Pakistan seeks FAO help for zero-hunger programme

Updated June 09, 2015

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The programme intends to reach 61 million people across Pakistan, with a budget of $1.6 billion. -Reuters/File
The programme intends to reach 61 million people across Pakistan, with a budget of $1.6 billion. -Reuters/File

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan is seeking support from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for an effective implementation of the ‘Zero Hunger and Family Farming Programme’ to start school feeding projects in 45 most food insecure districts.

The programme intends to reach 61 million people across Pakistan, and with a budget of $1.6 billion, it aims to reduce malnutrition and food insecurity through several interventions.

Explaining details of the programme at the 39th session of FAO conference in Rome on Monday, the Minister for National Food Security and Research, Sikander Hayat Khan Bosan, said that stimulus activities have been included in the programme to expand farm outputs and market access, targeted and social safety nets and cash and food transfers to most food insecure households.

The ‘State of Food Insecurity in the World’, submitted to the conference by FAO, says the number of undernourished people in Pakistan continues to increase.

In 1990-92, Pakistan had 28.7 million undernourished people; it rose to 34.4m in 2000-2002; 38.1m in 2005-07; 38.3m in 2010-12; and expected to rise to 41.4m in 2014-16, the report says.

The minister said that despite the progress achieved in agriculture in Pakistan over the last few decades, there is still great potential for increasing the productivity of all major crops by more intensive use of modern agricultural practices.

Mr Bosan also sought FAO assistance to build capacities for forecasting, mitigating and building resilience in the wake of the threats of natural disasters, depleting river flows and climate change.

FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva, in his first policy statement outlined that eradicating hunger, raising levels of nutrition and addressing climate change will be among the Organization’s top priorities over the next four years.

“Today, around 150 million people are able to stay above the poverty line thanks to social protection programmes. They are essential for responding to the main cause of hunger today: insufficient access to food,” he said.

“With the right policies, we can increase food security, adapt to and mitigate climate, but this will require a paradigm shift from the dominant input intensive approach to more sustainable and resilient food systems,” he added.

The conference witnessed an international awards ceremony, recognizing the great effort made by countries around the world which has led to the near achievement of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target to halve the proportion of hungry people by a 2015 deadline, or bringing it below the 5pc threshold.

A majority - 72 out of 129 - of the countries monitored by FAO have achieved the MDG target, with developing regions as a whole missing it by a small margin. Pakistan is not among the countries since it has failed to achieve the MDG target of halving the proportion of hungry people by the 2015 deadline.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2015

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