When the government fails to meet the basic needs of the people, the havens of terror often appear. Hunger, poverty and deprivation are widely debated among the primary causes of conflict and violence in a society. Without ensuring an individual security, one cannot guarantee of national security.
It is often rightly said that ‘Hunger anywhere threatens peace everywhere’. And this is what happening in Tharparkar, and other districts of Sindh, where due to government negligence and poor policies, people are suffering with severe famine and drought.
If we do examine, our national security is closely link with food security situation in the country. The alarming fact is that 58 percent of total population in the country is food insecure. Sindh is the most food-deprived province followed by Baluchistan. 72 percent of families in Sindh and 63.5 percent in Baluchistan are facing food insecurity. Of which almost 50 percent women and children are malnourished.
In addition to that, Pakistan is one of the most food-insecure countries in Asia and ranked high at 57 among 78 countries on Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2013.
Having said that knowing to all these facts, the government of Sindh has yet to prepare any plan to cope with this alarming situation, which is a big question mark on the governance of Sindh government.
Population growth is a serious challenge for Pakistan when it comes to service delivery. Unfortunately, the fact is that our policy makers remained failed to plan and implement according to the growing needs and demands. It’s been sixteen years now, our population census has yet to conduct due to unknown reasons, which might be one of the reasons of failure of policies. Without knowing the correct population statistics and need, no policy plan can be successful.
According to media reports, in Tharparkar, the wheat and other basic food items are being distributing on the basis of 1998 census, where as population have almost become doubled. Many affected families are still deprived of receiving any kind of assistance from government and other social organizations.
Pakistan has become 6th most populous country of the world with population growing at the rate of 2 percent per annum. The current population, which is estimated 184 million, is expected to nearly double by 2050, if it continues to grow at the present rate. In order to feed the growing population it is crucial to achieve national nutrition and food security.
Other pressing challenges, such as extreme weather events, surging food prices, and devastating floods continues to buffet the poor and most vulnerable. These crises and shocks forced the poor to take extreme measures. Majority of them migrated and others made ends meet by eating fewer meals per day and selling off their land and livestock.
In Pakistan, more than 10 million children (45 percent) under the age of five are suffering from chronic malnourishment. Of which 3.5 million children (15 percent) are acutely malnourished. Malnutrition contributes, directly or indirectly, to almost 45 percent of all deaths among children of age five in Pakistan and some 43 per cent of the children under the age of five stunted.
Malnutrition among children is also undermining their learning abilities. Fighting this alarming hunger population is now one of the biggest challenges for incumbent government.
Unlike other basic human rights, such as health and education, the constitution of Pakistan also ensures the ‘Right to Food’ for every citizen. Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan says: “The state shall provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race.”
Federal Minister for Planning and Development, Ahsan Iqbal has also acknowledge that “agriculture sector is backbone of our economy and an efficient, productive and profitable agriculture sector can play crucial role in ensuring food security and reducing poverty”. But unfortunately this does not reflect in the current draft policy on ‘agriculture and food security’.
The policy draft on ‘agriculture and food security’, presented in the cabinet by Ministry of National Food Security and Research (MNFSR), fails to address food security and nutrition issue in the country. The policy draft is no more but a ‘Wish List’. Because, the draft only tells about this and that will be done, but lacks at analytical framework. The policy draft is totally scientifically lopsided.
Food security cannot be ensured only by increasing the availability of food. The draft only focuses on availability of food, but lacks other aspects of accessibility which include physical, social and economic aspects that govern the provision of sufficient food. There is extremely declining capacity within the government and lack of cohesive strategies of short, medium and long term plans in the draft.
There is no mention on National Zero Hunger programme which was inaugurated by former Prime Minister, Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani in March 2012. The framework for this programme is ready and only need is allocation of resources.
Availability of food at the right place at the right time is also an important issue. There is no centralized coordination mechanism discussed in the policy draft at the federal level which can ensure it. There have been no clear guidelines and concrete governance measures have been suggested for water management and agri-land utilization. Ways and means for enhancing production, sustainable irrigation are some other major links missing in the draft.
As we all witnessing that climate change is now becoming serious threat to individual and national security. In the last five year our country is hit hard by natural disasters, weather extreme events and devastating floods, which results in displacement of millions of people and loss billions of dollars in term of economy. Heavy rains and floods in Punjab and Sindh also damaged crops, livestock and infrastructure. But, there have been no adaptation and mitigation strategies designed in the draft to build climate resilient agriculture sector.
High illiteracy, weak linkage with research, poor reach to far-off farmers and lack of awareness are some critical constraint to agriculture development in Pakistan. Whereas, China and Brazil raised their agriculture production to double per hectare as compare to Pakistan, with the use of agriculture research, technologies and innovations.
However, in Pakistan educating farmer’s community and arming them with new technology can build their capacity. The enhanced income especially of small farmers, will contribute towards reducing poverty, and hunger in rural areas. As an outcome, such efforts would contribute towards achieving Millennium Development Goal of halving world poverty and hunger.
There is dire need of developing the capacity of provinces to resolve the issue of food security. In addition to that strengthening social safety nets and introduction of adaptation and mitigation strategies, especially, in disaster prone areas will ensure food security.
Pakistan is also ratified several international human rights treaties which recognize the right to food. It is therefore the responsibility of the state before national and international law to protect its citizens’ right to food and to ensure their food security. For that the current policy draft should be consulted with all stakeholders and need to be reviewed.
NOTE: The article originally publish first at Express Tribune on April 3, 2014.