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Published Date: Nov 1, 2003

Food Insecurity in Rural Pakistan 2003 (PP-4)

Executive Summary

United Nations (UN) Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) 1948. Scarcity of food can be a potential source of conflicts and incidence of socio-economic and political instability. There is a close nexus among food insecurity, poverty and disease. So food is not only an agricultural and a trade commodity but is also a political and public health issue.

Despite being a complex process, securing food is the only way to honor the right to food and thus international commitments. Food security leads towards healthy lives, a resolve national governments have reiterated through international covenants and declarations such as the UDHR 1948, International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR 1966) and World Food Summit (WFS-1996).

Food security has international, regional, national and household dimensions. Effective supply and demand and equitable distribution of food are the preconditions to secure food at any of these levels. A minimum level of health standard that can help convert food intake to support a healthy body is an additional requirement to measure effective food security.

For sustainable food security at national and household levels, states need to provide its people an enabling environment by ensuring them an easy access to opportunities of having sufficient food. They need to monitor the state of food security within their respective countries and at household levels. Food Security Analysis (FSA) provides such an opportunity that helps plan and timely intervene to ensure food security. This however, requires institutional capacity and capability, which many developing countries including Pakistan lack at present.

World Food Programme (WFP) Pakistan, being cognizant of this deficiency, undertook a preliminary FSA in 1998. Its findings however, could not help ascertain the true food security situation of Pakistan due to limited scope and content of the FSA.

This shortcoming prompted WFP to plan another more comprehensive FSA, both for rural and urban areas. As in case of poverty, there also exists in many countries a rural urban divide in terms of food security. Accordingly, at first place, FSA 2003 for rural Pakistan was undertaken from June 2003 to June 2004. It analyzed, using a set of relevant indicators, available secondary data on the basis of three key determinants of food security namely physical access to food (availability), economic access to food, and effective biological utilization (food absorption). FSA 2003 findings, summarized below, translate into a “State of Food Insecurity” prevailing in Rural Pakistan.

Food availability, the 1st pillar of food security, was assessed on the basis of food production and consumption. Out of 120 district settings in Pakistan, 74 (62%) were found to be food deficit in terms of net availability. This deficit varies ranging from low through high to extreme degree. Wheat, a staple, catering for 48% of caloric needs in Pakistan, was found deficit in terms of net availability and the shortage was estimated at 3.2 million tons annually. Out of 120 districts, only 48 (40%) were producing surplus or enough to cater to the needs of these districts. In other words, 72 districts (60%) were deficient in wheat availability.

Among 29 wheat surplus districts, 69 percent were in Punjab, 21 percent in Sindh and 10 percent in Balochistan. FSA 2003 ranked, in terms of availability, NWFP, Northern Areas (NAs) and AJK as net food insecure. This state of insecurity, translated into caloric supply at provincial level, revealed that in NWFP caloric poverty in terms of its incidence was the most prevalent as only 1106 Kcals per capita were available from the provincial resources. This caloric shortfall leads towards hunger, as defined by FAO and discussed elsewhere in this report.

FSA 2003 also indicates that mega cities pitted against mounting population pressure are also being adversely affected. For example, even in wheat surplus province of Punjab, the provincial capital Lahore, home to 81 percent of the district population, was among the net food insecure zones in terms of availability.

In Sindh, 6 out of 17 (35%) districts were wheat surplus and only 8 (47%) were in self-reliant bracket as against 9 (53%) wheat insecure districts. It suggests that even Sindh, the 2nd largest wheat-producing province, was deficit in terms of wheat availability. In Balochistan, only 3 (12%) out of 26 districts were production surplus as against 18 (69%) wheat deficit districts. In NWFP, there is no wheat surplus district and only 2 (8%) out of 24 districts were self-reliant in wheat production.

In case of rice, the 2nd staple, only 37 (31 %) out of 120 districts were found to be production surplus. Of these, 57 percent were in Punjab, 19 percent in NWFP, 16 percent in Sindh, 5 percent in Balochistan and 3 percent in F ATA. In Punjab, 71 percent of districts had either surplus production or had enough rice to meet local needs, and 29 percent of districts experienced varying degree of deficit in rice. In Sindh, out of 17 only 6 (35%) districts were surplus, while 65 percent of districts were deficit in rice production, compared to 53 percent deficit in wheat.

In case of NWFP, rice availability was better, as 10 (42%) districts out of 24 had surplus production or they were self-reliant, compared to wheat where 22 districts were deficient in wheat.

Cereals meet one-half of caloric needs in developing countries. On net cereal availability basis, out of 120 districts 31 (26%) had surplus production. Of these, 23 were in Punjab, 5 in Sindh and 3 in Balochistan. There were yet another 21 (18%) districts that could meet their local needs. In sum, 52 (43%) of the districts in Pakistan were found self-reliant in net cereal availability and remaining 68 (57%) were deficit in cereals.

On overall crop-based food availability (exclusive of livestock products) out of 120 districts, 39 (32%) had surplus production, 6 (5%) were self-reliant while 35 (29%) were extremely insecure and 40 (33%) experienced deficit of low to high degree. This suggests that net crop-based food availability, compared to net cereals or wheat/rice availability was better.

Availability of livestock products, contributing 7 to 16 percent in daily diet of rural people, presents altogether different picture compared to crop-based food. In this case, the marginal land areas such as Balochistan, NAs, FATA and part of NWFP, that are otherwise acutely deficient in crop-based food, generate production surplus in case of livestock products. Out of 120 districts 43 (36%) have surplus production and another 37 (31%) have sufficient livestock-based food production. In total, out of 120 districts, 80 (67%) are self-reliant and only 40 (33%) encounter some degree of deficit in livestock-based food. FSA 2003 findings suggest that marginal lands of Pakistan have comparative advantage in livestock production, as against fertile belts of Sindh and Punjab that enjoy advantage in crop-based food production.

On net agro-livestock products basis, including both key sources of food availability, 34 (28%) out of 120 districts were found surplus. These figures, translated into net food availability, suggest that 74 (62%) out of 120 districts faced deficit of varying degree.

In terms of economic access to food, as against the physical access food availability affords, FSA 2003 revealed that income inequality factors especially land, and access to opportunities such as education and employment have led to a wide range of disparities. Consequently, women, labor, landless and small farmers are being adversely affected in terms of access to food, as the above-mentioned inequality factors impact income opportunities. For example, in 57 (48%) out of 120 districts literacy rate was in the range of 1130 percent.

Reduced capacity of agriculture sector in terms of gainful employment is another important factor impacting opportunities in rural Pakistan. Further, as majority of holdings were small, such as in 105 (88%) out of 120 districts, percentage of marginal cultivators having less than one acre of land was up to 30 percent. The small farmers were thus unable to enhance agricultural productivity beyond a certain limit for want of resources and economy of scale.

The number of landless farmers too was high, for example, in 30 (25%) districts, the number of such farmers was above 20 percent. As a result, the low income of96 (80%) districts out of 120 found further plunging into low through very low to extremely low-income bracket, impacted economic access to food. This limited physical and economic access to food, translated into caloric poverty, suggests that out of 120, only 34 (28%) districts had surplus, while 12 (10%) had enough caloric supply. Whereas, 74 (62%) districts were found deficient in terms of caloric supply assessed on the basis of 2350 Kcal per capita per day and as recommended by Planning Commission of Pakistan. Other factors such as rural infrastructure, especially the roads that provide access to local market, also seem to affect the income and thus access to food.

Effective biological utilization or food absorption, the 3rd pillar of food security, was assessed on the basis of parameters including access to safe drinking water, immunization cover and infant mortality, access to medics and paramedics and rural health infrastructure. It revealed that out of 120 only 11 (9%) districts of Pakistan performed reasonably well while 45 (38%) experienced extremely low rate of food absorption. Poor food absorption speaks of nutritional insecurity, even if food is available and is also accessible. Achievement of nutritional security implies biological availability of protein, energy, micronutrients and minerals to households. Since ensuring nutritional security of the household in Pakistan remains the exclusive domain of women, responsible for preparing and serving food, they along with their children and other members of the household whom they cater food are adversely affected by this situation.

The contributory factors to this state of affairs include inter alia the poor access to potable water, for example in 113 (94%) out of 120 districts, safe drinking water was available to less than 50% percent of the population. It implies that 50 percent of the population drinks unsafe water which contaminates food. The food-borne diseases perhaps are the most widespread health problem in the contemporary world and are important cause of reduced economic activity. Similarly, on disease control front, primarily a function of effective immunization programs, FSA2003 revealed that 108 (90%) out of 120 districts had immunization cover of less than 80 percent. Resultantly, infant mortality rate was above 80 per thousand in 34 (28%) districts outof120.

Overall health security as assessed by rural health infrastructure and access to medics and paramedics was another contributory factor towards poor food absorption. For instance, in 117 (98%) out of 120 districts, rural health facilities were less than 51 per million population. This included Punjab province which otherwise had better performance, on parameters such as food availability and economic access. As ensuring food security for household is not only a function of food availability and economic access but also of whether or not the available and accessible food fulfills nutritional requirements of the household. So, the poor health security and resultant poor absorption impacts the net gains.

The net impact of these factors, assessed on the bases of three aforementioned determinants or three pillars of food security translates into net state of food insecurity, prevailing in 80 percent of the rural Pakistan, ranging from less to extremely insecure levels.

FSA 2003 also came up with substantial evidence that inter and intra provincial disparities exist in terms of food security. For example, majority of food insecure districts 28 percent fall in Balochistan, followed by 26 percent in NWFP, 14 percent in Sindh, 13 percent in Punjab, 9 percent in FATA, 6 percent in NAs and 5 percent in AJK. In the intra provincial context, 65 percent of food insecure districts were in Sindh, 29 percent in Punjab, and 88 percent in NWFP, 85 percent in Balochistan, 100 percent each in NAs and F ATA.

These findings of FSA 2003 are revealing in many ways, for example they disagree, based on available evidence, with the commonly held opinion that Pakistan was moderately food secure at macro level. The findings support the argument that hidden hunger is more pronounced in Pakistan than what macro picture of food security presents. In view of growing population pressure and resultant demand of food, FSA findings are enough to ring the alarm bell, as they estimate an annual shortfall of 3.2 million MT of wheat alone, the main staple, on the basis of average annual wheat harvest of 18 million MT.

In view of the foreign exchange required in procuring such a huge quantity of wheat, factors constraining productivity, the changing trade paradigm under the World Trade Organization (WTO), and the huge cost involved in readjustments, challenge is enormous yet it is not insurmountable.

Investment in agriculture and rural development, institutional capacity building, human resource development, integration of gender in development, promotion of equitable distribution, development of material and quality infrastructure inter alia are among some of the recommendations that logically follow FSA 2003.

FSA 2003 underscores the need for well thought of national food security strategies and suggests institutional arrangements needed for orchestration and integration of a strategy with other socio-economic interventions such as food availability and nutritional security at national level. It underlines the need that, to make development process responsive to the needs of the people, initiatives such as poverty alleviation should go hand in hand with those aiming at food security.

In this context, agricultural and rural development needs high priority in development plans which shall help correct the existing mismatch between food availability and the population’s nutritional requirements.