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How Disasters has affected the Agriculture sector of Pakistan?

Agriculture is the backbone of any country. It directly or indirectly supports the livelihoods of more than 70% population. However, in recent years it has been facing many risks and threats because of environmental and man-made disasters. Pakistan being highly prone to natural hazards also doesn’t remain safe from such calamities as earthquakes, floods, drought, heavy snowfall etc. The agriculture production was badly affected by these disasters not only in case of damage on crops but crops were damaged due to non-availability of irrigation system which provides water for subsistence farming i.e. rain-fed farming and almost 40% population living on this type of farming has lost its source of livelihood that ultimately results into poverty and famine. These calamities are one of the major reasons for reducing the GDP of Pakistan.

At this time, it really needs to develop strategies, policies and plans that are aimed at minimizing risks and impacts of disasters on the agriculture sector. It is important not only for the sustainability of agricultural production but also to decrease poverty, improve food security as well as the livelihoods of rural communities in Pakistan. Some initiatives have been taken by Federal Ministries such as the Ministry of National Food Security & Research (MoNFSR), Ministry of Agriculture Production, Department Departments Meteorology & Hydrology (DMHD) and local authorities along with their partner’s Non-Governmental Organizations etc. But still much more work needs to be done in this regard so that agriculture can become sustainable due to planning for disaster risk reduction measures, strengthen resilience and build adaptive capacity of people, institutions as well as agricultural systems.

Various risks have been identified at the national level which affects agriculture production i.e. droughts, floods, earthquakes and landslides etc. In addition to these natural hazards, there are other man-made disasters such as human-wildlife conflicts, pest attacks on crops, livestock diseases and various other health problems that also leads to a loss in agricultural production. It is important to reduce the adverse impacts of any disaster falling on the agriculture sector including probabilistic risk assessment techniques through scientific studies is a major need of time.

Keeping this in view an extensive survey was conducted at district Chakwal during the year 2015-16 by the team members of Disaster Management Department (DMD) and Pakistan Meteorological Department (PMD), National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) by visiting some selected villages of district Chakwal. Also, a questionnaire was developed for the purpose which was distributed to different farmers on spot. Results revealed that frost, flooding due to heavy rainfall in irrigated areas, lack of water for irrigation are three main threats in this area i.e. from natural causes whereas health problems such as livestock diseases & pests attacks on crops are another major source of risk factors affecting agriculture production in District Chakwal during last few years were found above 70% respondents answered constructive responses regarding impacts of these disasters on the agriculture sector. It is reported that at least 1/3rd quantity or more output has been lost due to these reasons.

These problems hamper sustainable development of the agriculture sector and need to be addressed immediately otherwise more & more people will fall into extreme poverty at the peripheral level due to this vicious cycle of climatic variations, health problem, agronomic practices and other drivers causing major losses in agricultural livelihoods for the poor people.

Due to delay in monsoon, persistent hot weather conditions and prolonged dry spells during the last couple of years adverse impacts on agriculture production was recorded across the province.

As compared to the other physical and human losses, adverse impacts on the agriculture sector caused by disasters are considered as one of the major disaster-related impacts. The yield losses in main rainfed crops such as wheat, cotton and corn etc. are usually reported across Pakistan during the rainy season especially during the October-December period due to failure of monsoon rains which leads to drought-like situations in some areas for almost a month or even more causing a huge economic loss for farmers. Yearly average damage of around Rs 10 billion has been recorded during the last few years through these types of natural hazards alone. Other weather extremes viz., floods, droughts, wind storms, hurricanes and snowfall etc. also cause considerable damages, particularly in the case of irrigation farming systems especially ground-based ones.

Highlighting few issues the agriculture sector facing

Agriculture products export problem due to Covid 19 IN Pakistan

Due to CoronaVirus Pakistan has faced an Export of products problem. A large number of agricultural products worth millions of rupees have been destroyed in Punjab and Sindh provinces in the last 11 months due to coronavirus due to no proper export system.

Agriculture Inputs import-export problem due to disasters?

No one is taking notice of the huge losses Pakistan is incurring due to coronavirus. The government claims it has given top priority to the eradication of coronavirus in Pakistan, but no concrete steps have been taken as yet. Coronavirus is breeding due to a lack of proper import-export policy and there are hardly any export facilities for Pakistani products.

Price volatility of agriculture products when disaster emerge?

Price volatility is one of the biggest problems faced by the agriculture sector in Pakistan when disasters emerge. The low post-harvest prices have been a major concern for farmers in recent years, but price volatility on account of climate change will only aggravate the financial woes of these poor people.

Perishable products sustainability

According to experts, Pakistan’s perishable fruits and vegetables are increasingly being affected due to any disaster when products do not get access to the market. Experts say due to lack of cold storage facilities perishable fruits and vegetables are getting damaged in transit or during distribution.

Shifts in supply chain and consumer demand

Disruptions in the supply chain and shifts in consumer demand have also led to a situation where farmers are exposed to price volatility. The lack of cold storage facilities has caused serious damage to fruits and vegetables, which are transported over long distances from the producing areas to the cities. This increases the risk of spoilage resulting in quality loss during transportation.

When Disaster struck, we need to think in advance and prepare for the Disasters to overcome them.

The potential of technology is high but it needs appropriate management. In rural areas, water harvesting techniques are yielding good results as compared to other traditional methods not only because these are low-cost technologies, but also because they have higher irrigation efficiency and less human effort as compared to others. These trials show that simple technologies can improve agricultural productivity especially under rainfed conditions in the semi-arid regions of South Asia (Middle East). So more research should be carried out for this purpose by taking into consideration the socio-economic characteristics of each area where these methods were applied successfully or unsuccessfully which will help us to develop improved methodologies fit for local conditions.

A review of the current status shows that there is an existing irrigation potential of approximately 1.5 million hectares which can irrigate about 70% area under wheat with sprinkler system whereas the rest 30% area can be covered through lift irrigation (ground embedded) without any major capital investment. The major constraints for exploitation of this enormous potential are low water sharing arrangements among various stakeholders, especially in Sindh province because neither government nor the private sector has been adopting water management techniques as per international standards. Although ever-increasing demand for agricultural products may increase the opportunity but adding quantity to available resources will require considerable investments towards sufficient infrastructure development including small reservoirs etc., if not properly planned and implemented soon, the current status of Gujrat’s agriculture production will become worst.

Times Agriculture

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