Islamabad: 16 October 2020 - Oxfam in Pakistan in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research Centre NARC, FAO and WFP commemorated World Food Day 2020 on the global theme of “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together” (Our Actions are our Future). The event raised awareness on preserving access to safe and nutritious food particularly for vulnerable communities hit hardest by the pandemic and its resulting economic shocks.
The Chairman of Pakistan Agricultural Research Council, Dr. Muhammad Azeem Khan, in his welcome address said, ‘The previous year was a crisis year all over the world and especially in Pakistan, as we experienced several kinds of threats like Covid-19, the locust attack and heavy rains during the wheat harvesting period. We have to produce more food as our population is growing at a fast pace to feed affordable, adequate and nutritious food to our masses.”
Stressing on the need for solidarity for transforming the resilience of vulnerable communities, Country Director of Oxfam in Pakistan, Syed Shahnawaz Ali says, “During the ongoing pandemic, farming communities were at the frontlines, risking their lives to put food on our plates. Their resilience which has already been tested so many times in the face of climate change and overwhelming economic pressures is now at risk due to the virus. We must all work together, to help them against food insecurity and to protect their livelihoods.”
A message from the Prime Minister of Pakistan was read out by the Additional Secretary of Ministry of Food Security & Research, Syed Anwarul Hassan, “Besides Covid-19, climate change and locust attacks, various other factors have also adversely affected our agricultural production during the past years. Around 18.3% of households are severely food insecure. About one-fourth of the population of Pakistan lives below the poverty line and two-fifth of children under the age of five are facing stunted growth. Over the past years, the share of agriculture in the GDP of Pakistan has been declining. Lack of modern agricultural practices, limited access to quality seeds and other inputs, and reduced availability of irrigation water are among the major factors of low agricultural production.”
The importance of agriculture was emphasised as the backbone of Pakistan’s economy, which employs 36.66% of Pakistan’s labor force, and of which 65.26% are females. Participants agreed that policies, plans and investment need to support food producers for attaining their rights. A collaborative approach by government institutions, UN Agencies, INGOs, civil society organisations, private sector companies, researchers and other grassroot movements to invest more in food security and nutrition was recommended.
In addition, it was highlighted to ensure price stability for agricultural produce, ease loan repayment conditions or provide loan waivers, remove restrictions on marketing agricultural produce, and ensure the availability of agricultural inputs. The growth of staple food crops with subsidised agriculture inputs is vital to sustain the food production in Pakistan.
The representative of FAO, Mina Dowlatchah states that “We underscore that there is no end to hunger without the application of innovation, responsible investment, accessible trade of commodities, empowering women and youth and socio-economic stability.”
Oxfam aims to facilitate vulnerable communities, especially women and other marginalised groups, to become more resilient to shocks, stresses and uncertainty in the face of climate change. The international NGO has contributed towards building resilience to counter the impact of climate change by introducing climate smart agricultural practices along with preparing communities for early action and response, in collaboration with the Pakistan government.