Pakistan: Ending Poverty Requires More Than Just Commitment

Sep 2017
Pakistan, September, 25 2017 - The government’s commitment to achieving the SDGs has yet to be translated into an action plan. The first two goals — ending poverty and achieving zero hunger — still await approval of a national food security policy. The business-as-usual approach is not going to make any significant impact on poverty reduction. A more innovative and comprehensive approach is needed, with increased focus on reducing the economic, social and environmental risks confronting the poor, according to the United Nations.

Mina Dowlatchahi, Food and Agriculture Organisation’s (FAO) representative in Pakistan, says the National Zero Hunger Special Programme — being formulated by the Ministry of National Food Security and Research in collaboration with the FAO and World Food Programme — foresees social protection, school feeding and nutrition education actions, combined with longer term interventions on ‘farmer field schools’, sustainable agriculture intensification and diversification approaches, and the development of linkages to markets for smallholders.

Measures to achieve zero hunger are an integral part of the final draft of the national food security policy.

“We cannot end hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030 unless we address all the factors that undermine food security and nutrition, including socio-economic stability,” Ms Dowlatchahi says.

“Securing peaceful and inclusive societies (SDG 16) is a necessary condition to that end,” she says.

In Asia-Pacific, Pakistan is among the few countries which have contained the hunger to some extent. The percentage of hunger during the 2014-16 period declined from 25.1 per cent to 22pc. Within the region, the proportion of people affected by hunger in 2014-16 increased from the level that existed in 1990-1992.

According to the latest edition of the annual United Nations report on the food security and nutrition, the challenge is that there is more than enough food produced in the world to feed everyone, yet 815 million people (or 11pc of the global population) faced hunger last year.

The highest number of undernourished people was in Asia because of its large population.

According to FAO, around 520m people in Asia, 243m in Africa, and 42m in Latin America and the Caribbean did not have access to sufficient food energy.

The business-as-usual approach is not going to make any significant impact on poverty reduction. A more innovative and comprehensive approach is needed, with increased focus on reducing the economic, social and environmental risks confronting the poor, according to the United Nations.

Poverty eradication will be challenging with the occurrence of climate-related events because the region is particularly exposed to the impacts of climate change, with nine Asia-Pacific countries on the list of the 15 countries that are the most exposed and vulnerable to natural hazards.

The first SDG goal is to eradicate extreme poverty for all people everywhere, currently measured as people living on less than $1.25 a day. It

aims to reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions by 2030.

“While the region is making progress towards achieving the SDGs on poverty, education, economic growth, industry and infrastructure, and life below water, we are seeing slow progress towards ending hunger, achieving food security, delivering agricultural sustainability, ensuring good health and well-being for all, and achieving gender equality,” said Dr Shamshad Akhtar, executive secretary of UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (Escap).

Pakistan is the first country to endorse and adopt SDGs in parliament as part of its national agenda and now these goals are known as national development goals (NDGs). A parliamentary task force and an SDG secretariat have also been set up.

“The SDGs are not just a part of a top-down international agenda, but are also essential for Pakistan’s prosperity, development and the well-being of its people,” according to Interior and Planning Minister Ahsan Iqbal.

On the other hand, in the Asia-Pacific SDGs Outlook report, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) examined each of the 17 broad goals and describes the outlook for achieving each one in the region. It singles out “bright spots” and “hot spots”, provides insights about each goal and points to emerging issues and reveals many of the common challenges that governments will confront as they work to develop appropriate responses to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The ADB says that achieving zero hunger will be challenging due to the convergence of expanding populations, climate change, fertiliser overuse, competing use of land for food, energy and industries, changing consumption patterns, the ageing population of working farmers and the degradation of agricultural land.

The bank believes that regional countries need to pay more attention to growth in their agricultural sector and to supporting diverse food systems. Evidence consistently shows that growth originating in agriculture has a stronger impact on poverty and hunger reduction than growth originating in other sectors.

The deadline of SDGs ensures sustainable food production systems and implement resilient agricultural practices that increase productivity and production; help maintain ecosystems; strengthen capacity for adapting to climate change; extreme weather; drought; flooding and other disasters, and that progressively improve land and soil quality.

The region is the world’s largest producer of cereals, vegetables, fruits, meat and fish, with strong growth in all areas. Agricultural production has been increasing steadily since 1990. Measured in terms of constant prices, the value of food produced in the region increased from $736 billion in 1990 to $1.351bn in 2013.

Agricultural productivity in the region, as measured by the value added per worker, has generally been rising. However, it has been a slow rise in South Asia where, with the exception of a few countries, it remains a fraction of what has been achieved in industrialised countries.

The target sets to increase investment, including through enhanced international cooperation, in rural infrastructure, agricultural research and extension services, technology development and plant and livestock gene banks in order to enhance agricultural productive capacity in developing countries, in particular least developed countries.

Climate change threatens all dimensions of food security. Projections show that increasing temperatures will result in decreased yields, especially in South and Southeast Asia, and increased incidence of pest and disease outbreaks.

The widespread melting of glaciers and snow cover in the major mountain ranges of Asia will affect the volume and timing of water flows and ultimately reduce the availability of irrigation water downstream. The effects of climate change on agricultural production and livelihoods are expected to intensify over time.

Agricultural productivity of high-income countries in the region is 67 times higher than that of least-developed countries.

The rate of growth of government spending on agriculture in the region has slowed down since the food price crisis, according to Escap.

The availability of water is also a challenging issue, with agriculture being a major user. The proportion of water withdrawn for agriculture is more than 90pc for 13 countries in the region, particularly in Central Asia.

Nearly all countries in the region are experiencing increasing pressure on water resources due to their growing popu­lations and economic development.

Source : Dawn

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