Climate change in Pakistan: from food surplus to food deficiency

Among all the challenges which Pakistan is facing nowadays, one of the fastest growing challenges is the food insecurity in a changing climate. There are several reasons behind this trap because of which Pakistan is facing it. One of the main reasons is the high population rate and the changing climate conditions add fuel to fire.

Climate change and population dynamics are closely interrelated. Along with the population growth, climate change is also a major factor in this alarming situation. Water productivity has a large impact on agricultural livelihoods which has pushed many people to find alternatives. And we can’t ignore this population dynamics in emerging food security.

The State Bank of Pakistan warned about food shortages due to climate changes in its 2019 third quarter report and also alerting about the unchecked population growth. The State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) noted provincial disparities in terms of food security in Pakistan. In Balochistan, at least 30% households experience hunger on a chronic basis. On the other hand, Gilgit-Baltistan has the most food secure households (nearly 80%) in the region, followed by Khyber Paktunkhwa (70%).

Alarmingly, of the 37% “food insecure” households in the country, 18% face “severe” food insecurity. Only 63% of the country’s households are “food secure” despite the fact that Pakistan is self-sufficient in major staples. According to the SBP, almost a quarter of Pakistan’s population lives below the poverty line (set at Rs3,030 per adult equivalent per month). This means that around 50 million people in the country are unable to access basic needs given their incomes. Most of these people dwell in rural areas where the poverty rate is 30%.

“Hunger is exclusion-exclusion from the land, from income, jobs, wages, life and citizenship. When a person gets to the point of not having anything to eat, it is because all the rest has been denied. This is a modern form of exile. It is death in life…”

 (Josue de Castro)

Wheat is the staple food in Pakistan and staple crops are meant to define the food of any country. Increase in the prices of staple crops influence the nation in accordance to its use in food basket. Wheat flour caters 48% of caloric needs of Pakistan. There has been a drastic increase in wheat prices from last decades and this inflationary pattern has affected the population’s food consumption with increase in food expenditure in their household budgets.

As discussed above, the main reason of this food insecurity is the rise in population. Pakistan population density is 287 per square kilometre and it ranks number five on the list of most populous countries. Bangladesh is one of the example of this increasing growth rate trap and food insecurity with 900 people per square kilometer but the country made deliberate efforts to overcome this huge gap with their effective policies and well supported public and private sector family planning programs with other investments in human capital.

Pakistan too needs to adopt such effective policies which could help it in copping up with this trap. Pakistan’s rapid spiraling and unchecked population growth of over three per cent per annum during 1972-1998 is the main reason. In contrast, other countries in the region, most notably Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, had already started experiencing major declines in population growth.

Climate change and population dynamics are closely interrelated. Along with the population growth, climate change is also a major factor in this alarming situation. Water productivity has a large impact on agricultural livelihoods which has pushed many people to find alternatives. And we can’t ignore this population dynamics in emerging food security.

Migrations from small cities to metropolitans is one of the reason behind which has contributed in this all scenario. Moreover, the land mafias convert the cultivable lands to housing societies and commercial real estates. As this is all done because of growing population and they need roofs to live too but they want food too.

These emerging issues are not haunting for everyone till yet as for now urban people are still protected as they have capital to buy expensive food and some of the less vulnerable areas like KPK and Punjab are still achieving net grains in agriculture but the worst conditions are for the people of western dry plateau and sandy mountains in the southern half of the country.

The need of hour is to urgently priorities food security in our governmental policies and to make earnest efforts rein in population growth. We always fail to get the root causes of our economy and society that our growing regional inequalities are linked with main economic sector. Following the situation we seriously do not count the people dying with scream for water, food and livelihoods, instead we are preoccupied with the international stuff.

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2 Comments

  1. Maryum Ishaque says

    100% true
    Weldone Fatima keep it up

  2. Amima says

    Very well told the idea of not having trouble regarding food and water in future . Kudos to you

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