How do we imagine our life 20 to 30 years from now? There might be not enough food on one’s plate and this is not an exaggeration. Today, thousands of people go to bed hungry every night in Pakistan. By 2050, we will need to produce at least 50% more food to feed a population on track to reach about 300 million. That’s a daunting challenge for our nourishment frameworks, food systems, our country, and our generation.
For several months, Pakistan’s military has been busy in a full-scale operation against the terrorists in the country’s FATA region. This operation has displaced about a million people from FATA and surrounding areas, threatening their access to food. This crisis is exacerbating Pakistan’s already widespread food insecurity. According to WFP data, 80 million Pakistanis, nearly half of the country’s total population are food insecure, while 95 districts face problems such as hunger and malnutrition-related disease. A UNICEF report concluded that half of all child deaths in Pakistan can be attributed to poor nutrition.
Currently, with a population of around 200 million, thousands of those go to bed hungry, and millions suffer from malnutrition and trends suggest that things will deteriorate.
The current food and agriculture systems are depleting with regards to both sustainability and hunger prevention. Farming alone devours the lion’s share of available water; rivers and aquifers are being over abused; the land being used for food production has been lost human settlement. The last five to six years price hike has put thousands into destitution and the signs are that further price spikes will go on happening; and floods in Pakistan have been doing its food production no favours either.
The situation that could easily become unmanageable is life threatening shortages of food due to either land or water shortages or both. Pakistan faces an impossible challenge in trying to feed their future populace. The projected population growth in Pakistan to 300 Million by 2050 and dwindling land resources will diminish its grain land per person from 0.08 hectares at present to 0.03 hectares. As pressure on the nation’s resources exacerbates,, it may likewise prompt worldwide clashes over water assets, maritime fisheries, or other rare resources.
Finding viable options
What is required, to use a basketball term, is a full court press an all out effort to control population growth and to enhance agricultural productivity.
Existing agricultural land can be restored, but sustainable intensification of current cultivating and farming practices will be critical. More innovations would be required to build production. That implies utilizing the potential benefits of GM crops and other biotech approaches, although these won’t be a cure-all. There’s room for improvement on the consumption end, too, as 30 percent of food never makes it into a human stomach and in the developed world, we let our produce slowly rot in the backs of our fridges, and in the developing world, farm wastage causes a similar problem. We will also need to address the threat of future volatility in the food system, which is likely to increase, driven by climate change and amplified by political and economic factors.
The major impediment to reform is getting these thoughts adopted as policy. Many of these arguments have been made for a decade now, but with little progress outside of the pages of journals and official reports. Ultimately, people have short attention spans, and, although crises get attention, when price spikes end, people stop thinking about the problem and ignore the underlying trends.
This blog is written by Muhammad Aurang Zaib, our Associate for Cohort 18. The views expressed here are those of the author, and not necessarily those of LEAD Pakistan.