Friday May 24, 2024

‘Ruling elite must act decisively to curb food insecurity’

Economists, researchers and activists blame short-sighted governmental policies, apathetic attitude for persistent crises

By Shahid Husain
October 17, 2015
Economists, researchers, academia and community activists have pointed that increasing malnutrition amongst children in Sindh should be an eye opener for the ruling elite, and an immediate solution in should be found to mitigate the problem.
They were speaking at a provincial dialogue on ‘Charter of Demands for Institutional Setup on Food and Climate Justice’.
The session was the concluding programme of week-long activities for celebration of the World Food Day 2015.
The event was organised by the Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum (PFF) on Friday morning at a local hotel that attracted large number of communities from Karachi, Thatta, Sujawal and Badin’s coastal areas.
Speakers pointed out that besides the coastal area communities of Karachi, people of other districts such as Thatta, Sujawal, Badin, Jamshoro, Sanghar, Khairpur, Tharparkar and Umerkot had been declared food insecure.
PFF activists had designed various programmes in major cities and towns of the province where farmers, fishermen, civil society, academia and researchers showed up to express solidarity with the global communities that were facing poverty and hunger.
PFF Chairperson Muhammad Ali Shah thanked fishermen, farmers and rural workforce for making the week-long activities successful.
He said those communities were ready to resist against land grabbing and to demand for their basic rights. He said despite global efforts to curb the number of hungry and malnourished, the figures were continuously climbing across the world.
He accredited peasant women, who were playing a crucial role in ensuring food security of households in the province.
“When I talk about nutrition, I have to always mention inequity because it is the major cause of hunger and malnutrition,” he said. “The causes of death from hunger and malnutrition were primarily social injustice, political and economic exclusion and discrimination.”
Shah said hundreds of millions of undernourished persons suffer from political and social exclusion while their right to food was being violated.
“These communities do not have political power; nobody represents them, and nobody seek their opinion. They are equally excluded from access to resources that enable them to lead a dignified life, free from hunger.”
Researcher and economist Aly Ercelan said we were living in a country where the government authorities never thought about the issues of food shortage.
“These people are vulnerable to disasters, floods, cyclones and droughts.”
He said there was mismanagement of distribution of resources, food wastage and wastage of water.
He appealed to the communities to change their behaviour while producing and utilising their food and available water.
Ercelan said there were many areas in Karachi’s coastal localities, which did not have easy access to drinking water.
In Ibrahim Hyderi, he said, the largest coastal community in Karachi was deprived of drinking water.
He suggested that the government should make policies to ensure proper wages for the national workforce with facilities such as social security.
Prof Ismail Kumbhar of the Sindh Agriculture University, Tando Jam in his presentation said Pakistan’s natural resources were fast depleting, resulting from increased urbanisation and utilisation of fertile lands for commercial use.
He went on to say that traditional artisans and workers were also food insecure in Sindh, and urged the government to strengthen monitoring mechanisms to ensure provision of food to the people.
Dr Mujeedbuddin Sehrai, vice chancellor of Sindh Agriculture University, urged the communities to adopt simpler lifestyles to avoid potential food shortages.
He said developing human resources as assets in rural areas was essential and called for children in rural areas to acquire skills in different fields of agriculture.
Development expert Dr Sono Khangharani, from Tharparkar, said that, though there was more food available at warehouses, people were still dying of hunger, starvation and malnutrition. This he put down to the unequal distribution of food and resources in Sindh. “For equal distribution of resources, policies must be revised and better governance ensured.”
Dr Khangharani said there was mass migration from affected areas and migrants were looking for better livelihoods, but they do not have any long-term options.
Asim Saqlain of Oxfam said his organisation has launched the ‘Grow Campaign’ in Pakistan, mostly focusing on marginalised communities. He said, “We are struggling to reduce poverty and help people get proper sources of livelihood.”
Mostly, he said, peasant communities and landless people need awareness to live safe and avoid impacts of natural disasters and climatic variations.
He said Oxfam was supporting growers through farmers’ organisations to change their methodology, with preference being laid upon growing grains instead of cash crops.
He opposed the use of chemicals and pesticides, stating that they were a leading cause for the degradation of soil and water sources, besides posing serious health risks.
Iqbal Detho, a development expert and human rights trainer, spoke about the right to food for all communities. He said the government was accountable for all these matters since it was the ruling elite’s responsibility to ensure that citizens’ fundamental rights are secured.
PFF General Secretary Saeed Baloch, in his inaugural speech, briefed the audience about the week-long activities and said the main aim was to create awareness among the people regarding threats of food insecurity, and impact of droughts, floods and cyclones on the communities.