MULTAN: A  Roundtable Discussion on “Food Security vis-à-vis Sustainable Agriculture in Pakistan: Policy Outcomes and Prospects” was jointly organized by Center for Global & Strategic Studies (CGSS), Islamabad, Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan and MNS University of Agriculture, Multan at Multan.

The Discussion commenced with the opening remarks by Mr. Khalid Taimur Akram, Executive Director, Centre for Global& Strategic Studies, Islamabad. He welcomed the panelists and participants of the discussion. He appreciated and acknowledged the hard work of the university particularly in the domain of food security. He stated that a follow up Conference on food security will also be organized inIslamabad.

Dr. Steffen Kudella, Resident Representative, Hanns Seidel Foundation Pakistan, in his welcome remarks, stated that the climate is changing, we are facing a global water crisis, land is degrading, the global population growing, diseases affect livestock and crops, food prices are rising – all at the same time: food is often being wasted, the environment is stressed – all these factors are influencing our food security.

He highlighted the UN’s definition of food security as  “all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.” He also mentioned the 1948 UN Declaration of Human Rights, where the UN recognized the “Right to Food.”

Dr. Kudella stressed that food is a necessity for the survival and well-being of people, and therefore, this necessity must be ensured by the people. Moreover, adaptation strategies and policy responses to food security risks must be developed. Food security is one of Pakistan’s non-traditional security challenges and today’s roundtable discussion at the MNS University of Agriculture, Multan, which is located in the agricultural heartland of Pakistan, provides the perfect setting for experts to discuss food security and sustainable agricultural production.

Prof. Dr. Asif Ali (TI), Vice Chancellor, MNS University of Agriculture, Multan was the Chief Guestat the occasion. He welcomed the worthy panelists. He stated that there are several non-traditional security challenges that Pakistan is facing. However, food security remains on top while climate change is second on the list. He ensured specialized research and development in different domains of nontraditional security challenges particularly food security and climate change. He vowed to work together in collaboration with CGSS & HSF in the sectors of nontraditional security challenges. He highlighted several initiatives that are being undertaken by the University in this regard. He stated that MNS university has built models for water security, clean and green environment and climate change.

Ms. Palwasha Nawaz, Project Executive, CGSS presented a brief overview on the working of CGSS. She gave presentation on Food & Agriculture Security: An Emerging Nontraditional Security Challenge for Pakistan. She stated that food security is a multidimensional concept.There must be sufficient supplies of affordable food throughout the year to ensure a healthy and productive life. She highlighted the four components of food security that are physical availability of food, economic access, utilization of food in body and stability. Furthermore, she also described in detail the situation of food security after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The discussion was conducted in two sessions. The theme of the first session one was “Understanding Food Security in Pakistan: Incorporating New Techniques and Policy Recommendations”. This session was chaired by Prof. Dr. Sajjad Ahmad Khan, Vice Chancellor, Cholistan University of Veterinary and Animal Sciences, Bahawalpur. He thanked all the participants for their contribution. He stated that we must highlight the potential of Pakistan in the agriculture sector on various forums.

The panelists of the first sessionstated that food security is about making food available to everyone at all times. Around 820 million people go to bed hungry at night. In Pakistan, the future of our nation i.e. children are suffering from hunger and do not have sufficient nutrition. During session one, overview on the 2030 agenda for sustainable development and the zero hunger agenda was also presented. It was discussed thatby 2030, there would be end to all forms of hunger and malnutrition. People–especially children will have sufficient and nutritious food all year. Furthermore, it was stated that there is a need to promote sustainable agriculture, supporting small-scale farmers, technology and markets. There must be international cooperation to ensure investment to improve agricultural productivity. The role of academia was also discussed in the perspective of food security, nutrition, and sustainable development. During the discussion food security, sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and policy measures adopted in South Asian countries were also discussed. The panelists also presented facts and figures of food security in Pakistan including food utilization, food access and availability.

The panelists of session one included the following:

·         Dr. Umar Saeed, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Pakistan

·         Dr. Zulfiqar Ali, Director ORIC, MNS University of Agriculture, Multan

·         Dr. Saeed Akhtar, Department of Food Science and Technology, Bahauddin Zakariya University Multan

·         Ms. Rabia Sultan, Progressive Grower / Director Gurmani Foundation

·         Dr. Khalid Bashir, Assistant Professor, Institute of Agricultural and Resource Economics, University of Agriculture Faisalabad

The theme of the second session was Critical Analysis of the Agriculture Sector in Pakistan: Ramifications and Policy Recommendations and the session was chaired by Syed Ibne Hussain, IGPolice (Retd), Member, Punjab Public Service Commission. He thanked the panelists for their contribution. He stated that the panelists elaborately covered their topics. The panelists also presented innovative ideas and techniques.

The panelists of the second session discussed agriculture and economic cooperation for ensuring sustainability. It was stated that there is a need to fully understand the major strategic importance of accelerating scientific and technological innovation and accelerate the resolution of some key issues restricting the development of scientific and technological innovation. The panelists also discussed agriculture development issues and policy ramifications in Pakistan. It was stated that agricultural sector is indispensable to Pakistan’s economic growth, food security, employment generation and poverty reduction. Pakistan is essentially an agricultural country, generating more of its export from cotton, rice, and fruits. Most of the people, i.e. 64% lives in rural areas depending on agriculture for livelihood. Several recommendations as the way forward were presented by the panelists. It was stated that food security must include nutritional security. The political economy of food security must not compromise profitability of the farmer. It was also stated that water is an indispensable ingredient to agricultural production and without water, farmers would not be able to grow their crops and feed their animals. Therefore, water insecurity means food insecurity.

The Panelists of the second session included:

·         Dr. Muhammad Ashfaq, Project Coordinator, MNS University of Agriculture Multan

·         Dr. Sofia Anwar, Dean, Faculty of Management Sciences, Govt. College University, Faisalabad

·         Dr. Ayesha Hakim, Assistant Professor, MNS University of Agriculture, Multan

·         Dr. Asif Kamran, Economists, Nuclear Institute of Agriculture and Biology (NIAB), Faisalabad

·         Prof. Dr. Irfan Ahmad Baig, Dean Faculty of Social Sciences, MNS University of Agriculture Multan

Mr. Barak Ullah, Additional Secretary Agriculture (TF), South Punjab presented the concluding remarks. He congratulated MNS University, CGSS and HSF on organizing a successful discussion. He was thankful to the farmer community who have reduced the usage of pesticides and have shifted towards bio-science.

The discussion was attended by approximately 70 participants including experts of the relevant fields, deans, faculty members and students.