FAO in Pakistan

Message at the Global Fertilizer Day from Miná Dowlatchahi, FAO Representative in Pakistan


Agriculture has been at the core of human society’s survival through civilization, and has today a strategic role in ensuring enough safe and nutritious food for all people at all times on the planet and sustainable management of natural resources.
The Green Revolution opened the way for adoption of high yielding crop varieties complemented with enhanced use of chemical fertilizers both at small and large farms, in the 60s. Fertilizers are one of the inputs of modern agriculture that help to achieve higher crops productivity and soil health. Pakistan also benefited from an increased use of fertilizers however to lesser extent than other countries in the region. The balanced use of fertilizer for the type of soil along with appropriate application techniques has been an issue in the country, in particular for women and men smallholder farmers, for lack of knowledge and access to the right fertilizer. With time, this has contributed to increased production costs with comparatively low yields, soil exploitation, salinization and loss of soil quality.  
Today this calls for collaborative efforts from public and private sectors, especially by the service providers and extension services, to educate, train, and facilitate farmers in soil testing and understanding how to use fertilizers more effectively. This would ensure proper investment of financial resources and would guarantee enhanced farm yield and better return to the farmers a prerequisite for sustainable agriculture, economic development of the sector and ensuring food security and nutrition in the country.    
Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations has been promoting the concept of 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship initiative in collaboration with Federal and Provincial Governments as well as private sector fertilizer companies in all provinces of Pakistan. The 4Rs strategy consists in promoting the efficient use of fertilizers through a) Right Sources (quality assurance) b) Right Rates (balanced use), c) Right Time (application at appropriate crop stage) and d) Right Place (suitable method of application).
At the same time, FAO developed and published the Soil Fertility Atlases for the four provinces for adoption of 4Rs Nutrient Stewardship. These Atlases provide detailed data and information maps on cropping patterns, management practices, soil fertility status and trend of fertilizer use. In addition, information like advisory services and soil testing facilities available to the farmers in the provinces is included. These Atlases, and the database, can contribute to sustainable intensification of agriculture production through adoption of international best practice while maintaining soil health and environment quality, if appropriately and regularly used.       
To ensure sustainable agriculture, food, and agriculture systems that help maintain biodiversity, and adapt to climate change, we have to change and consider Agro-ecology holistic approaches. By building synergies, agro-ecology can support food production and food security and nutrition while restoring the ecosystem services and biodiversity that are essential for sustainable agriculture.
By focusing on biological synergies, agro-ecological practices enhance ecological functions, leading to greater resource-use efficiency and resilience. For example, globally, biological nitrogen fixation by pulses in intercropping systems or rotations generates savings in nitrogen fertilizers while contributing to soil health, climate change mitigation and adaptation. Furthermore, about one fourth of the nitrogen applied to crops comes from livestock manure, highlighting synergies resulting from crop–livestock integration. There needs to be more attention on the use of organic fertilizers, more beneficial for soil health and their impact on biodiversity, and less costly in particular for smallholder farmers. To adequately exploit organic resources concerted efforts are required in research, and development, private-public partnerships along with setting up of a regulatory framework to promote organic fertilizer use.
I assure that FAO would be forthcoming to share knowledge and facilitate public and private sector in their endeavour in promoting the balanced and efficient use of fertilizers to achieve sustainable agriculture and a fair food system for the benefit of men and women small-holder farmers in Pakistan.