Experts demand new food, agriculture policies to alleviate poverty

KARACHI: Experts at a policy dialogue here on Monday said despite passage of 18th Amendment of the Constitution in Pakistan, Sindh government has failed to introduce new agriculture, environment and food security policies in the province, which is great lethargy and slackness.

“Sindh government direly needs to introduce sustainable agriculture policy so as to ensure food security and quality seeds of wheat, rice, cotton and vegetables,”  they said  at policy dialogue on Right to Food and Sustainable Agriculture, organized by SEARCH Pakistan in collaboration with Oxfam Grow Campaign, Action Aid and NDS at a local hotel on Monday.

Sindh Minister for Environment Sikandar Mendhro said that agriculture, climate change and food security are interlinked, therefore, all stakeholders should team up, give suggestions and work jointly for boosting these sectors. Sindh government is fully committed to incorporate their suggestions in its policies and help them for growing these sectors, he assured.

The minister said that Sindh is rich with natural resources like river, sea, agriculture land and other sources. “We also have wise people.”  He said that the 18th Amendment was achieved after long struggle but ironically it has still not been fully implemented. “There is still need to work in this regard.” He said that Sindh government was striving to boost agriculture sector and enhance food security. He said that awareness raising seminars should also be held in rural areas of Sindh to inform farmer women about the agriculture issues.

Oxfam Grow Campaign Manager Shahbaz Bukhari said that agriculture and environment subjects are interlinked and they should not be considered as separate issues. He said that small landholder women were malnourished in Pakistan. There is need to revisit agriculture, environment and other policies in Sindh.

He said: “We need to manage food security so as to end malnourishment in people.” He said that women in Pakistan are deprived of their right despite they perform 70% of agriculture work.  He stressed the need to launch thought-provoking dialogue on climate change and inter-related issues.

Dr Ismael said that Sindh has best climate and soil and it is rich with natural resources. Sindh contributes 90% to all banana production of Pakistan. He said that food security had become big issue in Sindh, while water shortage in the province was also causing poverty.

PPP leader Taj Haider said that Pakistan has become export oriented country. “Sindh also export wheat.” He said that Sindh is facing water shortage, however, we could improve it through proper water management. “Country is also facing drainage problems. “The natural water flows had been damaged. Natural flows have been replaced with manmade drainage.” He said that underground water in Thar should be extricated, tested and used for suitable uses. He also stressed the need to end water-logging and salinity.

He said that 62 percent Sindh land is under water-logging. We should make efforts to reclaim land by removing water logging. Taj Haider said that there is need to establish agro-based industry in Sindh.

Noted intellectual and environment expert, Zulfiqar Halepoto said that agriculture comprises several segments, so we should focus on all issues like water shortage, drought and climate change. He said that integrated efforts and strategic planning is mandatory to enhance agriculture sector and ensure food security in Sindh.

He said that right to food is now considered fundamental right of human at UN, but Pakistan government is still paying low attention towards it. He said that 69 percent children population in Sindh is malnourished.  He stressed the need to implement agriculture research and expert suggestion in agriculture, environment and food security policies by the Sindh government.

Regional Manager Action Aid Shah Jehan said: “Our country is rich with natural resources and agriculture one, but farmers, particularly women, face food security and poverty despite growing crops.” He said that we need to become part of global movement in this regard.

He said that all political and social parties need to work jointly to resolve food security, agriculture and other issues facing people in the country. He asked Search and other NGOs to come forward and form action plans to resolve the issues. “Pakistan and Sindh could not make progress without resolving issues of farmers,” he said.

MPA Sorth Thebo said that agriculture in the country needs to be enhanced. “There is need to enhance crop productivity by using cattle fertilize because it gives more production.  Seventy percent women population in Sindh are linked to agriculture sector.  There is need to raise awareness in rural areas about agriculture issues,” she said.

Agriculture expert Jami Chandio said that after passage of 18th Amendment, agriculture has become provincial subject. He said that 2010 and 2011 floods in Sindh had brought massive devastation, but ironically the provincial government failed to rehabilitate affected region and provide relief to the flood-hit people.

He called for introducing sustainable agriculture policy in Sindh so as to alleviate poverty and make region prosper.

SEARCH Executive Director Waheed Jamali thanked all guests for participating in the program. He said that the opinion of experts in this program would help Sindh government to bring new sustainable agriculture policy. He said that Sindh direly needs sustainable agriculture policy for prosperity of farmers and poor class in the society.

MQM MPA Sardar Ahmed said that agriculture is the backbone of our country.” NGOs should form agriculture policy with joint consensus and produce it with government for legislation.” He said that cooperatives should be revived but there should be not government interference in these cooperatives.” “These societies will fail if government interference is made.  There is need to bring land reforms in country. Land reforms in Sindh have been brought at very low level of 5 percent only.”

A candlelight vigil was also held on the occasion to pay glowing tribute to the martyrs of Army Public School Peshawar attack besides adopting one-minute silence over the tragic incident.

Noted social leader comrade Ramazan and Director Agriculture Karachi Region Dr Riaz Dayo and HANDS regional Manager Razzague Umrani also spoke on the occasion.

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