The lack of required food for every person to live a healthy and active life is called food insecurity.
Why Food Insecurity is a national issue in Pakistan?
Food is the primary requirement and right of all the people in the world whether they are rich or poor. The Govt. and (some semi-government institutes) are responsible to provide proper food to the people living in their locality. Agriculture is the backbone of our country as Pakistan is a rural country. Agriculture in Pakistan is 2nd largest occupation which employs almost 43% of the workforce. Thus agriculture is considered the backbone of the country. The agricultural sector was active not even supplying to the native people but other countries were also getting benefits from our production as Pakistan use to export in the past.
It is common to talk that if we fulfil the basic wants of our people, they will start working for the betterment of the country. But people are struggling with their basic needs which is a very alarming situation. Hunger is a big enemy of living organisms whether they are human beings, animals or birds etc. Along with other crises, Pakistan is facing problems with food shortage which is relatively unlucky and disgusting. In recent times, science has progressed in a very good way but still, people have to stand in a long queue just to purchase wheat flour. In specific times, even sugar shortage has also been seen, and it is repeated almost every year.
Being an agricultural country, the food shortage or even wheat flour shortage is not tolerable. Due to the rising prices of basic commodities, it is very difficult for poor people to feed themselves. The floods have severely affected our agriculture too, which situation got even worse. However, poor management in this sector is of great importance in terms of food insecurity. The agricultural soil problems, water mismanagement, and availability of low third-class seeds are the main problems in our agriculture sector which mainly cause the issue of food scarcity. According to the 2022 Global Hunger Index, Pakistan ranks 99 out of 121 countries. With hunger in Pakistan scoring 26.1 out of 50 on the index, the problem in the country is rated as “severe”. The problem itself is caused by a combination of factors. One of them is the devastating summer floods of 2022.
Classification of Food Insecurity:
Food insecurity/ scarcity may be of 2 types;
- The food shortage stays for a long period of time.
- The food shortage stays for a short period of time.
Why Food Insecurity in Pakistan?
There are the following reasons;
The gap in source and sink:
Wheat is a staple and national food of Pakistan. It is a good source of protein and fibre etc. Pakistan almost requires 31 million tonnes of wheat last year. With the increase in the human population, this figure is increasing. But last year we got less production due to many factors like high prices of fertilizer and floods etc. Due to this, we have to take wheat from other countries.
If we only continue to supply food commodities, food scarcity will not be solved. Many other factors affect food security indirectly. Fuel price increases have reduced agricultural productivity due to increased energy, transport and fuel costs. Moreover, high prices of agricultural machinery like plough equipment are also making agriculture more difficult.
Floods cause Food Insecurity:
Due to climate change floods and rains are also big problems for wheat and other crops due to which we are facing food shortage problems. It was reported that 3.6 million acres were affected by the floods and 45% of the agricultural land was destroyed due to standing water in the floods. In addition, 3 million livestock were exterminated.
National Food Security Policy:
In 2018, the first comprehensive document was presented by Government regarding food security. The aim of this policy is to increase the availability and sustainability of food. Its aim is also to make agriculture more productive and profitable. Climate change was also an important element of this agenda.
Solutions for Food Insecurity:
Here we will discuss/address some issues regarding food scarcity.
1. Avoid food wastage around:
Due to overloading and bad roads, most food losses occur around us. Moreover, there will be proper training on how much food you should take on your plate because most food is thrown into a dustbin (seen in most hotels and restaurants). Media should also play important role in this regard. In school, ethical lectures should also include different topics like food intake etc. According to reports, about 1.4 million tonnes of food waste occur in the world.
2. Need to improve the infrastructure:
Due to poor road conditions and other facilities, some farmers cannot take their products to the grain market. When the product reaches the market it starts deteriorating due to long travelling, which also makes processing more difficult. The availability of food in the market will decrease the issues regarding food scarcity.
3. Need betterment in policies:
Sometimes food crises are also due to a lack of strong policies. The government takes the agricultural product from a farmer at cheaper rates and sell them to the consumer at higher rates. Due to this both parties ate in the loss. And businessmen are earning very well. Governments need to improve these policies/standards and ensure that participation is fair for everyone. Moreover Govt. and some major private bodies should implement SDGs (Sustainable Development Goals). Moreover Govt. should also think about food storage bodies.
4. Encouraging a Variety of Food:
Since wheat is the staple food for us so we should work on more yield of wheat. But on the other hand, there will be a campaign or message regarding a variety of food so that there may not be a shortfall of our primary crop. With the availability of more types of food and a sophisticated public about the significance of a varied diet, there will be enough staple food available in the markets.
5. Lesser yield:
In our soil, fewer yields are obtained due to nutrient depletion. Due to this a lot of fertilizer is required to produce the crops. Moreover, agricultural lands are getting less due to urban societies. In order to get the desirable yield per acre, govt. should adopt sustainable agriculture so that better results may come out.
6. Climate change:
Climate change is a serious threat to not our lives but also to food production. If we overcome only climate change, then there will be enough food not only for the rich but also for the poor people for feeding.
The production of crops and animals for the long term in which the environment is damaged less is called sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture is the method of farming using eco-friendly techniques that maintains a healthy relationship between organisms and the environment. Therefore, the agriculture sector and livestock husbandry are continually working on it. In other words, sustainable agriculture is an amalgamation of three main elements, i.e. ecological health, profitability and promoting equity.
Sustainable agriculture and technology:
Sustainable agriculture uses best management practices by following targeted cultivation. The agricultural process focuses on disease-oriented hybrids, pest control with bio-pesticides, and lesser use of pesticides and fertilizers. Biological control is adopted which is target oriented and harmless.
Irrigation to the crops can be given by using a different instrument like a sprinkler by which we don’t need to flood the whole field but only makes it available to the roots of plants. The purpose of sustainable agriculture is both production of better crops and the rearing of animals. Sustainable agriculture procedures green technologies as a means to reduce the waste of non-renewable energy and increase production.
Soil is a medium for plant growth. If the soil health is good, it can give us better production. And there are also many ways by which soil health can be maintained. Therefore, soil health can be maintained using ecological methods. Soil fauna also helps in the mixing of soil.
With the increase in population, it is very necessary to adopt sustainable agriculture and more scientific work is needed regarding less use of fertilizer, pesticides and higher-yielding varieties so that we can fulfil our requirements.
MS (Hons.) Agricultural Entomology, University of the Punjab Lahore