by Raheela Nazir
ISLAMABAD, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- As the agriculture sector of Pakistan remained one of the biggest contributors to the national economy, the incumbent government has been making all-out efforts to mitigate the adverse impacts of climate change on the sector to ensure food security, increase exports and improve the livelihood of the farming community.
The sector contributes about 24 percent of gross domestic product, accounts for half of the employed labor force, and is the largest source of foreign exchange earnings, according to the Pakistan Bureau of Statistics.
Pakistani experts and officials are of the view that climate change has seriously threatened the agriculture sector of the country in recent years, hence sustainable agriculture development practices should be introduced to adapt to the new realities of climate change.
To cope with extreme weather events including heat waves, droughts, and floods, Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif has recently directed concerned ministries to form a comprehensive plan to reform the agricultural sector on an emergency basis, saying the effects of climate change on the sector should be considered while preparing the reform plan.
Agricultural research institutions that produce climate-smart quality seeds should be encouraged and facilitated, the prime minister said, adding that the government will also provide loans to farmers to acquire the latest agricultural machinery and all-out efforts would be made to introduce to the farming community the best practices of agriculture in the world.
Noting that Pakistan ranked 92nd out of 116 countries on the 2021 Global Hunger Index, Ghulam Abbas Shah, assistant professor of the agronomy department at Pir Mehr Ali Shah Arid Agriculture University in Rawalpindi, told Xinhua that climate change is a direct threat to the country's food production capacity.
He said that the disruption in the global supply chain due to the COVID-19 pandemic, historic high inflation, rising prices of fuel, fertilizers and locally assembled agricultural equipment also have effects on food security in Pakistan.
"Shifting to climate-smart modern agricultural procedures such as cultivating high-yield crops, managing water efficiently, and building dams to handle water shortages would be useful to enhance agricultural productivity," Shah said, adding that special subsidies should be given to farmers to help them increase production.
Additionally, natural calamities destroyed a substantial amount of crops and food products every year, so the government should take steps to save food wastage by formulating policies as well as providing crop insurance to farmers.
In order to revolutionize the country's agricultural industry and ensure food security, experts stressed that Pakistan needed to further strengthen cooperation with China under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor.
Talking to Xinhua, Minister for National Food Security and Research Tariq Bashir Cheema said that Pakistan and China have already pledged to boost cooperation in areas such as livestock and dairy, technology transfer, research and development, and agricultural trade.
To build a China-Pakistan community with a shared future, both countries have been working together to counter the global food security challenge posed due to multiple factors including climate change, Cheema said.
China helped Pakistan to avert a major food crisis in 2020 by providing comprehensive and timely support to counter locust swarms in 2020, Sohail Ahmed, chairman of Department of Entomology at the University of Agriculture Faisalabad, told Xinhua.
Further cooperation should be sought in hybrid crops cultivation, pest control, water conservation, the establishment of special agricultural zones, and agriculture mechanization for the improvement of crops and seeds yield, Ahmed added. ■