Adapting to survive-the climate challenge

PAKISTAN engaged in genis an important agro-industrial country of South Asia. Although contribution of agriculture in GDP has decreased from 53 per cent in 1950 to 21.4 per cent in 2013 but it still contribute lions share in the economy of Pakistan. Pakistan is fortunate to have a vast fertile land and an effective irrigation system. We are blessed with four seasons and hardworking farmers. Agriculture is strongly associated with poverty alleviation, food security and rural development. Agriculture is almost dependent on prevailing weather conditions. Uncertain weather conditions are a burning issue of agriculture and geographical location of Pakistan makes it more vulnerable to vagaries of Climate Change. According to World Bank, Pakistan is the 12th most vulnerable country to climate change. Climatic changes are consequence of increased emissions of greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide) from deforestation, industrialization, fossil fuel burning and unchecked use of agrochemicals. The temperatures in Pakistan are projected to rise. The spring and summer seasons are expected to experience the most warming, with the least expected in winter. These projections are based on a series of scenarios including options of:

a. No policies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

b. Stabilization of carbon dioxide (CO2) concentrations as 550 parts per million (ppm) by the year 2075.

c. Stabilization of CO2 concentrations at 450 ppm by the year 2050.

Climate change is spreading like an epidemic and agriculture is most vulnerable to this catastrophe. Today the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere is about 396 ppm and is rising about 1.5 ppm each year. Without mitigation measures the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is predicted to rise to at least 650 ppm and up to 1200 ppm by 2100. The Agro-Climatology Lab was established by Prof. Dr. Ashfaq Ahmad and Dr. Syed Aftab Wajid in 2001 at University of Agriculture, Faisalabad-Pakistan to develop optimum management strategies to mitigate climate change impact on our crop production. The impact on agriculture will include heat stress on crops and animals and water stress on crops. Some irrigation systems designed for current climates may not be able to supply the peak demand associated with the change in hot spells. Negative effects of climate change on agriculture were mainly due to the increased temperature. Increased temperature decreases the crop growth duration to remain photosynthetically active, so less assimilates are produced in the grain that finally leads to reduced quality and quantity of yield. These changes are likely to influence the length of the growing season, and therefore, production. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the average temperature of the earth has increased by 0.6 °C during the previous century and it is predicted to increase by 1.4 to 5.8 °C by the end of the current century. Climate change could also lead to increased incidence of existing pests, parasites and pathogens. There is a range of measures, including good farming practices that can help producers adapt to extremes in temperature and reduced rainfall. The food prices index around the world has surged to a new height compelling developing countries include Pakistan to store wheat and rice in bulk.

To confront such eventuality, Pakistan will have to activate research and development cells of its agricultural sector and encourage the use of high yield seeds to improve productivity so that it not only meets its domestic needs but also boosts exports. In short, food security is common concern for both rich and poor. Both developed and developing countries are therefore, making long-term plans to meet their food requirements. All we need is good network of transportation of farm products from field to storage. We should also add value to our items and improve packaging for exports. Unfortunately much of this additional amount went to the pockets of the middlemen and the big landlords. While the country is going through its biggest financial crises led by cost push inflation, our business indices reflect that the country is doing better than last years in all its sectors. Pakistan is producing food items in abundance but due to high prices and poverty, the purchasing power of the common man is gradually decreasing. It is therefore imperative to review the agriculture policy to attain autarky in food crops and provide essential food items to the common man at affordable rates.

The writer is PhD Scholar, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad, Pakistan.

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