Pakistan is an agricultural state where gains from agriculture sector are of much substantial nature than any other sector. It is the second largest sector and importance of this sector is significant because it feeds people, provides raw material for industry and contributes 21 percent to GDP and ultimately the largest employer, absorbing 45.1 percent of the country’s total labour force and major source of trade earnings as well.
Food security exists when all the people, at all times, have safe and secure food which is accessible economically and physically to fulfil the need of healthy life but if these conditions are not prevailing then it means that food insecurity exists. Food security is directly connected with economic growth of the country and they strengthen each other during the process of development. A food insecure state is the state which cannot produce the desired food quantity and has no economic access to buy food from the international market to fulfilling its needs. A significant component of national security is food security which has been ignored continuously. In Pakistan, the food security is an alarming situation because our country is an agricultural state where wheat is the main staple food and rice is the second largest staple food crop.
The term food security significantly considered at each level like global, regional, national, community, household and finally at individual level. The level of food security demands the food availability, proper absorption and sufficient access to food. So, food security can be generally based on three components, food availability, food accessibility and absorption of food. Food availability is achieved when adequate amounts of food are available to all individuals. Availability of enough resources to acquire food for fulfilling nutritional requirements is called accessibility to food. Food absorption has many dimensions including sufficient energy providing food with essential nutrients and clean water with adequate sanitation system. Food absorption also depends upon the awareness of the household about food storage, basic doctrines of health care, nutrition and illness management. Economic prosperity serves as a backbone for overall development of a nation because one thing is common in all developed nations that they are economically sound. Logic behind this is that when people of a country are unconstrained from the worries of earning a livelihood to withstand their lives then they will ultimately divert their attention to more useful and productive things as they will focus on education, healthcare and technologies to make the life easy. Worse economic situation is the root cause of so many problems that exist in the country. Unluckily, economic conditions of our country are pathetic and people are struggling for basic commodities of life. Along with other crises, Pakistan is also suffering from food crisis which is unfortunate and shocking. People have to stand in lines for hours for getting a bag of flour and sugar is getting out of their approach. It is not acceptable for our country that is well known an agricultural state that faces the shortages in food commodities like wheat, rice, sugar and vegetables etc.
According to Economic Survey of Pakistan (2011), 56 million people living in urban areas of Pakistan, 21 million fall in the category of food insecurity on the basis of calorie consumption. Situation is specifically worse in Balochistan where 20 districts with urban population fall in the zone of food insecurity. In Sindh six and in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa five districts come in the category of food insecurity. Punjab is comparatively better than others. If considering rural areas of Pakistan on an average 80 districts are food insecure and out of them 38 districts fall extremely in the zone of food insecurity. From these food insecure districts, 22 districts are located in Balochistan, 10 in Punjab and 11 in Sindh and remaining are from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. At the household level, one-third of all the households in Pakistan are living below the food poverty line. Discrepancy exists among provinces, districts and households as if a household is food secure it does not confirm that each member of the household is food protected due to presence of behavioural discrimination in food distribution within family units.
In Pakistan, decentralisation process is now settled enough to implement the policies. The district governments can play an imperative role to overcome the problem of food insecurity immensely at district level. Furthermore, education having utmost important to resolve the problem of food insecurity as it helps to understand that how to manage nutrition and disease more efficiently and effectively. Drinking water is commonly used as an indicator of healthcare and use of safe drinking water in the households may be proposed to improve the food absorption. Ample production of food commodities can mitigate the problem of food availability during the whole season. Last but not least, proper health and education-related policies will lead the country to become food secure at domestic level.
(The writer is research officer/visiting lecturer at Institute of Business Management Sciences, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad)Manan Aslam, "Food security," Business recorder. 2013-03-06.
Keywords: Social demands , Social issues , Social needs , Economic crisis , Economic issues , Economic growth , Economic Survey-Pakistan , Food security , Food crisis , Education , Healthcare , Pakistan