Covid-19 has been inundating all the socio-economic sectors. Food and agriculture are no exemptions. The threat of severe food crisis and food security is looming on the world, according to the World Food Program, 265 million people could face acute food security by the end of 2020. The chances are high in the developing world especially in the countries of North Africa and West Asia.
The imminent food and agriculture emergency is owing to less availability of labor, less accessibility to transportation, and decline in trade owing to the lockdowns all over the world. This has been ushering in unemployment, less foreign exchange and inflation of food products; and resultantly in poverty, decrease in agriculture production, poverty and food insecurity
In case of Pakistan, these intimidations are also high, according to the report of the World Food Program, 2020 Global Report Food Crisis, 23 percent of people in drought-affected areas of Baluchistan and Sindh are stressed and 51 percent are in crisis. As Pakistan is a labor-intensive agrarian country, the availability of adequate labor is required during harvesting. The pandemic has caused adjournment in mango and wheat harvesting. Resultantly, the farmers have faced income losses owing to delay in supply and pre-harvest food loses.
Apart from this, imports and exports of Pakistan have also been affecting since the eruption of the virus. As far as imports are concerned, Pakistan imported farm machinery, fertilizers, oilseeds, and cotton mostly from china and also from India, where the agriculture sector is in crisis. The less import of these commodities would result in low agriculture production in the coming season. This would affect exports of the country in retrospect because 75 percent of exports are based on agriculture products as said by the Fakhar Imam, Federal Minister for National Food Security and Research, to Virtual Regional Consultative Technical Meetings FAO.
‘Another crisis within the crises’ as said by the World Bank is locust attack. As per the estimations of FAO losses of 500 billion is expected from locust attack. Climate change is also a factor that has been affecting agriculture.
The present situation could usher in severe food insecurity in Pakistan where already 20 percent of 6-23 month children are malnourished as estimated by the Food Security Information Network. Likewise, in Global Hunger Index 2019, Pakistan ranked 94th out of 117 countries. Moreover, current account deficit and poverty could also gain traction.
Albeit the government has been taking initiative in the form of relief and funds for low-income families and farmers, these are not fruitful in the long term. Amidst changing weather conditions, epidemics, droughts, and floods have been increasing, the real solution lies in sustainable agriculture practices. At the state level, the government ought to make sustainability a part and parcel of its policies especially of those related to agriculture to overpower the panacea of food insecurity, poverty, unemployment, and trade deficit.
Sustainability has three pillars: economy, society, and environment. The aims of agriculture sustainability are an increase in agriculture income, food security, and protection of the environment.
In the case of Pakistan, economic sustainability in agriculture can be accomplished by increasing farm mechanization, wide use of biotechnology in agriculture, post-harvest technological developments, and the establishment of a wide range of food industries. This would prove helpful in increasing yield, overcoming post-harvest losses, and the production of value-added food products. This would surely lead to an increase in the farmers’ income and an increase in countries export of agrarian products.
Social sustainability in agriculture expounds food security, easy access of farmers to markets and transportation, and protecting human health. This can be attained by increasing yield, the wise use of pesticides, farmer training, and infrastructure development for the ease of farmers. Confiscation of malpractices and monopoly of landowners and the business elite in the agriculture sector of the country is also ineluctable.
Agricultural environmental sustainability includes soil protection, less use of fossil fuels, viable use of water, and resisting drought situation. For this purpose, water resource management, use of renewable energy resources, and proper protection and maintenance of environment and capacity building in this regard are indispensable.
All these measures are linked with the technical training of farmers, farm-academia association, and research and development along with the mutual efforts of different state institutions and transparency of the system. The meticulously designed and well-delineated policies and their sophisticated and across-the-board implementation is a pressing need of time in the world of myriad of crisis and competition.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the blog are the writer’s own opinion. Dunya News will not be held responsible for any kind of discrepancy.