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Strong measures can help meet food security problems in South Asia

ADB approves $275 million loan to increase agricultural production and improve food security in Punjab

To ensure progressive food security there is the need of taking aggressive measures to minimize negative impact of demographic growth coupled with climatic change in South Asian region according to economists. Without concerted efforts by the entire region’s stakeholders it would not be possible to tackle already rising regional food security issue.

There is the need of building strong cooperation both at institutional and country level between the developed and developing world to minimize the enemies of climate change in already food insecure South Asia.

Managing the complicated interactions between water, energy and food security is required to confront with changing climate and for achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. New technologies, changes in agricultural and water management practices by small holder farmers would find the way towards food security and the removal of malnutrition in all its forms.

It is strongly recommended that research funding, on climate change monitoring and adaptation, should be increased to diminish the hardship of changing climate on agriculture.

The efficient climate smart alternate crops/technologies must be introduced taking care of biodiversity, sustainability and profitability.

New food security policy aims high

With 37.26 million citizens malnourished, Pakistan’s National Food Security Policy 2018 aims at promoting sustainable food production systems by an average growth rate of 4 percent with goals of improving food availability, accessibility and sustainability.

The cabinet on March 21 approved the comprehensive food security policy to eliminate hunger, malnutrition besides providing foundation for growth of national economy.

Rural growth

According to the policy, crops have 40 percent of share in agricultural gross domestic product of the country taking the data of statistical supplement of economic survey of Pakistan 2016-17.

Making agriculture more productive, competitive and climate friendly have been one of the major policies of this action besides expanding the food systems for nutritious diets.

Food availability

The policy aims to improve food availability by supporting kitchen gardening and farmers with new high value crops. It encourages better availability of agriculture inputs with qualitative seeds, pesticides along with management and reduction cost of agriculture loans.

Its objective is to improve livestock production of local breeds, fodder production and quality animal feed along with investment in dairy farming and disease surveillance and control.

Poultry production has also been increased with competitive poultry farming and value chain for exports, along with provision of such opportunities for rural areas.

Food accessibility

Another major target is marketing and safety programmes for food by promoting e-marketing, market regulation and legislative support.

For food safety, new laws will be enacted keeping agro-chemicals in safe limits, encouraging use of bio-fertilizers and bio-pesticides. Besides, working for certified organic farming, compliance to international quality and safety standards and ensuring food safety standards in imported items is part of the policy.

The key part of accessibility is forming a national zero hunger programme by supporting small farmers for sustainable subsistence.

Food sustainability

The last important element of the policy aims at improving the sustainability of food by focusing on mitigation of climate change impacts by opting for climate-smart agriculture, viable resilient strategies and crop-livestock insurance schemes.

The document aims at disaster management by identifying food insecure disaster prone areas, developing emergency preparedness plans. It also emphasizes on developing effective early warning systems with rapid assessment of losses and post-disaster recovery plans.

It encourages using information technology tools, electronic and print media for sharing the latest and efficient policies and strategies for all the stakeholders.


State of food security and nutrition in the world report 2017

The 2017 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report says that in 2016 the food security situation deteriorated sharply in parts of sub-Saharan Africa, South-Eastern Asia and Western Asia.

The failure to diminish world hunger is associated with the increase in conflict and violence in several parts of the world in particular where the food security impacts of conflict were amalgamated by droughts or floods and climate-related shocks.

Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas and many rural youth migrate in the absence of productive opportunities and lack of socio-economic stability.

In Pakistan, while the estimates of Prevalence of Undernourishment decreased from 22 percent to 19.9 percent, there is an increase in the total number of undernourished people from 35.7 million to 37.6 million in the last ten-year period.

Stunting in children less than five years remains very high at 45 percent and notable of attention is the prevalence of anaemia rising to 52 percent of women in reproductive age.

Agriculture contributes about 20 percent of Pakistan GDP, employs 42 percent of the labour force and is the major form of livelihood for the majority of rural households. It reaches 97 percent of the population in areas of Pakistan such as FATA.

Sindh is in the process of drafting its new agriculture policy; Balochistan drafted its agriculture policy two years ago, although it is still awaiting endorsement. Punjab has developed a draft of the Punjab Agriculture Policy that was presented in March of this year.

In Punjab, the vision is of making agriculture competitive, profitable and sustainable through enablement, efficiency and value-addition for food and nutrition security and socio-economic development.

For the first time the draft policy explicitly links food security and nutrition.

Rural and agriculture development

Rural development and efforts to revive the agriculture sector will help increase livelihoods incomes and foster economic growth. Modernizing agriculture and water management while adapting to climate change will contribute to increasing yields and incomes sustainably.

Innovative practices, investment in green, information technology and farmers behaviors changes are required. In this context employment opportunities can be generated by productive agriculture and supporting activities ranging from information services, credit provision to storage, marketing and food processing businesses

Agricultural integrated sustainable systems are central to securing improvements in food security and nutrition and socio-economic stability.

Food security and nutrition need socio-economic stability. Approaches and solutions are known, the technology is available.

ADB approves $275m loan to help build a surface irrigation

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has approved a $275 million loan to help build a surface irrigation system to increase agricultural production and improve food security in Jhelum and Khushab districts in Punjab.

The project is expected to benefit 384,000 people. The Jalalpur Irrigation project is aimed at creating new non-perennial irrigation services for enhanced agricultural production on 79,750 hectares in Pind Daden Khan and Khushab districts.

The project will increase the kharif crop intensity by 50 percent, improve crop yield and reduce land degradation. It will directly benefit over 200,000 rural people, mostly poor. It took the ADB and the government of Punjab almost five years to plan and approve the project.

The scheme has been for the first time prioritised in the Country Partnership Strategy (2009-2013) to improve the irrigation infrastructure.

ADB says ‘political pressure’ may impact design, implementation in BRT project. The ADB’s agriculture sector evaluation (2006) for Pakistan emphasized improving water resources and irrigation.

The water sector roadmap identifies improving the infrastructure, institutions and agricultural production to drive sustainable agricultural growth.

“Having a sufficient and effective irrigation system is fundamental in the development of Pakistan’s agriculture sector — a significant driver of the country’s economy,” said Ryutaro Takaku, Principal Water Resources Specialist at ADB’s Central and West Asia Department.

The ADB’s support will help increase agricultural production and improve food security in Pakistan. Due to the country’s semi-arid climate, more than 90 percent of the agriculture output depends on irrigation.

Pakistan’s advantage is the Indus Basin Irrigation System, which draws water from Indus River. About 20 percent of the country’s cultivable area including the project area is outside the Indus Basin Irrigation System. Farming in the majority of those areas is rain fed, resulting in low agricultural productivity.

Some of the country’s poorest people live in those areas and depend on agriculture for their income. The Jalalpur Irrigation Project will build a new seasonal irrigation system and convert over 68,000 hectares (ha) of less productive, predominantly rain-fed land to irrigated land by drawing water from the Jhelum River, one of the tributaries of the Indus River.

The project will construct a diversion structure, a 117-kilometer (km) main canal, 97km secondary and tertiary canals, and 485 watercourses. The project will also assist in forming 485 water user associations (WUAs) and involve them in planning, designing, and constructing watercourses. The WUAs and the farmers will be trained to improve their agriculture and water management capacity.

Advanced technologies like laser land levelling and high-efficiency irrigation systems will be introduced by the project. About 660 agricultural demonstration plots will be established, and 6,000 farm households will learn climate-smart agriculture practices and more profitable farm management.

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