The Pakistan Institute of Parliamentary Services (PIPS) and Syngenta Pakistan organized a high-level policy discussion on “Climate-Smart Agriculture and Food Security: Challenges & Way Forward for Pakistan” on Tuesday, March 7, 2023, in Islamabad. The event started with the recitation of Holy Quran by Qari Anees ur Rehman. Ms. Tehseen Khalid, Director (Research), PIPS moderated the event.
The Honorable Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Speaker of the National Assembly/President of the PIPS BoG, graced the occasion as the chief guest. “Pakistan has become exceedingly vulnerable to climate change, and not due of our own doing, as evidenced by recent major floods that caused havoc to our crops,” remarked the session’s chief guest, Speaker National Assembly Raja Pervaiz Ashraf. He stated that it is critical to protect the agriculture sector from climatic fluctuations and to use sustainable techniques to improve the country’s climate resilience. Hon Speaker added that “We have arrived at a turning point in our history. We shall overcome all of the challenges that our country is currently experiencing through perseverance and resilience.”
In the inaugural session, Hon MNA Mr Asharaf Chaudhry emphasized the need to increase the capacity of small farmers to embrace climate resilient practices, adopt an integrated approach to landscape design, and bring all stakeholders together to establish comprehensive policies. The Director General (Research), PIPS Mr. Muhammad Rashid Mafool Zaka welcomed the participants. He said that “given the recent effects Pakistan has been experiencing, the urgent need to address climate change and food security has become more apparent”. He also highlighted the challenge of current challenge of water security in the country which could affect up to 60% of the country’s farmland by 2050. He informed the participants that the recommendations of policy dialogue will be shared with the Honorable Members of the relevant Standing Committees.
The objectives of the session hosted by PIPS Research Wing were to highlight the key concerns facing the nation’s food security and to propose potential ways to ameliorate these challenges in the context of climate change. The event brought together more than 45 participants, important stakeholders including Members of standing committees of food security and climate change in the National Parliament as well as experts from the public, development, media and academic sectors and representatives from the UN FAO, ADB, PMAS Arid Agriculture University Rawalpindi, and Quaid-e-Azam University Islamabad who highlighted the key challenges facing the food security and agriculture sector in the country amidst climate change.
Dr. Faiz ul Bari,NRM Adviser from Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) said that food security has been a constant challenge for many decades, long before climate change. Food security crises have always been precipitated by a lack of availability and access, particularly in rural areas. Extreme weather events such as floods, droughts, and heat waves have harmed the country’s food security. Agriculture has depleted 90% of sweet surface water, causing severe water stress in industries and households. Disasters are followed by unusable agricultural land because coping mechanisms, resistance, and recovery are very low. Small farmers lack the ability to switch to alternative crops, reducing agricultural productivity for both the country and the farmers themselves. He stressed the need of advocacy and awareness to catalyze the adoption of Climate smart resilient agriculture and water management. He also emphasized the importance of developing an information portal to consolidate weather, water, and other data in collaboration with the Ministry of Climate Change, metrological department, Ministry of Water Resources, food security, and civil aviation, so that data and analyzed information can be communicated to farmers on time. In
Dr Naveed Tahir, PMAS University of Arid Agriculture, Rawalpindi informed the participants that PMAS has established the first-ever Centre for Precision Agriculture to develop indigenous technology for precision agriculture and lessen the impact of agrochemicals on the environment. He explained that GPS-enabled seed drills with auto-steer systems allow for seed planting in straight lines, resulting in improved quality and yield as well as optimized water application. A yield improvement of 8-10% has been found by avoiding the overlapping of fertilizers and chemical sprays. The global UAV market is expected to be worth US$ 102.38 billion by 2030, with agri-based products accounting for 25% of the market. The mitigation window for pests and diseases is very small, and drones can enable timely detection, real-time monitoring, data collection, as well as timely and accurate application, which prevents optimal application. He suggested that such technologies be made available through rental service providers because not every farmer requires them.
Mr. Zeeshan Haseeb Baig, Country GM Syngenta, shared the success story of Syngenta in Pakistan, which is a leading agriculture innovation and technology company that provides crop protection, biological, seeds, and crop enhancement products. He also shared key statistics such as over 53000 employees and $28.2 billion sales. ” Syngenta has invested over $500 million in Pakistan alone, and it has had a relationship with Pakistan and its farmers for over 65 years”. The drone spraying had covered more than 5000 acres in 2022, he told the audience. Syngenta has introduced a new farming ecosystem in Pakistan, which includes measures such as crop insurance for corn and wheat, E-commerce services across selected franchises, cropwise mobile apps for pest and disease detection, weather updates, agronomy advice, and so on, as well as a one-stop solution for all concerns at two newly established Centrig Centres. He suggested that the challenges of lower crop yields be addressed by focusing on crop rotation, more crop production financing, insurance, and mechanisation, R&D on seed varieties and seed care technologies, and post harvest management. He also highlighted the importance of including women in agriculture, as they make up more than half of the country’s population.
Honorable Senator Seemi Ezdi Chairperson Senate’s Standing Committee on Climate Change) was of the view that women in agriculture have an important role to play in ensuring the food security of the country. “Most of the labor force in the agriculture sector constitutes of women workers. It also is an indication of promoting more female farmers who are equipped with the latest technologies for dealing with climate change and productivity issues,” she said.
Honorable Dr. Shahida Rehmani, MNA, praised the timely initiative taken by the Pakistan Institute for Parliamentary Services and Syngenta Pakistan and expressed the hope that the Roundtable’s report would undoubtedly facilitate parliamentary committees in promoting and overseeing the development of national climate-smart agriculture policies.
The Honorable Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, Speaker of the National Assembly/President of the PIPS BoG, appreciated the MPs and experts for such comprehensive analysis on imperative national issue. Hon. Speaker eulogized team PIPS for their untiring efforts in organizing the policy roundtable on climate smart agriculture for the members of NA and Senate Standing Committees. Worthy Executive Director, PIPS Mr. Muhammad Anwar said that increasing agricultural productivity necessitates the adoption of sustainable agriculture, which refers to the efficient production of safe, high-quality agricultural products while protecting and improving the natural environment, the social and economic conditions of farmers, their employees, and local communities, and safeguarding the health and welfare of all farmed species.
During the roundtable discussion, the participants stressed the necessity for concerted action to address the country’s interconnected issues of climate change, food insecurity, water scarcity, and extreme weather events. They valued the policy dialogue because it not only served as a useful point of reference for discussions on climate action but also helped them better comprehend the ideas of “climate-smart agriculture” and the connections between food security, climate change, and sustainable agriculture. The participants emphasized the necessity for similar gatherings in the future where they could network and produce policy proposals that could then be shared with the appropriate standing committees for deliberation and consideration of further action. Mr Zaka, Director General (Research), presented the vote of thanks to the Hon Speaker, all Hon. MPs, participants from academia and area experts as well as the support of Syngenta Pakistan, in particular Mr. Muhammad Afzan Munir, for their assistance in setting up the high level policy dialogue with key stakeholder. He also appreciated PIPS Research Team including Ms. Tehseen Khalid, Director (Research), Mr. Muhammad Rizwan Mazoor Assistant Director (Research), Mr Jimshaid Asghar Assistant Director (Research), and Mr. Fayaz Gul Assistant Librarian for their unwavering support in organizing this event.