National Food Security Policy review must amid focus on addressing malnutrition, women in agriculture

The Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) organised a consultative discussion titled “Reviewing Pakistan’s Food Security Policy Amidst Climate Change and Nutrition Situation” to stir discourse on shortcomings in the existing policy and way forward for enhanced food security and climate resilience here on Thursday.
In his opening remarks, Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, Executive Director, SDPI said the Ministry of National Food Security and Research had undergone a phase of transformation with an ambitious goal to transform it into a holistic and powerful forum which was never materialised.
Dr Suleri mentioned that the world was grappling with different complexities shifting policy focus from food security to sustainable production, consumption, and less carbon intensive food supply chains and the climate change casting drastic impacts on the food production, consumption and storage patterns.
He added that since the climate change had challenged all prerequisites of food security then it was imperative to make a review of the existing food security policy.
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were the second most important component of addressing food security and malnutrition as over 190 million masses of the country were facing security and hunger crises, he said.
Qasim Ali Shah, Deputy Executive Director, SDPI said in the debate of food security in the context of Pakistan, the global food security context should not be overlooked as the growing climate crisis, conflicts, economic slowdowns and lack of global action for achieving SDG 2 by 2030 had become increasingly infeasible.
Under the National Food Security Policy 2016, there were various targets that were achieved while some of them were missed. However, it had provided a proper framework to ensure food security in Pakistan and mechanism to co-ordinate between different actors and tiers of the government and institutionalised the SDGs and Zero hunger programme.
“Roughly 18% population was undernourished in 2016, whereas at present, 19% population is undernourished and 42% of the population is moderately or severely food insecure,” Qasim Shah mentioned.
He underlined that the inclusion of hi-tech equipment in the agriculture sector was still facing hurdles, whereas the seminar would help to kick-start discourse on stocktaking of national food security policy and discuss prospects for the review of the policy.
Dr Aamer Irshad, Head of Program FAO said the country population since partition in 1947 witnessed a visible boom from 35 million masses to 250 million by 2024.
He said almost 3-4% food items were imported while the remaining 95% were managed from local production, whereas the supplies of the local produce were also satisfactory.
Dr Irshad noted that agriculture was stull an important component of the economy as 63% of the country’s population lived in rural areas and the majority of them was associated with agriculture.
However, due to increased cost of healthy diet on average one person required a dollar to buy healthy diet and 74% of the population could not afford it as it makes it Rs 55,000 per month while the basic wage was Rs 32,000.
“Agriculture sector share to GDP was 60% in 1947 that has currently dropped to 22%. The overall arable land is 22 million hectares (ha) out of available 80 ha and out of this 80% is irrigated which is one the largest in the world and also a positive opportunity,” Dr Irshad said.
He also explained the agricultural boom in the 1960s and 1970s due to the government’s policies promoting green agriculture technologies, free modern seeds, and cheaper fertilizer.
The FAO’s head of program mentioned that full fledge roll our of 4G services with climate smart agriculture technologies ensuring climate mitigation, adaptation and improved yield for the farmers was key to achieve agriculture resilience.
Farrah Naz, Country Director GAIN said Pakistan’s food security context has transformed massively amid global happenings. Pakistan, she said has adopted many strategies like scaling up of nutrition movement and its adoption in the country that showed its sincerity towards the issue.
“We need to take food system holistically and consider all stages apart from agriculture in totality. Poor food security is the outcome of an inappropriate food system. The current policy when developed was progressive at that time as it’s nomenclature and role was changed but the mechanisation of agriculture changed the role of women and their share in agriculture,” the GAIN’s country director said.
She suggested that it was necessary to provide more opportunities to small farmers and focus indigenous crops addressing malnutrition that would help strengthen women’s role in food nutrition.
Moreover, the role of private sector needed to be strengthened with the revision of National Food Security policy, she added.
In his concluding remarks, Dr Saleem Mohsan, agronomist, Ministry of Food Security and Research said after the 18th Constitutional Amendment and devolution of powers the coordination between the federation and the provinces was not strong as per the spirit of that legislation.
Despite the fact, he said that provinces were independent to formulate their policies but the federation could provide them national guidelines for a unified legislation that would include series of consultative meetings before any policy endeavour.
He said the government at the national level had not decided to achieve self-sufficiency in dedicated crops, keeping in view the exports and international market prospects and also to separate the less important crops.
Saleem Mohsan suggested that the reviewed national food security policy should be province specific keeping in view their landscape and ecological zones with policy recommendations and implementation strategies clearly mentioned in the document.
He added that after that the focus should be made on quantum of food for first three years to increase availability and then quality alongwith integrated nutrients addition to improve soil health.

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