Experts stress on climate smart agriculture under CPEC for food security

ISLAMABAD         -      Experts stressed on climate smart agriculture under China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) for food security and economic growth. Climate change is exacerbating the food security crisis in Pakistan and expediting climate smart and precision agriculture is key to combat these challenges of declining agriculture production, water stress, degrading soil health and worsening food security.

This was the crux of a seminar on Climate Smart Agriculture and Cooperation under CPEC organised by Sustainable Development Policy Institute here on Tuesday. Dr Gu Wenliang, Agricultural Commissioner, Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Pakistan said that China transformed its agriculture by investing in adaptation and resilience, shifting focus to quality, upgrading water irrigation systems, developing biogas technology, adopting new technologies and varieties. He suggested addressing financing and emissions challenges by access to smart technologies through hired service providers. Dr Aamer Irshad, Assistant FAO Representative, said that agricultural productivity since 2001 has declined by 3% due to water crisis as increasing temperature is affecting water availability and cycle.

He stressed that agriculture sector must focus on adaptation, mitigation, profitability, biodiversity conservation and adopting a gender approach of policy and analysis. Prof Dr Muhammad Azam Khan, Director CPEC Agricultural Cooperation Centre, PMAS Arid Agricultural University stressed on reducing cost of agriculture, increase efficiency of agricultural inputs and increasing access to precision technologies through service providers, and technological and information exchange under CPEC. Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri, the Executive Director, SDPI warned that hunger and food security will be new normal in 2023 as a manifestation of the triple-C crisis. He said that BISP survey indicates Pakistanis spend 37- 50% of household income on food basket and the way forward is adopting climate smart agriculture. He said that Pakistan can adopt technologies and best practices from China including Great Green Wall for preventing desertification and convert low productivity areas into cultivatable lands.

He stressed on “reorienting CPEC to be agriculture and food security centric and urged adoption of innovations like precision agriculture, multi-spectral drones, sensors and internet of things, etc.” He stressed on expediting livestock and soyabean export from Pakistan to China and said that even capturing 10% of China’s import market can bring much relief to the economic crisis. Saqib Sultan, former Project Manager, PARC said that knowledge gap and institutional inefficiencies are hindering small farmers from adopting climate smart and precision agriculture.

He stressed on high efficiency irrigation systems, crop diversification, crop rotation, stress tolerant crop varieties and integrated pest management to expedite climate smart agriculture in Pakistan. Dr Muhammad Ahsan Qureshi, Assistant Professor, University of Sargodha said that 2022 was catastrophic for Pakistan’s horticulture and a week of heatwaves decreased the mango yield by 30%. He stressed that considering the threat of climate change on extending cooperation in genetic engineering for climate resilient crops to withstand changing climate and collaboration with academia and research institutions to advance in biotechnological engineering of plant varieties with particular focus on cash crops.

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