Climate-resilient infrastructure is the first line of defence in protecting food production and distribution against extreme weather
akistan’s food security is increasingly in jeopardy due to rising temperatures and shifting precipitation patterns. This is a more complex phenomenon than previously understood. Many popular narratives have highlighted the significance of the effects of climate change on crop yields and food supplies.
There is mounting evidence from research that supports the view that climate change may influence each of the four dimensions of food security—availability, accessibility, usage and stability.
The unprecedented flooding in Pakistan this year has caused widespread destruction, including loss of crops, food stockpiles, homes and livelihoods. Extreme rainfall and severe flash floods have led to Pakistan’s current humanitarian catastrophe, the worst in a decade.
A third of Pakistan is submerged due to the worst flooding in the country’s 73-year history. Pakistan is already struggling with an economic crisis, and the disastrous flood, predicted to cost the economy at least $10 billion (according to an NDMA report), is another blow to it.
To ensure food security, we must look beyond agriculture and rural populations and consider livelihoods, health and urban vulnerabilities.
Food supplies and prices are especially susceptible to the effects of climate change in Pakistan because of the country’s dependence on food imports, lack of resistance to the impact of climate events and excessive government intervention.
Food insecurity has continually remained high throughout the years in three provinces.
Pakistan’s leading food crop is wheat. It is consumed by more than 90 percent of the households. However, the wheat crop may be in danger because of the widespread destruction and damage by floods; some farmers worry that their land will no longer be useful over the next three months.
More food imports by Pakistan could lead to price increases and worsen the country’s balance of payments crisis. Prior to the floods, the inflation rate for food was around 26 percent, but in recent days, some prices have risen by as much as 500 percent. Wheat flour prices were relatively high in May 2022 for several reasons, the primary ones being high production and transportation costs and concerns over future supply due to a heatwave that occurred at the beginning of 2022. The depreciation of the Pakistani rupee has made imports more expensive, thus exacerbating the food price inflation.
In light of this, the question arises as to how Pakistan may alleviate its severe food insecurity in the face of climate change.
The trend towards digitalisation is essential. It is the primary force driving the increase in agricultural productivity and the promotion of agricultural development. It also enables farmers’ early warning systems.
Climate-resilient infrastructure is the first line of defence in protecting food production and distribution against extreme weather. For instance, solar power can make irrigation, water access and temperature control for food storage more convenient. Equally important is the construction of flood barriers to safeguard the ports and roads essential to food distribution. This type of public investment not only creates jobs but also has the potential to stimulate private investment.
The trend towards digitalisation is essential as it is the primary force driving the increase in agricultural productivity and the promotion of agricultural development. It also enables farmers’ early warning systems, mobile banking and platforms to buy fertiliser, seeds, and products, connecting small producers to large suppliers.
During times of natural disaster, targetted and widespread social cash transfers can help families buy food and start over. These cash transfers are more effective than agricultural subsidies at reducing inequality because they give recipients some say in the use of the assistance they receive.
The government should enable producer organisations to reach isolated climate-vulnerable agricultural communities. This will help spread new technology like digital pest-control devices and heat-and drought-tolerant seeds and increase climate adaptation training and market knowledge. Aggregating manufacturing and selling directly to consumers can boost negotiating power, lower storage costs, lengthen contracts, enhance profit margins and open new markets.
The government can also provide assistance in developing agricultural resilience by simplifying regulations. Reasonable restrictions on water consumption help farmers save money when installing or expanding irrigation systems. Finally, regulations concerning fertiliser testing, labelling, and registration ensure that growers have access to safe, effective fertilisers suited to their region’s unique climate, soil and cropping needs.
Supporting the policies indicated above requires a significant amount of funding, capacity development and transfer of technology and know-how. Pakistan needs grants and concessional funding since its debt is mounting. Pakistan still has a long way to go as it attempts to recover from the current calamity and fortify itself against future crises. The floods should be a wake-up call for neighbouring countries to reduce emissions so we can protect our people. This necessitates a contribution from international players in the form of aid provided to local actors in their efforts to respond promptly in the short term and prevent and recover in the long term. After all, climate change is a global concern that demands global financing.
Protecting livelihoods and minimising food consumption disparities in crises demand short-term as well as long-term planning. The International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) Executive Board approved the creation of the Resilience and Sustainability Trust (RST), effective May 1. This new lending facility will provide affordable long-term financing to combat climate change and other difficulties. On Sunday, September 18, Esther Perez Ruiz, the International Monetary Fund’s (IMF) resident representative to Pakistan, said that the IMF would help Pakistan face post-flood economic challenges.
The writer is a director of the Business Finance Programme at Birmingham City University, UK. He tweets @HafizUsmanRana