A new research report titled ‘Food Price Hike: Empty Plates on Rise’ shows that recent food price inflation will add around 30 million more people to the tally of those living below poverty line in the country.
Published by the ActionAid, findings of the report were shared at a national conference on ‘Rights to Food’ jointly organised by the FoodFirst Information and Action Network (FIAN) Pakistan Group, Journalists for Democracy and Human Rights (JDHR), Actionaid, Oxfam Novib, Dharti Campaign, in partnership with the Pakistan Kissan Ittehad (PKI), Sustainable Agriculture Action Group (SAAG) and Infochange News and Features Network (INFN).
Representatives of farmers’ organisations, female farmers, academia, media and civil society participated in the conference. They warned all provincial governments that the food price inflation will result in increase in the number of empty plates in the country. They called upon the governments to control price hike with immediate effect.
“Act now to protect the hungry and the poor from food insecurity, food vulnerability, land grabbing, denial of women’s right to land as it has a deep structural nexus with food security,” they said while urging the provinces to legislate for the protection of the food right of common people and acknowledge women working in fields as farmers.
They called upon the governments that these laws must ensure that food reaches to every one who cannot afford to buy it from the market and do not let the market forces increase the prices of food for corporate greed. The theme of the conference was ‘Together against Hunger-Ensuring Food Security through Women’s Right to Land’.
Speaking on the occasion, Tariq Mehmood from Pakistan Kissan Ittehad called for averting food crisis by stabilising food production with greater investments in agricultural infrastructure.
Uzma Tahir from ActionAid said a number of efforts made by the civil society organisations have resulted in allocation of 0.1 million acre of land by the Sindh government to 4,196 peasants. “Women make 70 per cent of the total beneficiaries. The women who have been allotted land in Sindh face a threat of expulsion from their allotted land due to vested interest of feudal and farmers’ men as the land will be re-demarcated and re-allotted after floods are over.
Shafqat Munir, convener of the FIAN Group Pakistan, said in a country where almost half the population (48.6 percent) does not have access to sufficient food for active and healthy life, right to food has fast emerged as the most major challenge.
Aftab Alam from the ActionAid said for poor families in Pakistan, who already spend more than 60 per cent of their income on food, higher food prices further reduce their ability to pay for medical care and their children’s education and if this trend goes on, the food crisis will badly undermine recent gains in poverty reduction.
Dr. Wajid Pirzada said Pakistan recently faced three big disasters, 2005 earthquake and 2010 and 2011 floods that literally rendered millions of more people at the verge of hunger.
Majid Bashir, legal expert, said sub clause (d) of the Article 38 of the Constitution of Pakistan says: “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, as are permanently or temporarily unable to earn their livelihood on account of infirmity, sickness or unemployment.”
Samina Nazir from PODA said food prices and food insecurity at the household levels have been on the rise over the past few years. “Equal distribution, ownership, control and access to land are some important matters to be looked at while analysing the state of social justice and human rights,” she said.
She said that women are denied right to access, control and own land as only one per cent women in Pakistan own land and in most of the cases, the control over their land is in the hands of male member of the household.