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Pakistan Today

Published Date: Oct 20, 2011


Speakers at a conference warn of imminent crisis if investment is not made in agriculture infrastructure sector.
Food rights campaigners on Wednesday warned the provincial governments against inflated prices, which would lead to more hunger amidst fears of adding 30 million more to those living below poverty line.
Speaking at the first National Conference on Right to Food, jointly organised by FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) Pakistan Group, Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights (JDHR), ActionAid and Oxfam Novib and Dharti Campaign, in partnership with Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI), Sustainable Agriculture Action Group (SAAG) and Infochange News and Features Network (INFN).
A new research report ‘Food Price Hike: Empty Plates on Rise’ was also launched at the conference.
The activists called upon the governments to control price hike with immediate effect and said the time had come to act for protecting the hungry and the poor from food insecurity, vulnerability, land grabbing and denial of women’s right to land as it had a deep structural nexus with food security.
They demanded the provinces to legislate to protect right of the people to food and acknowledge women working in fields as farmers.
The speakers asked the governments that the laws must ensure that food reached to everyone not having the purchasing power and restrain the market forces from increasing the prices of edibles for corporate greed. “State is to check the market excesses,” the remarked. The conference provided an opportunity to women to connect with networks of farmers and policy campaigners to ensure that the female farmers were in the mainstream, with their contribution acknowledged, while the real producers of food had control over their produce for a just and equitable distribution.
The women farmers from South Punjab in their testimonies demanded that they should be given land so that they could cultivate themselves to earn a respectable livelihood. Tariq Mehmood from Pakistan Kissan Ittehad called for averting the crisis by stabilising food production with greater investments in agricultural infrastructure for an increased crop production and expanded storage facilities, which would lead to strengthened social safety nets. Shafqat Munir, FIAN Group Pakistan Convener, said in a country where almost half the population (48.6%) did not have access to sufficient food for an active and healthy life, right to food had fast emerged as the most major challenge.
Aalia Amir Ali from National Students Federation (NSF) called upon fighting against capitalism and feudalism to achieve people’s rights. She said despite Pakistan’s demonstrated commitment at International level including and obligation partially recognised in Article 38 of the Constitution, there was no legally binding mechanism through which the people could claim food as their right nor there seemed any short or long-term planning on the issue. Samina Nazir from PODA said prices and food insecurity at the household levels had been on the rise over the past few years. “Equal distribution, ownership, control and access to land are some important matters to be looked at while analysing the state of social justice and human rights.” Uzma Tahir from ActionAid said a number of efforts made by the civil the society organisations had resulted in allocation of 0.1 million acre of land by the Sindh government to 4,196 peasants.