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Where do Pakistan’s institutions stand in protecting agriculture from climatic catastrophes?

There is a need of realization among the higher political and administrative levels to mainstream the issue of climate change and understand its sensitivity. Even though the country’s political leadership acknowledges the issue of climate change, little practical efforts exist at the ground level.

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Agriculture remains the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, contributing around 20% of its national GDP and employing nearly half of its labor force. The sector is becoming increasingly exposed to various production risks, mainly associated with the effects of changing climate.

Effects of climate change on Pakistan’s agriculture

The climate changes in the form of increasing average temperature, and rainfall patterns fluctuations have trigged numerous catastrophes during the last few years. To name a few, the consecutive floods in the country ever since the disastrous flood of 2010, altering rainfall in late summer months, the recent outbreak of locusts, and water scarcity are among the major indicators and impacts of climate change.

The study, based on the findings, suggested that institutions need an effective administrative mechanism to ensure accountability and various levels

Pakistan, being a lower-middle-income country, falls amongst those nations which are highly vulnerable to climate change and its adverse impacts. For instance, Global Climate Risk Index (GCRI) listed Pakistan as the 5th highly vulnerable nation on earth exposed and impacted by climatic catastrophes, and the position has been shifting to the top with every coming year. Given the fact that agriculture is the key sector ensuring food security and employment in the country, it needs an effective mechanism to cope with climate challenges in agriculture. Among many factors, the public sector institutions are considered as the leading stakeholder responsible for providing local level support to the farming communities.

Read more: Op-ed: Monsoon disasters just a trailer of climate change storm that lies ahead for Pakistan

The public sector’s agricultural institutions in Pakistan, which are the primary firewall to protective farming and livelihoods of millions of rural households in the country, need to be well capitated. However, are they capable enough to support effective risk management is a question that every concerned individual of the county might need to know?  A recent study conducted at China Agricultural University, Beijing, published in an International Journal Nature Scientific Reports entitled “Public institutions capacities regarding climate change adaptation and risk management support in agriculture: the case of Punjab Pakistan” has the answer to this question.

Even though the country’s political leadership acknowledges the issue of climate change, little practical efforts exist at the ground level

The study focused on Punjab province, a leading agricultural province in the country producing over half of its green GDP and evaluated the perspective and capacities of 13 public sector agricultural institutions, including field, research, and market, and credit institutions. The study reveals shocking results that Punjab’s institutions possess the least capacities in terms of supporting climate risk management operations at the local level. Specifically, the study found that Punjab’s agricultural institutions are severely lacking in financial and physical resources since they reported as having minimal availability of funds and machinery (logistics, communication, and technical) to support and carry out such risk support mechanisms.

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Well, that could be a lame excuse for the incompetence; the study used another index specifically based on staff’s skills and professional expertise. The study reports astonishing findings that institutions’ training and skills were found to be amongst the least possessed capacities. The staff both, in research and field operations, were lacking or having no professional expertise regarding climate risk management in agriculture. Among many constraints, institutions reported a lack of higher-level understanding and support to the issue of climate change, and lack of necessary resources (human, physical and financial) to manage climate-change-related disasters and emergencies in agriculture as the major gaps in the current institutional arrangements.

What needs to be done

So, what is next? How could the institutions of one of the pivotal sectors in Pakistan be strengthened? The answer is given in the same study. The study, based on the findings, suggested that institutions need an effective administrative mechanism to ensure accountability and various levels. In this, the evaluation of programs could be smoothly done, and resources invested at various levels would be productive.

Read more: Op-ed: Climate change cannot be denied

Secondly, the provision of necessary resources is imperative to capacitate the country’s public institutions, which serve as the primary defense line of vulnerable farming communities. Thirdly and most importantly, there is a need of realization among the higher political and administrative levels to mainstream the issue of climate change and understand its sensitivity and vulnerability. Even though the country’s political leadership acknowledges the issue of climate change, little practical efforts exist at the ground level.

The author is a Ph.D. scholar at the College of Humanities and
Development, China Agricultural University in Beijing, P.R. China. His
doctoral research is focused on climate change and agricultural challenges
in Pakistan. He wrote and published several research articles in leading
international journals, including Nature Scientific Reports, Environmental
Science and Pollution Research, and Land Use Policy, etc.

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