Civil society leaders, humanitarian activists and experts on Thursday called for early action to have a ‘food security plan’ and policy cover to ensure food availability for the people residing in the Thar desert and other arid zones of Sindh province who are victims of malnutrition. They suggested producing a credible data based on research findings and ensuring people’s transition from vulnerability to wellbeing.
They were speaking at the provincial consultation on ‘Food Security and Livelihoods in Sindh: Addressing the Vulnerabilities’ organised by the Pakistan Institute of Labour Education and Research (PILER) at a local hotel.
Provincial Secretary of Livestock and Fisheries Department Dr Abdul Rahim Soomro said the Sindh government was very much sensitised on the issues of drought in Thar and more veterinary doctors had been appointed to cater to their services and help the herders to save their traditional assets. He said food security was diversified and a sensitive subject.
He said deterioration of the environment and overall society were linked to the approach of the members of the society. He said agriculture, livestock and fisheries were the main sources of food production in Sindh.
The speakers said the people in desert area had their traditional systems to collect food items to live a safer life there. Thar spreading over 22,000 sq km is not food growing area. The people depend on rain for cultivation of their pieces of lands and rearing animals for their livelihood. Vulnerability of these desert people can be gauged from the fact that there is food insecurity and at least 1.5 million people travel annually to other barrage areas with their animals in the search of better source of income to feed their children and rear their animals in these areas.
At least 62 per cent of people in Thar live without proper food. There is no authentic data about the food availability and measure the impacts of hunger and poverty in the area. Evidence of chronic poverty is that 80 per cent population takes credit every year and repays the same in four to five years because they don’t have income resources. Young mothers are the most vulnerable sections of the society in terms of food security because they cannot take proper food.
Malnutrition, specifically among children of Sindh, is on the rise. The irony is that the children belong to the province which produces more wheat and is able to export surplus of wheat. Inequality of land distribution is the main reason of poverty and starvation wherein the children become vulnerable to deaths.
The malnutrition issue in Thar has come to surface during the past couple of years and needed to be addressed to avoid starvation and hunger, because the situation is becoming terrible in the desert areas.
About 72 percent people of villages depend on cultivation for their livelihoods. Small land holders cultivate their pieces of family land. Since they do not have more money to put in the crops, they usually get less production. The plight of sharecroppers is that the landlords do not give them equal share as per the law and deprive the poor farmers of their due right. These farmers cannot challenge the exploitation of landlords in the court, because it is risky job and they usually avoid and face the horrible situation.
There is need to study the impacts of climate change on the arid zones in Sindh where the people are most vulnerable due to depleting food resources. Those people living in lower riparian of the River Indus are disadvantaged and face drought and flood together depending on the situation of water availability and dryness. Increasing frequency of droughts, floods and cyclones have also put the people vulnerable badly affecting the agriculture, natural resources, specifically water sources.