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18 November 2017 Last updated 3 hours ago

Agricultural growth and food security

  • Published in Columns
  • Last modified onFriday, 12 August 2016 13:11
Agricultural growth and food security File Photo

Food is the basic need of all living creatures in the contemporary world. From humble bacteria to human beings all are striving for food since their existence. The term food security is closely related to the availability of food stuff for the existing population in the world.

The concept of food security was developed formally in 1974 in world food conference. According to FAO( FOOD AND AGRICULTURE ORGANIZATION) ), food security refers to the situation when all the individuals in the contemporary world have physical and economic access to healthy  safe and nutrition rich food according to the requirement of their dietary needs to lead physically and mentally active and healthy growing life. At household and individual level the persons or families who have the availability of food according to their dietary needs and they have no fear of food shortage in near future are called food secure. The individuals who have limited availability of food that is not even fulfilling their physical dietary needs and economically limited access to food items with the fear of non-availability of food in near future are called food insecure.

Agriculture and food security go hand in hand with each other. High rate of production of basic food stuff in agriculture sector paves way towards food security. At global level the countries which are efficiently utilizing the combination of mechanization and human resource in agriculture sector are not only self-sufficient in food, securing their nation from the danger of food insecurity and hunger but also exporting it to the food shortage countries. The food which is intensively and widely used at world level is wheat and rice. The output per hector is maximum in the developed countries due to the use of high yielding variety of seeds use of balanced fertilizers and good technical knowledge to tackle the production process. Despite of the high rate of production and capacity to support world population in terms of hunger the individuals in different parts of the world are dying due to hunger and starvation. This is due to the high growth rate of population, rural poverty in developing countries, internal feuds between different states and lack of food rights and its implementation in several states across the globe.

As far as Pakistan is concerned the production of major food crops like wheat and rice is approximately meeting the set targets but we are not food secure despite this. Pakistan is in the habit of first export or smuggle without taking in to consideration the requirement level of the country and then at the time of shortage import at high prices. The trader mafia is dominant in the country in collaboration with the major stakeholders of the state. The ultimate result is the common consumer suffers and become victim of such kind of collaboration and dominance. Our priority is 18th amendment rather than food security. The agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan economy as it is providing food stuff to the whole population and also source of earning for the 60% of population living in rural areas of Pakistan. The basic food stuff is obtained from agriculture sector which is equipped with hazards. The cultivation of food items in Pakistan is being done at substantial level by using old methods of sowing and harvesting food. The prevailing culture of dividing cultivable land into small portions also affect the production pattern it provide an excuse to farmers from using advanced technology because it is costly and the portion of land is small which cannot return the cost of production and there are minimum chances of profit. The result is small amount of output which is not sufficient for increasing population and the ultimate result is food shortage.

Natural disasters also caused a serious damage to the standing cereal crops in Pakistan. As the floods in 2005 and 2010 and currently in 2014 have badly damage the food production due to the less production and to fulfill the food needs of population at domestic level we have to import food items it costs high and the prices of food stuff rise. Food insecurity and shortage is closely associated with the shortage of water for irrigation purpose. The areas in Pakistan where agriculture is totally dependent on rain the production of food articles depends on rain if it failed to materialize the situation of drought occur there. Currently numberless children are dying in Tharpakar due to the shortage of food for their nutritious needs. The death toll reached to 25 of the Tharpakar victimized food insecure children’s. More than 600 villages are vacated in Sindh due to food scarcity and their miseries are adding up. Although the Tharpakar region is labelled as calamity but still relief work is not initiated at required level.

The several factors are contributing towards food insecurity and causing a damage to the individuals across the globe as well as in Pakistan. Major factors among them are highlighted below.

Poverty is increasing food insecurity. In and many other developing countries farmers are dependent and engaged in substantial agriculture for livelihood. They have small landholding from which they hardly afford to produce the food stuff for their families. They also cannot afford to use high variety seeds and fertilizers due to the high cost of these inputs. They also have not modernized methods and knowledge of cultivations due to which production is very low which is unable to solve the issue of food sufficiency and security.

Furthermore Health is the basic component of human life. One can manage production process of food stuff with good physical and mental health. In most of the developing countries like Pakistan people are unable to get necessary diet with vital nutrients leading towards under nutrition. They cannot give their efficiency in work which is being required. The ultimate result is poverty starvation and hunger.

In addition to this Shortage of water for irrigation purpose is also a major problem which is contributing in the reduction of food production. In Pakistan energy crisis are restricting tube well irrigation which is damaging our standing crops. Floods and shortage of water in different seasons is also a common phenomenon. Water logging and salinity are also destroying the cultivable area. All these factors are contributing to food shortage. In Pakistan the preservation and management of food items immediately after its cultivation is very poor. The facilities to readily market the food are not available to the farmers due to backward infrastructure so the chances of food wastage increased due to the severity of weather and food spoilage insects and bacteria. The situation paved way to food shortage and high prices.

Additionally Population rise is also a matter of big concern with context to food security. The rise in population demands foods at wider level. The population growth rate in Pakistan and other developing countries is very high. The ongoing trend of converting cultivable and arable land in to residential colonies is also reducing food production especially with reference to Pakistan. This is not only reducing food cultivation but also leads towards increased urbanization. Farmers are not any more interested in cultivation. They are attracted towards cities for other opportunities of earning rather than substantial food growing.

Moreover climate change is also a major reason of food shortage. Due to the increase in carbon emission in the air the natural carbon cycle is disrupting and accelerating. This is causing the depletion of ozone layer that protect ultraviolet radiations and escape the plants and earth from their destructive impacts. As a result changings are occurring in weather pattern which are not beneficial for our standing crops as well as successive crops. The ultimate result is reduction in food shortage at production level.

Food is the basic necessity of life no one can survive without a required level nutritious food intake. Unfortunately in Pakistan 35% to 40% people are below poverty line and they cannot afford even the basic necessities of life like food clothing and shelter. Article 38 of Pakistan constitution grants the right of providing the basic necessities of life to the citizens and food is one f them but still majority of poor people are deprived of it. They are not sure whether they would be able to get dinner meals when they take breakfast of that particular day. The situation is quite unfortunate. The state is utterly failed to provide them with proper food.

Food security can only be ensured in the country by making the availability of food to all the population. All the people have access to food when they desire for food according to their choice. The economic access is also necessary element with the availability of food which is being damaged by the food inflation. Affordable prices of food items and its equal availability to all individuals ensures food security. The unequal distribution of income in Pakistan hampers the equity in food distribution as rich can afford variety of food and poors lives from hand to mouth even without regular access to critical food items. The inequality should be removed and strict control should be made on food prices by ensuring proper monitoring and evaluation of food prices and income of general public.  

Agriculture is the basic and very important sector of Pakistan economy. More than 43% labor force is attached to it directly or indirectly. In Pakistan 60% of population living in rural areas is attached to it for their income and food. According to the economic survey of Pakistan agriculture is contributing 21 to 24% to GDP. Wheat and rice are the major food crops in Pakistan which is also the main source of food for the population residing here. Wheat is used for making many kind of food items. Although the production of wheat in Pakistan is increasing but still it is trapped with so many problems like low output per hector, less use of latest technology, lack of irrigation facilities, smuggling and hording, pre harvest loses, and cultivation at substantial level rather than commercial level. The regional disparities and divisions are also creating problems for food security and agriculture as well. The farmers should be educated about the production process and they should be provided inputs at low prices. The whole production process should be monitored by the agriculture experts. Low prices at market is also a big issue hurting the farmers from production of crops. Prices of crops in markets after their harvesting should be stable matching with their return. Infrastructure should be improved to readily market food items.

Population pressure and urban sprawl is also a big cause of food shortage. In Pakistan population growth rate is high and agriculture is not responding up to that mark with the increasing population.to meet the needs of existing population human resource development is necessary. Taking the example of japan. Japan have not natural resources at sufficient level but it has well developed human resources and counted among the Asian tigers. Pakistan should develop its human resources by education training and by providing them assistance in livelihood activities. It will not only ensure food security in agriculture sector but more processed and alternatives of food will enhance food security.

Kitchen gardening should be promoted. People should be devised to cultivate food items specially vegetables and fruits in their houses in rural areas. This will not only reduce high dependence on cereals but it will also provide nutrition needed for the body. They will have variety of food and cultivate according to their wish. This will be instrumental with context to reduce food insecurity at rural level in Pakistan. The alternative of cereals can be fisheries. State should establish fishing ponds at local level by providing affordable fish varieties for population. The investors who are willing to do so should be subsidized. Saline lands will be good fishing areas. Fish farming will also enhance food security.

Research and management is the need of the day in the agriculture and food producing sectors. Technical innovations should be adopted. Agriculture, livestock, fisheries, forests, cultivation process and food management policies should be made and prioritized to be implemented. Media is the fourth pillar of the state which can be effectively used to educate the farmers. It can be helpful in nourishing the mindsets towards modernization and technical innovation. Research and extension institutes should be promoted and these institutes should be capable enough to adopt and implement the latest technical innovation happening in the contemporary world.

 The food security in Pakistan can only be ensured by increasing the efficiency of agriculture sector and with the use of advanced technology in the respective sector. The farmers should be educated to tackle the production process for maximum production. The government should provide food preservation and management facilities and subsidies to the farmers. Equality should be promoted in food provision and easy availability should be ensured to all individuals by the state. It will provide self-sufficiency in food which will paved way to come out from the morass of food insecurity.