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The nonstop food insecurity and hunger problems

Published on 5th Jan, Edition 1, 2015

 

A newly-formed commission set to undertake key mandates for long-term solution

Despite being world’s eighth largest food producing country, Pakistan’s 50 percent of population is remained food insecure. Due to this, Pakistan is really facing a problem of hunger. Food insecurity is at present in many parts of the country and affecting almost of half of the population. This is evidenced from the fact that several children are digging through garbage heaps to collect left over or the huge crowds collect immediately wherever food is being distributed by charity organizations or through some other occasions. Also one can see the death of hundreds of children and women due to hunger because of scarcity of food. We have seen draught that has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of children in Tharparkar, or we look at the dismal figures, which show nearly half our children are exhausted, having failed to reach the expected height or weight for age.

In this precarious food insecurity situation, the federal government has at last established National Food Security Commission (NFSC) to develop a national policy for the long-term sustainability of food security and agriculture development. The Prime Minister of Pakistan will be the chairman of the newly-established NFSC. The Ministry of Food Security and Research has written a letter to the Prime Minister seeking time for holding its meeting to set its agenda and allocate the required budget to make the commission formally functional. Being a national level organization, the commission has key mandates to undertake. The mandate is to forge consensus between the federal and provincial governments and administrative regions regarding policy formulation for assurance of long-term food security in the country. The other mandate is to resource allocation by the federal and provincial governments and administrative units for the development of agriculture to ensure food security in the country. Further infrastructure development is for export maximization of agriculture products. The budget documents stated that the council will be responsible for ensuring policy coordination across provinces relating to productivity improvements, market reforms, value addition and prices that ensure stable incomes for farmers.

Sources in the Ministry of National Food Security and Research said that after the devolution of the agriculture subject to provinces, the Ministry has been facing innumerable difficulties while coordinating with the provinces about the food security related issues and it is the reason that the NFSC has been established to better coordinate between the federal government and provinces as well as among other key stakeholders.

 

This body should have been established many years ago. Let us see how fruitful its role will be. The mandate of the NFSC is to coordinate between the provinces and the centre on food-related policies, promote agricultural development and export and tackle food insecurity at all levels. This is without doubt a requisite need. We hope that the body, announced in this year’s budget with an allocation set aside for it, will perform its role efficiently and help tackle the acute need for food. We observe whenever calamity hits in the form of flood, earthquake, drought or the militancy currently on in the northern parts of the country.

Hunger is a key humanitarian concern, but a number of other problems stem from it. Poverty and food insecurity go together, and contribute to other problems such as militancy, insurgency and crime. Our national security thus depends on improving the condition of our people. It is, therefore, imperative that the issue of food insecurity, hunger and the other factors that feed it be solved. The new commission will need to come up in true spirit with a plan of action to manage both the short and long term policies.
The government attaches high priority to food security and the goal is to achieve a society free from hunger, disease and malnutrition. The government has thus taken a number of initiatives in that direction. These include massive development of agriculture and food security policy with sharper attention on productivity enhancement, value addition and ensuring better return to the farmers particularly small farm holders.

Energy, water and food security are considered as one of the seven important pillars in the Vision 2025 document announced by the government where the aim is to reduce the proportion of food insecure population from 50 percent to at least 30 percent. We must agree that without a thriving agriculture ensuring food security would be an imagination. In this context the establishment of a federal-level National Food Security Commission must be welcomed.

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