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Climate Change and Food Security

Climate Change and Food Security

Food security is inextricably linked to favourable weather conditions. Weather provides enabling environment where crops grow lavishly, mature in time and produce enormous yield. Different components of weather such as length of days and nights, moisture content, temperature fluctuations, wind velocity and variations in seasons, have far-reaching and overarching impacts on the yield of different crops.

Clime change or unpredictability in weather-related phenomena is fast becoming an existential threat to the very survival of human beings on the face of the Earth in many ways: frequent reoccurring of extreme weather phenomena – cyclones, extreme heat waves, hurricanes, tsunamis, etc. – the shrinking space for life to sustain itself against the mounting pressure of choking atmosphere, polluted water and poisonous air, and the fast-depleting natural resources of freshwater, minerals and forests. The most obvious impact that we will be confronting in the near future is the insecurity of food due to reduced availability of water and unfavourable weather and climate.

Pakistan is ranked among the countries that will be hit hard by climate change. We are listed among top 10 countries standing at the verge of climate change-driven natural calamities and disasters. The food security in Pakistan is mainly achieved through different crops such as wheat, rice, maize and a variety of vegetables. The mainstay of the approach is to increase productivity quantitatively through increased per acre yield, enhanced area under cultivation and the development of crop varieties that are high yielding and also drought- and heat-resistant.

Climate change will impact our food security through increased temperature and reduced availability of water.

The average increase in temperature, known as Global Warming, would impact devastatingly, in different ways. According to some crop simulation models, a one degree Celsius rise in temperature causes shifting the core area of crop production three degree (latitude) northward. It means the rise of three Celsius would deprive the whole lower Sindh of its capacity to grow wheat; whereas a rise of six Celsius would render the whole of Pakistan unable to grow wheat. Another estimate suggests that a one degree rise in temperature causes a loss of 0.1 tonne per hectare. The rise in temperature will also cause variations in seasonal patterns. Both shortened and lengthened periods will adversely affect the crop yield. The shortened season would be responsible for reduced yield due to immaturity of crop and subsequent decrease in the qualitative value of the yield such as lack of vitamins, minerals and other vital ingredients. Likewise, longer periods will also have adverse impacts: the increased vegetative growth; and diversion of stored food from sink to source.

As far as the matter of food security is concerned, analysts warn that Pakistan will witness one Celsius more temperature than the average global rise in temperature. Different estimates put Pakistan among a few countries that will suffer deeply from the steep decline in the agricultural produce due to global warming and other offshoots of the climate change. According to a report published by Ministry of Climate Change, all the four major crops – wheat, rice, maize and sugarcane – as well as different vegetables will record a decline of 4-15% in production.

Wheat is a staple crop and most of the people derive their nutritional requirement through the consumption of different wheat-related raw and finished products. The heartland of wheat production, semi-arid irrigated areas, will have to face a decline of 3.8% to 14.5% in the yield, depending on the intensity of climate change, and the inhabitants of the Barani (rain-dependent) areas will suffer a decline of 16%. The same will be the case with the production of rice and vegetables.

Apart from devastating rise in temperature, the people of Pakistan will also suffer from painful decline in productivity of agricultural crops due to reduced availability of water. The rise in temperature and consequent fast-depleting glaciers, the urbanization and subsequent increase in demand of water for non-agricultural usage, deforestation and consequent low intensity and frequency of precipitation, and water pollution and subsequent unsuitability of water for irrigation purposes are, to a large extent, responsible for scarcity of water. As the research facilities in Pakistan are miserably ill-equipped to develop drought-resistant varieties, this situation would further aggravate. The people of Pakistan are marching towards an outbreak of a famine and the biggest reasons for this state of affairs are mismanagement, corruption, ineptness and myopic policies. The gravity of the situation could best be gauged from the fact that Pakistan’s water storage capacity is hardly 30 days against the minimum recommended capacity of 120 days.

Food security is facing threats that could prove fatal for the people of Pakistan. It is time we took steps for securing the future of our future generations. The Government of Pakistan must declare Water Emergency and it should leave no stone unturned to mitigate the fallouts generated by the unfolding climate change-driven impacts. The use of science and technology would be imperative to tackle this daunting threat.

Highlights

1. Clime change or unpredictability in weather-related phenomena is fast becoming an existential threat.

2. Climate change will impact our food security through increased temperature and reduced availability of water.

3. A rise of six degree Celsius would render the whole of Pakistan unable to grow wheat.

4. Research facilities in Pakistan are miserably ill-equipped to develop drought-resistant varieties.

5. Pakistan’s water storage capacity is hardly 30 days against the minimum recommended capacity of 120 days.

6. The Government of Pakistan must declare Water Emergency.

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