While marking 2nd anniversary of floods 2010 & 2011, ActionAid Pakistan facilitated flood affectees to develop an interface with the policy makers and demand for fulfillment of their rights which included right to a diversified and sustainable agriculture. Cimate change has affected the poor landless farmers badly and it is important that the issue of sustainable agriculture should be taken holistically and not merely in context of floods emergency.
The flood affectees presented a charter of demands and one of those demands included that the government should ensure the restoration of livelihood through provision of agricultural inputs, comprehensive agriculture rehabilitation package to ensure sustainable food production by small-scale women/farmers; the foundation of rural communities’ food & livelihood security. The demand was very well taken by the parliamentarians and decision makers and ActionAid is committed to extend continuous support to the poor farmers till their demand for promoting sustainable agriculture is fully realized.
The agriculture sector continues to be an essential component of Pakistan’s economy. It currently contributes 21 percent to GDP. Agriculture generates productive employment opportunities for 45 percent of the country’s labour force and 60 percent of the rural population depends upon this sector for its livelihood. It has a vital role in ensuring food security, generating overall economic growth and reducing poverty.
Small scale farming community specifically landless women in Pakistan is currently grappling with a host of challenges like reality of women’s diminishing access to land and natural resources and its consequences of food production, hostilities of market forces resulting in soaring agriculture input prices, and vagaries of weather (droughts, floods and erratic rains). In these challenges, sustainable agriculture, that is simply the low input sustainable, climate resilient, biodiversity-friendly and sustainable farming systemthat fits into economic system of Pakistan can be a answer.
The sustainable agriculture approach promotes the ability of farmers, particularly smallholder farmers especially women farmers to gain access to and own their productive resources, such as land, water, forest, pastures, genes and seeds and to use these to secure their livelihood, growth and development with the support of socially, economically and environmentally appropriate methods and technologies. Thus Sustainable smallholder agriculture led by small scale farmers especially women farmers is key to save millions of people going hungry.
Various initiatives like creation of seed banks (high priority given to women participation), farmer’s field schools, organic farming,intergrated pest management, kitchen gardening, water conservation and harvesting, provision of livestock to poor families, and creation of women cooperatives to promote rural livelihood can work as an alternate option. Farmer’s field schools can help to develop farmers professional knowledge and skills in sutainable agriculutre practices including seed preseravtion, intergrated pest management,crop production. ActionAid has already incorporated these initiatives in its campaign framework which outlines altenate building in different Local Rights Programmes (LRP) including Yazman, Khushab, Mansehra, Charsadda and Swabi.
Infact small farmers including women farmers adpating sustainable agriculture can found it not only economically viable and sustainable but also can able to cope with the costly agricultural inputs and gain greater control over their livelihoods.These initiatives are helping number of families to ensure household food security and come out of the poverty trap.
Pakistani women play a major role in agricultural production and livestock raring. The women farmers produce 80% of food and historically have a close relationship with land and food production in Pakistan and important component of agriculture sustainability. They participate in all operations related to crop production such as sowing, transplanting, weeding and harvesting, as well as in post-harvest operations such as threshing, drying, husking and storage. Women often devote more time to these tasks than men do.
Rural Women in Pakistan carry out these tasks in addition to their normal domestic chores of cooking, taking care of children, elderly and disabled, fetching water and fuel, cleaning and maintaining the house. Hence it is crucial that women’s right to land is realized first for promoting sustainable agriculture.