FEATURE: The menace of malnutrition – Achieving a food-secure Pakistan
Tawangar Hussain from LEAD Pakistan outlines the challenges policy makers in Pakistan are confronted with as it works towards suitable policies for ensuring a “Food Secure” Pakistan.
A cornerstone of CDKN’s recent Climate and Development Knowledge Network’s Policy Dialogue in Islamabad was to understand the issues behind an increasingly food-insecure Pakistan, and define sustainable policies by bringing together people who matter the most – officials from the government, farmers, lawmakers and experts in the fields of agriculture and food security.
The state of stunted growth and wasting of children is alarming in Pakistan, with 43% of under-5’s suffering from stunted growth and 31.6% from low weight for age according to WHO statistics (2012-13). Pakistan ranks in the top 10 countries with the most underweight population, which is also a sign of widespread malnutrition in the country. The decade between 1990 and 2000 saw little improvement; in fact that increased after 2001 from 41.5% to 45% in 2012-13.
The policy dialogue can be termed as the building blocks of an intervention that will address the problem of food security; bottom-up approaches were emphasised as the way to move forward and tackle this menace. Policies also must be tied to ground realities. Farmers are accustomed to understanding demand/supply mechanics and the interventions need to be translated in a language that the farmers can relate to and understand more easily. Government officials need to be informed of Climate Change at the grass-root level; in order to do this the following people can be taken on-board and be used as a means of facilitating the flow of information: religious leaders, school teachers, Land Officers/ Field Workers and Lady Health Workers (LHWs).
Learning, research and development is another theme that came up during the discussion and is of great importance keeping in mind the ever-changing world that we live in. The technology used in agricultural practices needs to be constantly improved and a dedicated national research wing, that will look into the recent developments globally, is needed. For promoting learning, the flow of information can be improved. One way to do this is to revive radio shows on farming as a mode of communicating best practices to the farmers by the state. Indigenous knowledge of the farmers must also be taken into account while carrying out R&D on farming and related subjects. A community-level hub for sharing information and promoting learning and better practices should be made.
Better agriculture practices were also highlighted by the group. It was agreed that diversification in farming is needed and there is a need to move towards cash crops. Lesser use of pesticides should be carried out and those variety of crops should be cultivated that are more resilient in the face of disasters.
CDKN’s goal of Climate Compatible Development (CCD) is not possible without having a future that is ‘Food Secure’ for the children of the developing world. In order to do this, learning outcomes from dialogues must be taken up by the government and they must feed into the overall framework of development that the government wishes to pursue.