Dimensions of food security

Major challenges to food security are poor agricultural infrastructure and policies. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s economy is riveting between droughts and floods

Hunger is a silent killer, the Holocaust of our time. Hunger is the most common universal problem, which has affected every other nation in one way or the other. It is a rising phenomenon of our times that could devastate the future of individuals as well as nations. Pakistan could become an easy prey to it due to many reasons. The sagging economy of the last decade resulting from the global war on terror and lack of energy resources has resulted in rapid unemployment and this fact has caused civic chaos and weakening of state institutions. Even ever popular democracy has failed to provide any meaningful relief to the impecunious strata.It is possible that developed nations use hunger as a powerful tool of mass deaths in their future wars. In fact, it has become even more essential to attain food autarky to survive in the highly competitive world of today. Almost all the nations of the world are working hard to overcome this lingering problem and different strategies are being worked upon to get rid of hunger and famine.In fact it is part of almost all major initiatives espoused by international bodies in the third world countries. Amongst other things, alleviating poverty and hunger and providing food security are integral constituents of the Millennium Development Goals (MGDs) set by the UN. Food security and economic growth complement and reinforce each other in the development process. Food security is one of the major challenges confronted by developing countries and Pakistan is no exception to this. According to the Food Security Risk Index of 2012, Pakistan is ranked 27th in 48 countries stated to be at “high” risk of food crisis. Due to the unchecked population explosion and failure of successive governments to provide any meaningful relief to the masses, Pakistan could become easy prey to such situations if remedial measures are not taken well in time. Interwoven with this are the multifarious concerns of social and political importance.In Pakistan, the issue of food insecurity is linked to both direct and indirect factors, i.e. procurement policies, agricultural price policy, floods, droughts, hike in world food prices and rising oil prices, which affect every country including Pakistan, which has a very weak agricultural infrastructure. Pakistan is also facing this daunting challenge of food autarky and the unchecked explosion of the population has made it even more difficult for successive governments to attain this goal. Major challenges to food security are poor agricultural infrastructure and policies. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s economy is riveted between droughts and floods — the two extreme hydrological factors that make it even more vulnerable to food insecurity. Environmentalists believe that the intensity and probability of such events will increase with the increase in global temperature in the future. The water issue was given space in the 1973 constitution keeping in view its supreme importance. Provision of food and other such basic necessities of life are made part of Article 38 of the constitution of Pakistan, 1973, which inter alia states: “The state shall provide basic necessities of life, such as food, clothing, housing, education and medical relief, for all such citizens, irrespective of sex, caste, creed or race.”According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the UN, there are four main dimensions of food security, namely production, accessibility, affordability and distribution, and optimum food utilisation and stability of the other three dimensions over time. The recent incident of food insecurity in the Thar Desert and a subsequent show in Cholistan in Punjab deals with the second dimension of food insecurity. Even if Thar or Cholistan are hit by drought and lack of water for survival, major parts of Pakistan are still in food surplus and public sector godowns are filled with wheat grains, but one part of the same country is facing a severe food grains shortage. Here lies the failure of the government and the state of Pakistan. The integrated economy of Pakistan and autonomy of the provinces (under the 18th amendment) should be safeguarded against such looming crises. In the democratic state structure, the social exclusion of the Thar people makes them very vulnerable and reminds us of the great potato famine of Ireland, which occurred from 1845 to 1852.At the moment, steps are limited to administratively control the famine-like situation in Thar and Cholistan. Both federal and provincial governments are indulging in a game of point-scoring to gain some public support. However, the government policy makers have failed to realise that crisis management is always different from governance/policy practices. It is needed that the food governance policy mechanism be developed on modern and sustainable lines, which not only ensures food production but also sustainable food distribution to avert such inhumane crises in the future.

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Aaj Kal