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Strengthening farmers’ ability key to food security: Senator Mushahidullah

Strengthening farmers’ ability key to food security: Senator Mushahidullah

ISLAMABAD: Ministry of Climate Change and World Food Prgramme (WFP) have agreed to work together to address climate risks to agriculture sector and issues of escalating food insecurity and malnutrition in the country.

“Boosting agriculture productivity cannot be achieved as long as the sector is not climate-resilient and able to sustain climate-induced disasters, such as floods, heavy rains, hailstorms and shifting weather patterns,” said Lolo Castro during her meeting with Federal Minister for Climate Change Senator Mushahidullah Khan held here.

Castro informed the minister that rapidly changing weather patterns and erratic rains pose a serious threat to farmers’ ability to grow more crops, majority of whom have already abandoned farming and shifted to other sources of livelihoods, particularly cattle and poultry farming.

There is need for the present government to play its role for improving farmers’ ability to produce food in today’s changing climate by enabling them to adapt to the shifting weather patterns.

Senator Mushahidullah Khan told the WFP Country Director that the present government is fully acquainted with the impacts of climate change on country’s agriculture and water resources, which are being addressed on war-footing grounds through different policy measures.

“Besides, new and climate-resilient crop varieties, which are flood, heat and heavy rain-tolerant are being introduced among farmers, that will help boost acreage of different crops and reduce their climate vulnerability,” the minister highlighted during the meeting.

Lolo Castro also showed willingness on behalf of her organization that WFP is seriously interested to carry out Climate Risks and Food Security Analysis (CRFSA) study jointly with the climate change ministry. The study would aim to boost climate change adaptation in the agriculture sector in the light of the recommendations of the study.

“Though the study would basically aim to assess climate impacts on food security ad livelihoods, the overarching objective of it is to quantitatively and qualitatively assess climate (including climate variability, change and extremes) impacts on food security and livelihoods,”, she explained.

The WFP country director also told the minister that her organisation is also ready to support the federal climate changeministry for conducting a National Adaptation Plan (NAP) exercise for achieving food security.

Senator Mushahidullah welcomed the generous offer and told her, “We would mull over matters as to how my ministry can be of any support in conducting the CRFSA study in the country and how follow-up recommendations of the study benefit country’s agriculture sector, which is mainstay of the economy and source of livelihood for millions of farming families.”

There was no denying the fact that making the agriculture sector resilient to different impacts of climate change was inevitable, particularly at a time when groundwater resources were fast depleting due to shrinking rainy days and incidences of floods, heat waves, torrential rains and hailstorms continue to increase and intensify, the federal minister noted.

Mushahidullah Khan observed that food security in Pakistan is highly sensitive to climate risks. Recent climate-related events, such as the five consecutive floods from 2010 to 2014, persisting drought conditions in country’s south district of Tharparkar, delayed winter rains, recent rains and hailstorm in country’s north and eastern districts including Chakwal.

These weird events highlight the potential impacts of climate on food production, access to markets and income from agricultural activities, the minister stressed.

Federal Climate Change Secretary Arif Ahmed Khan, observed that the ways in which livelihoods and other vulnerabilities are linked to climate in the country have not been well studied.

However, it is hoped that the WFP’s proposed CRFSA study would be of great support, the secretary hoped.

He said that the majority of farmers in the country are small and marginal landowners, who are resource-poor. They are most affected due to their low adaptive capacity and risk-taking ability.

“By incorporating various adaptation measures in the agriculture system one can increase the resilience and adaptive capacity of the small landholders,” he suggested.

Castro highlighted that agriculture in a climate change context requires a multi-sectoral and multi-agency approach.

Government policies, and the various departments and development agencies need to synchronise their efforts towards achieving sustainable agriculture productivity and food and nutrition security, particularly for the small and marginal farmers.