Natural disasters have battered Pakistan’s agriculture sector. In 2005, a massive earthquake devastated the North West Frontier Province and Pakistan Administered Kashmir, claiming the lives of some 80 000 people, destroying crops and damaging irrigation systems. Several districts of Punjab and Sindh were affected by flash floods in 2007, while another quake struck drought-prone Balochistan in 2008.
In 2008, high food prices pushed millions more into hunger, with nearly half of the population now facing food insecurity.
Conflict has also taken a toll on the sector. The escalation in fighting between government forces and armed groups in Pakistan’s North West Frontier Province and Federally Administered Tribal Areas in recent months forced over two million people from their homes. Most have since returned home; however, damages to crops and livelihoods were extensive.
With demand for basic staples outpacing supply, Pakistan has to rely partially on food imports to feed its people. Agricultural productivity has been hamstrung by the high cost of inputs and fuel, but also by limited water resources. Several regions of Pakistan are arid and water-stressed, which makes sustainable water management all the more pressing.
European Union Food Facility
In May 2009, FAO launched a 26-month project to help the government of Pakistan restore the food security of vulnerable households in the food-deficient areas of North West Frontier Province, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan.
With funds from the European Union totalling € 24.7 million, the project will enable at least 166 700 farming families (reaching over one million people) to grow enough staple foods – wheat, rice, vegetables and other crops – to meet household food needs.
FAO will provide farmers with free quality inputs, including high-yielding and locally appropriate seed varieties and fertilizers, in time for the planting season to help boost crop production.
Irrigation is crucial to agricultural activities in the targeted areas, yet several irrigation schemes have fallen into disrepair due to neglect and natural disasters. FAO will help rehabilitate 150 small-scale community-managed irrigation schemes and 200 rainwater harvesting structures.
FAO will also provide 100 seed and grain storage facilities to help reduce losses, as well as agricultural tools and machinery to 100 farmers’ associations.
To enhance sustainability, FAO will help train around 37 500 smallholder farmers in the efficient use of irrigation, crop production, proper maintenance and use of agricultural tools and machinery and post-harvest management. Training will also be provided through Farmer Field Schools.
The project, in line with the government’s ongoing national programme for food security, will be implemented jointly by FAO and the UN World Food Programme (WFP). WFP will provide food-for-work assistance to approximately 83 000 households living in the most food vulnerable areas.
Other FAO activities
FAO projects in Pakistan related to soaring food prices include:
- a Technical Cooperation Programme project worth US$ 500 000 to supply more than 200 tonnes of wheat seed and an equal amount of fertilizers to 8 320 vulnerable farmers and their families in the earthquake-affected areas of North West Frontier Province.
- a joint FAO-WFP programme in which FAO’s role involved implementing a US$1.2 million project to provide wheat seed, fertilizers, vegetable seeds and lentil seeds to some 8 000 vulnerable farming families. The joint response is funded by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
- a regional TCP project to provide support in distributing inputs, and institutional capacity-building, monitoring of prices and the food security situation, and assessing the impact of programmes to address high food prices.
With funds worth USD 1 385 000, FAO is working to assess agriculture needs in the conflict-affected areas and is providing agriculture and livestock inputs to the most vulnerable returning farming families. FAO is also preparing an appropriate medium-term agriculture rehabilitation and recovery programme.