Money Matters

A priority sector

Money Matters
By Sitara Gill & Abdul Wajid Rana
Mon, 05, 22

A priority sector

Pakistan is mainly an agricultural economy. According to the Economic Survey of Pakistan 2020-21, agriculture accounts for a share of 19.2 percent in GDP and constitutes a significant portion of exports at 60 percent. The agriculture sector is a major employer in the country with a bulk of 45 percent in the labour force and a source of livelihood for about 68 percent of the rural population.

Currently, the agriculture sector is at the junction of major challenges. On one hand, climate change has seriously impacted the agriculture sector of the country. According to a UNDP report, temperature rises of 0.5°C to 2°C could lead to around 8 percent to 10 percent loss in yield in Pakistan, as crops are highly sensitive to changes in temperature and water availability. Moreover, it has been estimated that there will be approximately 9.32 climate-related deaths per million per year due to lack of food availability in Pakistan by the year 2050, under the highest representative concentration pathways. On the other hand, the sector itself is a major contributor to climate change. According to the updated Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) submitted by Pakistan before the 26th Conference of the Parties in Glasgow, the agriculture sector has the second-highest GHGs emissions at 198.59 MT CO2 eq after the energy sector (218.9 MT CO2 eq). Fifty-five percent (109.12 MT CO2 eq) of these agricultural emissions come from the livestock sector.

The agriculture sector has been therefore identified as a key sector in intended NDCs for taking adaptation measures in the face of climate change. However, according to the Notre-Dame-Gain Index 2019, Pakistan scores low on readiness to adaptation, with the worst scores on the agriculture capacity indicator. The indicator is constructed using a combination of four indicators of agricultural technology: capacity to equip agriculture areas with irrigation, N+P205 total fertiliser use on arable and permanent crop area use, pesticide use, and tractor use - to provide information on the sector’s adaptive capacity to climate change.

Pakistan INDC document pitches the adoption of Climate Smart Agricultural Practices as the conceptual framework for adaptation to climate change in the agriculture sector and sets out supporting actions such as development of crop varieties and livestock breeds resistant to heat and water stresses, sustainable soil fertility improvement practices, and adoption of mechanical and biological pest control methods. The lead organisations to advance the uptake of these practices and a list of indicators have also been pinned down for monitoring and evaluation purposes.

A priority sector

For many years, federal government, provincial governments and many development agencies have been advocating for CSA in their policies and plans, but there exists no guidance on the operational planning and implementation to actually become climate-smart in the agriculture sector. According to FAO 2013, climate smart in agriculture is an approach to promote three objectives: sustainably increasing productivity; building the resilience of farming systems (adaptation) and reducing GHG emissions (mitigation) wherever possible. For CSA to be effective, it is required that climate smart options are identified that are appropriate for a particular context based on the biophysical environment including climatic, socio-cultural, economic and technological characteristics at the household, farm and community level (Mwongera, et al 2016).

It is therefore imperative for Pakistan to determine locally appropriate CSA options keeping in view the heterogeneity across sites in terms of vulnerability, constraints, and CSA priorities among different social groups and agro ecological zones if it is to respond to the COP26 agreement and meet its INDCs. The process can be initiated by taking the CSA-Rapid Appraisal tool developed by Mwongera et al (2016) as the reference point. The tool spells out five action points for prioritising locally appropriate CSA options. These include (i) resource mapping - identification of the agro ecological zones and the distribution of resources in the community; (ii) climate calendars - identification of typical and abnormal weather patterns; (iii) historical calendars - knowledge about community perception of changes in climate, natural resources and agricultural activities; (iv) cropping calendars - identification of main crops, crop sequences, and when associated production takes place; (v) organisational and institutional mapping - knowledge regarding the presence or absence of cooperation or linkages between the local farmers and rural organisations. Once a context has been established after a comprehensive understanding of the problem setting in each agro ecological zone and the indigenous knowledge base, the implementation process should be systematically designed according to the particular challenges of each region.

For adaptation to be holistic, a capacity assessment checklist that charts out the mandates of different departments, extent of collaboration, and mechanisms for information exchange and follow-up should be devised. As a next step, the departments identified in various documents such as Ministry of Climate Change, National Agricultural Research Centre, Pakistan Meteorological Department, Ministry of National Food Security and Research and respective provincial departments should develop an adaptation framework that provides a useful framing for identifying leverage points and initiating a coherent response through inclusive and formal communication mechanisms. Moving forward, through iterative and inclusive communication, platforms for co-learning and internal learning should be set up for joint knowledge production and response. The National Climate Change Policy 2012 stated that climate change units will be established in agriculture research organisations to devise adaptive strategies for projected impacts of climate change on agriculture, but to date no such units have been established. For now, the departments are working in silos and coming up with fragmented adaptation responses. It is equally important to review the National Climate Change Policy and align it with Pakistan’s international commitments and recent developments.

Capacity building is crucial to help the identified departments in integrating CSA in policies, action plans and implementation. Capacity building activities should be designed at the individual, institutional and systemic levels so that an enabling environment is created for the successful implementation of CSA framework.

For the effective uptake of CSA practices, the need of the hour is a well-resourced and climate-responsive extension system. Currently, the personnel in extension departments lack the knowledge and capacity to respond to the challenges of climate change. To rectify this, linkages between agriculture research, diagnostic experts and extension workers need to be strengthened for timely dissemination of knowledge. Moreover, an integrated CSA package is possible only if there is an information exchange between farmers and extension workers. This two-way flow of information can serve as the basis for determining extension methods that are appropriate given the context in each region through a bottom-up approach where findings and experiences of farmers can be used to inform decision-making and mainstream the CSA practices.

The writers are researchers at the International Food Policy  Research Institute, Pakistan