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The Express Tribune

Published Date: Oct 29, 2013

Draft policy on food security: Fill policy gaps, protect the most vulnerable, say experts

Food security experts and small farmers from across the
country have demanded that the government ensure food supply to the most
vulnerable.

They were speaking on Monday at a national debate on the draft "National Food & Nutritional Policy", which has been developed by
the Ministry of National Food Security and Research. The debate was
organised by Oxfam Pakistan and Action Aid.

Government representatives, civil society members, small farmers and other stakeholders participated in the debate.

Zareen Gul, a female farmer from Layyah district in southern Punjab,
talked about the plight of small farmers in her area, saying that her
children now eat only two meals a day as her family was facing food
insecurity.

"I mix lemon juice with water and add spices. We cannot even cook a
proper curry at home. Very occasionally, they get to eat a chappati"
said Gul.

According to a statement issued by the Oxfam, in Pakistan equitable
food distribution faces severe hurdles because of climate change and is
further constrained by scarcity of land and water. "The draft prepared
by the ministry on food security is filled with gaps which need to be
sorted out."

It said that issues related to land, water shortages, floods,
industrial waste disposal by factories, land grabbing and hindrances
caused by middle men, lack of seeds and poor communication linkages with
markets were some of the dire issues which were needed to be addressed
to ensure food supply to the vulnerable.

During the debate, speakers asked the government to initiate
farmer-led initiatives. It was recommended that the new policy should
speak about inflation and food price volatility, address issues of land
grabbing and land degradation and effects of climate change should also
be integrated in the policy.

According to a report, with 70 per cent of the population living in
rural areas, almost 24 to 40 per cent of people live below the poverty
line in Pakistan.

Shaman Ali from Sanghar district, Sindh said that waste disposal by
factories were affecting the quality of food. "I’m sorry to say that the
fruits and vegetables that people are eating today are fed with
infected water. It is poisonous and no one is doing anything about it."

Oxfam Country Director Arif Jabbar Khan said that according to a
national nutrition survey, 31 million people in Pakistan were
malnourished. "We need appropriate policies to ensure access,
availability and utilisation of nutritious food for the poor and
policies should be implemented in their true spirit."

According to "food legislation in South Asia and its link with food
security," a research paper by Oxfam and SDPI, the government of
Pakistan has taken different steps from time to time to ensure food
security for its citizens. However, food insecurity was becoming an
emerging challenge for the country due to food inflation, despite ample
food crops production in the country.

National Food Security and Research Secretary Seerat Asghar said that
policies were there but the capacity building at provincial levels
remained a major bottleneck for their implementation.

"We all need to collectively realise that development of Pakistan
mainly depends on agriculture and we need to work on it," he said.