population growth rate will likely need to address these issues sooner rather than later. Pakistan’s agricultural sector acts as the backbone of the economy by contributing an average of 18.9% to the GDP and absorbs an estimate of 43.2% of the labor force.

Over the course of history, human beings have evolved into advanced creatures with complex ideas and ambitions. They have managed to make strides in various fields and disciplines in order to rise above the simplistic life man had once lived. The ambition to achieve milestones and walk into the unknown has enveloped human beings inside many intricate challenges and issues which people, for a decade couldn’t even have imagined facing.

However, during this journey of moving forward, basic human needs often hold the world back and it’s only a matter of time till they catch up to us. Food security is vital to the survival of human beings and the economic disparity in the world today means, that often low-income or medium-income countries bear the cost of the increasing food insecurity.

Read more: Pakistan joins Chinese conference on reducing food insecurity

Food function is not only limited to meeting the biological needs of humans

Food deals with nutrition and health but also with well-being and the way human being live together and interact with their environment. Food security is the measure of an individual’s ability to access food that is nutritious and sufficient in quantity. During the twentieth century, the aim of food systems was to increase food production however its success came with the cost of many negative externalities such as social inequality and environmental degradation.

The new SGDs (Sustainable development goals) produced by the FAO in 2017, highlight new goals for food systems in the future that are much more comprehensive in nature. These three goals are interlinked. Food and nutritional security cannot be achieved without combating impoverishment and reducing the effects of environmental degradation.

As the world re-calibrates itself after four consecutive waves of Covid-19, governments around the world have been forced to shift their attention towards non-traditional security threats. While military and territorial threats will continue until the end of time, it has become pertinent for world leaders to reorganize human beings as the nucleus of all security efforts. The safety and well-being of their citizens depend upon the satisfaction of their basic needs.

As a result, it has become important for governments to explore and counteract against the major external drivers that will probably present major challenges and raise the risks for food systems around the world in the coming decades. The demographic, environmental and socioeconomic trends are evidence for the requirement of a solid action plan, especially in the case of low-income and medium-income countries in low-income developing countries.

Pakistan being primarily an agro-based country with an annual 2.0% population growth rate will likely need to address these issues sooner rather than later. Pakistan’s agricultural sector acts as the backbone of the economy by contributing an average of 18.9% to the GDP and absorbs an estimate of 43.2% of the labor force. With the current rate of population growth, its total population is expected to double, making it the fourth-largest nation by 2050.

Read more: Combating the challenge of food insecurity

How food insecurity and economic growth are mutually exclusive?

Food security and economic growth are mutually reinforcing processes however even with the 40% increase in cultivated land over the last sixty years, population growth coupled with urban expansion further widens the supply-demand gap. An increase in Population growth in urban and rural areas means a quantitative increase in food demand. The Increase in internal migration and displacement gives a rise to social and civil unrest creating a cycle where countries like Pakistan with low food production capacities crumble under the pressure of a growing demand which as a result generates malnutrition and further migration as people search for new land, water and food.

Global climatic changes will further exacerbate the food security challenges Pakistan already faces. Food security is fundamental to national security. Production cycles, supply chains, accessibility and balance of trade all depend on the sufficient inputs available to the agricultural industries. These inputs are closely interlinked with predictable weather patterns and biodiversity and environmental integrity through all production and manufacturing stages.

Pakistan’s geographical location places it inside a warm region with an arid and semi-arid landscape. Inconsistency of precipitation patterns and distribution makes originally rain-fed areas dependent on irrigation from water resources which are already scarce and subsequently depleting due to the melting of the glaciers in the Karakorum and Himalayan regions. Hence adding to Pakistan’s energy and flood control challenges. Pakistan has two seasons for crop cultivation known as Kharif (summer) and Rabi (winter) and its major crops include rice-wheat, maize–wheat, cotton– wheat, and sugarcane– wheat which majorly contribute the country’s exports.

However, their production cycles have severely been impacted by climate change on top of other socioeconomic reasons and as a result, studies show a 14.7% and 20.5% decrease in producing wheat and rice crops due to climate change in the past few years with their market prices shooting up. With the possibility of self-reliance out the door, the Pakistan Government has been forced to approve the import of up to 3Mt of wheat during the 2021-22 year to bridge the gap between production and consumption. According to the predictions, temperatures are most likely to rise by 2040, causing an 8%-10% further decrease in agricultural production around the world.

Read more: Afghans facing intense food insecurity: WFP

The impact of climate on society is synonymous with the domino effect

Lower production capacities in Pakistan and around the world will make the domestic market more vulnerable to shocks in the food systems. Markets reciprocate by rising food prices and the low-income classes suffer in order to make ends meet. Unemployment and malnutrition become an increasingly indispensable challenges for the state. The overall societal dissatisfaction mostly among-st the working classes can easily take the form of civil unrest in the event of an external trigger.

In recognition of the catastrophic consequences of food insecurity that are likely to take place, governments around the world have decided to act. In the case of countries like Pakistan, climate-smart agriculture seems to be one of the solutions which combines agricultural expansion with climate receptiveness to satisfy food security targets. The concept is based on trade-offs between increasing production, eliminating the emission of GHG’s, protection of biodiversity and mitigation.

Moreover, it is necessary for all government efforts to be justice-centered and take into account all sectors of society regardless of economic or social position. All climate adaptation policies will be rendered ineffective if the weak and rural population of the state isn’t made aware or included in the formulation process. Beyond direct government intervention, there is a need for an anthropogenic evolution when it comes to sustainability. Human beings are biologically coded to adapt to external conditions, hence any and all sustainability polices need to be supported by individual-level responses to the disastrous impact of climate change. The evolutionary character of human beings is a prime contributor to their survival hence optimizing their ability to act when given access to the correct stream of information.


The writer is currently an undergraduate student at National Defence University, Islamabad. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.