UPSIGN Network and UKRI opens doors for partnership between the UK and Pakistan to address food security and improve nutrition

UPSIGN Network UK, organised a food security workshop together UK research & Innovation (UKRI), through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) in Islamabad. Over 50 researchers, policy makers and community organisations from the UK, Pakistan and Sri Lanka participated in the discussions.  

By Dr Muhammad Ijaz Tabassum

The purpose of this partnering workshop was to create and foster new relationships and develop new networks interested in solving food security challenges, aligned with the UN sustainable development goals.

Federal Minister for Science & Technology, ‎Fawad Chaudhry formally launched workshops on 8th March appreciating the efforts of UKRI to open doors for collaboration with Pakistan.

Dr Muhammad Azeam, Chairman PARC delivered overview of the agriculture sector in Pakistan and highlighted areas that requires improvement. The farmers need improved and certified seed to enhance their crop production. PARC is working with the farmers to develop new technologies to save water and produce food.

The workshop discussed the issues related to food security, sustainable food production, strategic planning to maximize dietary diversity and quality, issues to tackle the spread of diseases from livestock to humans (Zoonotic Disease), issue of antibiotics use. Five interesting consortiums were developed focussing on the challenges.

Professor Nicola Lowe, UKRI’s GCRF Challenge for Food Systems said: “Through the UK government’s Global Challenges Research Fund we have a fantastic opportunity to combine research and academic knowledge with in-country expertise to develop practical solutions to some of the world’s most pressing challenges including climate change, food insecurity and poor health”.

“Joining with UPSIGN to develop and deliver these this workshop series opens up exciting possibilities for new collaborations between researchers and community groups from the UK and Pakistan to make a real difference to people with terrible struggles in their everyday lives,” she further added.

Prof Jawwad Darr, Chairman of UPSIGN Network (A British Pakistani) said, “I’m very proud of the UPSIGN team’s efforts to volunteer their time and proactively facilitate British and other scientists to partner with each other for mutual benefit of the UK, Pakistan and the SE Asia Region.”

Dr Khalid Mahmood, the Cofounder of UPSIGN briefed audience about the objectives of UPSIGN and said, “this is an exciting time where both UK and Pakistan top universities and research institutes are taking part in the workshops. Active participation from more than 40 UK, Pakistan and regional universities, research Institutes, policy organisations and ministries depicted the level of serious engagement.”

The Federal Minister for Climate Change Zar Taj Gul emphasised the need to drive research to address the climate challenge. The Minister Climate Change appreciated the work of agriculture scientists who helped Pakistan to become enough in producing staple crops.

Five key projects came out through intensive discussions where participants from UK and Pakistan agreed to develop projects together. The details of the designated groups are as following:

  1. Resilient crop breeding for drought and heat tolerance and enhanced nutrition. The group comprised of Prof Andrew Westby(Greenwich University), Dr Nayem Syed (Cantbury university) Dr Shahid Mansur( NIBGE), Malik Muhammad Yousaf (PARC), Prof Asif Ali (MNSU), Dr Javed Ahmad (Ayub Agri Research Institute), Prof Habib Ur Rehman (BZU), Dr Asad Shah (University of Kotli), Dr Rizwana Maqbool (UAF). Prof Nicola Lowe (UCLAN).
  2. Smart crop protection with use of biopesticides. Dr Belinda Luke- CABI, Prof Tariq Butt (Swansea), Dr Farooq Shah (UPSIGN), Prof Waqas Wakeel (UAF), Imran Sheikh (Galaxy Rice), Dr Chandrika (Columbo University), Prof Colin Berry(Cardiff University), Dr Muhammad Zahid (Punjab Agri Extension), Dr Hamid Mukhtar (GC University Lahore), Dr Sadia (Lancashire university), Dr Sabyan Honey (CABI) are members of this group.
  3. Feed to Food. This group is led by Abdul Ch-Newcastle University, other members are Prof Masroor Elahi (Gomal Agri. University), Dr Arshad Hashmi (Virtual University), Younas Khan (Punjab Livestock Market DG Khan Division), Dr Simon Holland (Barefoot lightning)  Dr Khalid Mahmood, Rothamsted, Dr Zia ul Hassan (PARC), Dr Nasir Mukhtar (PMAS) , Dr Anila Afzal (PMAS)
  4. Soil health and Nutrients use efficiency. The group members are Prof Martin Broadly, Nottingham university, Prof Bob Rees (SRUC), Dr Abdul Wakeel (UAF), Dr Munir Zia (FFC), Dr Umer Saeed, Dr Sehla Abassi,
  5. Pakistan One Health, the group members are Dr Lisa Boden (Edinburgh), Prof Andrew Dowsey (Bristol University), Prof Munir Iqbal (Pirbright Institute), Dr Abdul Rehman (PRI), Prof Habib Bukhari (COMSATS), Dr Mamona Chaudhry (UVAS), Dr Aysha Riaz (PMAS), Prof Muhammad Iqbal Choudhary (ICCBS Karachi).
Development workshops reception at Pakistan President house.
(L-R) Dr Khalid Mahmood, Co-founder UPSIGN Network, HE Dr Christian Turner, British High Commissioner, Fawad Chaudhry, Federal Minister for Science & Technology, HE Dr Arif Alvi, President of Pakistan, Prof Jawwad Darr, Chairman of UPSIGN Network, Dr Parveen Ali, University of Sheffield, and Professor Nicola Lowe, UKRI’s GCRF Challenge Lead for Food Systems
UPSIGN and UKRI delegation with Federal Minister for Science & Technology, Fawad Chaudhry
UPSIGN and UKRI delegation with Prime Minister of Pakistan, Imran Khan along with Federal Minister for Science & Technology, Fawad Chaudhry
Group photo of Food Security workshop participants
Members of the Food Security workshop panel
UPSIGN Network and UKRI delegation group photo
The author is a seasoned botany scientist. He is associated with Ayub Research Institute, Faisalabad in the capacity of Senior Scientist (Wheat).