3:00PM to 05:00pm
SDPI Seminar Hall, 38, Main Embassy road, G-6/3, Islamabad
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization, the agricultural sector sustains the livelihoods of 45% of Pakistan’s population. In particular, wheat production is a mainstay of the country’s food security, with 24 million tons of wheat produced in 2010. Rice production has also doubled since 1980 and is now one of the country’s major export crops.
Despite the growth in production of staple crops, Pakistan has experienced a sharp decline in food security in recent years due to a combination of militant activity, natural disaster, and economic instability. In 2010, the country experienced its worst natural disaster in decades when flooding submerged almost one-fifth of the country’s landmass. The floods destroyed infrastructure, left almost 20 million people without access to food, clean water, and health services, and severely damaged the country’s agricultural sector (WFP 2012). The food insecure population rose from 38 percent of the total population to 50 percent (83 million people) between 2003 and 2009; it is estimated that this number has risen further to 90 million people in the aftermath of the 2010 floods (World Food Programme 2012). Militant activities have also had severe financial impact on the country, contributing to widespread unemployment and a skyrocketing inflation rate that reached 16 percent by the end of 2010 (WFP 2012).
Pakistan’s rural population faces particular challenges, with two-thirds of the total population and 80 percent of the poor population living in rural areas (International Fund for Agricultural Development, 2012). Poverty is particularly widespread in the country’s many mountainous areas where isolated communities, rugged terrain, and ecological fragility make agricultural production difficult. Additionally given the negative externalities impacting Pakistan, food insecurity exacerbates unrest and political instability.
The term food security reflects the desire to eliminate hunger and malnutrition. The World Food Summit in 1996 defined food security as, “when all people at all times have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet the dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. This definition implies that food security has three pillars i.e., physical availability of food, socio-economic access to food and food absorption.
Based on a composite index of the above mentioned pillars of food security, it is observed that state of food security in Pakistan has deteriorated since 2003. The conditions for food security are inadequate in 61 percent districts (80 out of 131districts) of Pakistan. This is a sharp increase from 2003, when conditions for food security were inadequate in 45 percent districts (54 out of 120 districts) of Pakistan. Almost half of the population of Pakistan (48.6 percent) doesn’t have access to sufficient food for active and healthy life at all times, (Sustainable Development Policy Institute, 2009).
The state of Pakistan’s food insecurity comes against a backdrop where global hunger is being systematically reduced. In this context the United Nations’ Secretary General Ban Ki-moon launched the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012, to eliminate hunger by 2030.
In a country like Pakistan this is only possible through intensive and sustainable food production – areas in which the Dutch have expertise. In a public diplomacy initiative the Embassy of the Netherlands will bring an international expert to discuss latest technologies, innovations and ideas with interested stakeholder groups in Pakistan.
- Romke Wustman, Director and Owner Wustman Potato Consultancy
- Dr. Abid Q. Suleri. Executive Director SDPI