ISLAMABAD: The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has launched a dialogue series to encourage discussion on food insecurity, malnutrition and rural poverty in Pakistan.

The ‘Pakistan 2020 dialogue series’ is organised under the ‘Food and Nutrition Security Impact, Resilience, Sustainability and Transformation (FIRST)’ Programme, a partnership between FAO and the European Union.

The first webinar of the dialogue series held on Thursday presented insights into agricultural labour issues in Sindh and Punjab, highlighting facts and challenges in ending child labour and uplifting rural youth towards a more secure future.

Experts gave their perspective on the vexed issue of child labour in agriculture, and made recommendations on how to make headway on its elimination while striving to reach SDG2 targets.

The discussion drew upon some of the findings of a policy effectiveness analysis conducted by the FIRST programme in Pakistan in 2018-19 in relation to food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture policy environment.

There are bottlenecks to implementation mechanisms of policies, and the necessary conditions to move forward include more strategic resource allocation and effective approaches to building institutional capacity.

Haris Gazdar, coordinator on social protection to the Sindh chief minister, said an important piece of legislation concerning agriculture women workers had been passed in Sindh.

“What we want to see is a transition away from children missing out on school and starting burdensome, unhealthy work at a too young an age. We want to work towards a rural youth population with useful and safe experience in family farming complemented by a technology-savvy agriculture education and training, so that they can have better income and a more productive, healthier and secure future,” said FAO representative in Pakistan Mina Dowlatchahi.

“Hunger is a strong factor pushing families in rural areas to rely on their children’s work in food and agriculture production. Malnutrition is too often a consequence of children’s strenuous work, not adapted to their age and developing bodies and minds. Strengthening the nexus between food security and nutrition policies and child labour elimination is key,” said Ariane Genthon, an official of FAO based in Rome.

“Child labour in agriculture is just one of several issues to be addressed to help us reach the food security and nutrition targets in the 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda. Reducing the practice of hazardous, underage working in the food system will also contribute towards the elimination of poverty and the promotion of decent work,” said Genevieve Hussain, policy officer FAO.

Published in Dawn, August 9th, 2020