THE forecast that Pakistan and the drought-hit regions of northern and central India are facing lower food output because of less-than-normal rainfall in the second half of the year comes as yet another warning that agricultural production is under severe threat due to climate change. The latter manifests itself through surging temperatures, changing rainfall patterns, and the increasing intensity and frequency of extreme weather events — droughts, floods, etc. It has increased agricultural production risks, thanks to the heavy reliance of farming on favourable weather conditions. Pakistani farmers across the country have seen these changes severely impact their output over the last decade. The trend has significantly stressed the production of food, including wheat and other crops. Warmer-than-normal weather last year had affected the wheat harvest and forced the government to import the cereal in large quantities to feed the people.
The phenomenon of climate change is not new. Pakistan has been suffering from its impact for a very long time now, with large parts having to cope with drought, abnormal rainfall and devastating floods, especially since 2010. Last year’s deluge caused enormous damage to crop output. With the country already struggling to overcome growing food shortages and rising food price inflation, it is feared that the changing climate will increase food insecurity, besides threatening the livelihood of millions associated with the agriculture sector. The situation demands that the policymakers take effective steps to measure the effect of climate change on different regions in Pakistan and correctly assess their impact on agricultural production. Farmers need to be trained in climate-smart agricultural practices and educated about the potential impact of climate change on their occupation and livelihood. The government should also invest in agricultural research and development to minimise the negative impact of climate change on the farm sector. With more than half the population facing moderate to serious food insecurity, the time for action is fast running out.
Published in Dawn, March 18th, 2023
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