ISLAMABAD: Agriculture experts Friday called for effective strategies and policies to address the vulnerabilities of the agriculture sector owing to natural disasters, including early-warning systems, contingency plans and risk financing mechanisms.
Talking to the media on Friday, Khan Faraz, former Secretary, Pakistan Tobacco Board and agriculture expert said that Pakistan is an agricultural country. Agriculture is the backbone of the country’s economy — vital for food security, employment, growth, and poverty reduction.
Faraz said that the country has recently been facing the threat of natural disasters. From floods, earthquakes to droughts, the agriculture sector of Pakistan has been severely impacted by these calamities, which have caused colossal damages to crops, livestock, infrastructure, and the lives of the farmers.
Pakistan is one of the 10 countries most affected by climate change and natural disasters worldwide. Climate change and disaster events, such as heat waves, floods, droughts and earthquakes, have already had an impact on agriculture, he added.
Faraz said that agriculture is the largest source of export revenue, contributing 23 percent to the nation’s GDP. Over 40 percent of Pakistan’s labour force, including a majority of working women, works in agriculture.
More than 63 percent of the population lives in rural areas and relies heavily on agriculture. More than half of agriculture’s GDP comes from livestock (roughly 12 percent of the country’s GDP). Additionally, it offers many rural households with income security, particularly those with weak land rights.
According to the World Bank’s Country Climate and Development Report, climate-related disasters over the past three decades have resulted in a number of fatalities and socioeconomic losses.
Climate and weather related catastrophes in Pakistan caused $29.3 billion economic losses through damage to property, crops, and livestock between 1992 and 2021, which is equivalent to 11.1 percent of the 2020 GDP. The devastating disasters of 2022 brought to light the significant climate vulnerability of the food system.
The unprecedented monsoon rains in 2022, the heaviest and most concentrated ever recorded, resulted in the worst floods the country has ever witnessed. A third of Pakistan was under water, affecting 33 million people.
The country had the wettest August in 2022 since 1961. It is noteworthy that nationwide rainfall from June to August that year was about 200 percent higher than the 30-year average. According to the Pakistan Floods 2022 Post Disaster Needs Assessment, developed by the Ministry of Planning, Development and Special Initiatives, the overall damage is estimated at Rs 3.2 trillion; total loss at Rs 3.3 trillion; and needs at Rs 3.5 trillion.
Faraz said that the impacts of natural disasters on the agriculture sector of Pakistan have been significant and far-reaching, which is not only affecting the food security and the livelihoods of the farmers but also jeopardises the country’s economy. The disaster management system needs to be strengthened at all levels.
He further said that crop diversification, efficient water management and agriculture practices that are resilient and adaptable to the changing climatic conditions are necessary.
Copyright Business Recorder, 2023