The city of Lahore is facing increasingly serious food security problems mainly as a result of many constraints affecting the way food reaches the city and is redistributed within the whole urban area. Such constraints, daily faced by traders, shopkeepers and transporters, mean that consumers need to pay higher than necessary prices for accessing food, the quality of which is often less than optimal. Low-income inhabitants of Metropolitan Lahore, estimated around 50 percent of its present 5.7 million inhabitants, face a serious food security risk.
Furthermore, inappropriate hygienic conditions in urban markets and street food sales are causing health problems to consumers. Such problems can and must be solved. Finally, the quality of air and water as well as the overall environment in Lahore, are being undermined by the growing number of food-laden trucks, which create traffic congestion, and the increasing amount of organic and inorganic waste generated by urban markets. These problems contribute to a progressive deterioration of the quality of life in our city.
The city of Lahore is expected to double its present population within a decade. Such high urban growth is likely to further increase poverty conditions in the city. Consequently, the food security of an increasing urban constituencies will progressively deteriorate.
We should be concerned with the food security of our cities, not only because it is a matter of justice, but also because food security, urban political stability and urban development are linked. We thus need to face our problems and take adequate steps to ensure that we all have access to good quality and safe food, at the lowest possible costs.
The challenges ahead are numerous and require, first and foremost, that we, the decision-makers, have a proper understanding of how the food requirements of Lahore are currently satisfied and will be satisfied in the next five to ten years. Secondly, we need to have common and comprehensive urban food security policies and strategies. Action plans with clearly identified institutional responsibilities must be formulated.
For this reason, the Metropolitan Corporation of Lahore organised, in collaboration with the Agricultural and Livestock Products Marketing and Grading Department (Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock) a one-day workshop, the main conclusions and recommendations of which are summarised in this brief report. The workshop took place under the auspices of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO). The objective of this workshop was to sensitise senior decision makers concerned with urban development and food security issues about the challenges that rapid urbanisation and increasing urban poverty pose on urban food security, and the need to take appropriate, concerted action.
The content of this report is by no means exhaustive. It represents a first attempt to look at the problems of our city from different angles and sheds some light on the key problems requiring urgent solution. It is hoped that this report will stimulate further thought and, indeed, action as well as proper collaboration between the various institutions and organisations, both private and public, which are involved, directly or indirectly, in food trade activities.
Meaningful and sustainable solutions to the food security problems facing Lahore will only be achieved if we all put our work together towards a common goal. Under the dynamic leadership of the Chief Minister, Punjab, Mr. Shabaz Sharif, the Metropolitan Corporation Lahore is ready to play its role.
Khwaja Ahmed Hassaan,