Climate change- a threat to food security in Pakistan

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Food is basic need of man as food security is vital for health of nation as well as for honorable living among nations, food insecurity leads to conflicts and tyranny among people. Concerted efforts are needed to enhance food grain production in the world and to investigate the problems that are causing gaps in food production and food requirement. Pakistan is an agriculture based country, 47 per cent population of Pakistan is earning from this sector and contribution of this sector in GDP is 24 per cent (Economic Survey of Pakistan 2013). Pakistan earns 70 per cent of its foreign exchange from agriculture alone. Climate change is one of the most complex challenges that threatened Pakistans agriculture. Agriculture productivity is being affected by a number of factors like climate change including rainfall pattern, temperature hike, changes in sowing and harvesting dates, water availability, evapotranspiration, and land suitability. All these factors have direct influence on yield and agricultural productivity so Agriculture is the most vulnerable sector to climate change. Growing season length of wheat and rice in Pakistan will be reduced as a result of climate change with negative effects on yield. In 1949-50, the agriculture sector was contributing 53 percent in the countrys GDP, which dropped to 31 percent during 1980-81, and during 2012-13 it has dropped drastically to only 21.4 percent. About 80 per cent of the global cereal production comes from wheat, maize, and rice. Among the cereals, wheat is the largest (Akhtar et al,2010).Wheat (Triticum spp.) is a worldwide cultivated grass from the Fertile Crescent region of the Near East.

In 2007 world production of wheat was 607 million tons, making it the third most-produced cereal after maize (784 million tons) and rice (651 million tons). Pakistan is 9th largest wheat producing accounting for 3.04 per cent of the world wheat producing country. Wheat is our staple food and cultivated on largest area in almost every part of the country. Its contribution in GDP is 2.8 per cent. Moisture is limiting factor for wheat production and per head wheat consumption in Pakistan is 120kg.

Wheat production decreases as a result of negative changes in climate conditions like high temperature and low water availability during early stages of wheat. There is decreasing trends in wheat production. Climate change has a great impact on food security as it effects agriculture productivity. About 27 per cent of the Pakistani citizens are seriously worried about not having adequate food to eat and similarly, 14 per cent people dont have access to adequate clean drinking water according to climate Asia. Rising population threatens food security. Wheat productivity is seriously threatened by climate change in future because it is estimated that there would be 1.2 and 2.8o C rise in maximum while 1.0 and 2.2o C rise in minimum temperature during early and midcentury in rice-wheat cropping system in Punjab, Pakistan.

Pakistan is among three most affected countries since 2010 according to Global Climate Risk Index. Due to fossil fuel burning and deforestation temperature has risen about 1oC during last century. There is a projection in increase in temperature between 1.4 to 5.8oC by 2100. Heat waves the byproduct of climate extremes are now more frequent and intense during the summer over most parts of the world.

During last decades due to heavy and repetitive flooding Pakistan economy has been facing serious problems. Two consecutive floods were experienced by Pakistan in 2010 and 2014. These floods caused increase in malnutrition and hunger that resulted in rise in overall poverty. Losses during 2010 includes crop losses like cotton, sugarcane, rice, pulses and wheat, livestock loss and it also effect GDP about 3 per cent. In 2008-2009 there were drought conditions as rainfall was less than optimum level and in 2010 and 2013 rainfall more than optimum level had cause flood in different parts of Punjab.

Rainfall scenario (2008-2013) In addition to flood another symptom of climate change is droughts due to lack of rainfall. Pakistan faced extreme famine in 2013 in Thar Desert which had caused many deaths especially 390 children as well as losses to economy as animals started dying in Thar Desert in October 2013. This famine extended up to 2014 and caused more deaths in first three months of year. Recently 3 more casualties occurred due to malnutrition. Persistent drought in Pakistan lowered the countrys GDP because of poor performance of agriculture sector. Continuous spells of droughts affected Pakistans economy heavily especially in Sind and Baluchistan. The drought in these areas has reduced the river flows, resulting in drying up of the irrigation canals, leading to severe agricultural deprivation. Hence droughts cause general deficiency of food and water for people. Climate change is also disturbing the seasonal monsoon of March leading to serious challenges to sustainable crop production.

The agriculture in the whole of the Indus Valley is under threat, resulting in direct and indirect impacts on agriculture that could cost billions of dollars. Coal burning in order to meet our energy demand is very dangerous to environment, although it is cheaper source of fuel and also it provides jobs to many people and it can go long to boosting industrial production but it should be kept in mind that it would increase health hazards and air pollution. Investments in renewable energy resources will not only give Pakistan a better and cleaner alternative, they will also enable technology transfer that can fundamentally alter the shape of our economy. Climate change also results in rising of carbon dioxide that will definitely cause potential adverse impacts like rise in sea level, floods and storms and especially in change in rainfall patterns, ultimately this will leads to reduction in crop growth per capita availability of food. Although Pakistan itself contributes very little to the overall GHG emissions, still it remains one of the most severely hit countries of the world due to global warming and climate change.

To cope with problematic scenario of climate change, insurance of food security and to prevent scarcity of food like in Thar there must be some serious mitigation strategies like management, change in sowing time and introduction of new genotypes are need of time to get sustainable yield under rainfed agriculture as issue of concern is food security first should be minimized the gap between wheat production and requirement. Authentic information about the climate change as it affects wheat production as well as food security is necessary. Develop new and innovative farm production practices, including early maturing and late maturing crop varieties and irrigation techniques is also important. Developing crop cultivars with novel traits could help agriculture adaptive to climate change. Developing and introducing regulatory mechanisms to manage and store summer water overflows new reservoirs would be needed.

The author is associated with the Department of Agronomy, Faculty of Crop and Food Science, PMAS-Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, Pakistan. She can be reached at <>


Published in: Volume 05 Issue 47

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