World Food Day 2022 can be better read as Pakistan Floods Day 2022. The United Nations secretary-general’s visit, which has highlighted food insecurity caused by floods in Pakistan, is an opportunity to address the threat of the larger climate challenge. For now, the urgent need is to bring agriculture and rural life back to normal in the flood-affected areas.
The teams of our university conducted a series of relief operations and rapid research to find ways of recovery and rehabilitation. Some of the lessons learned from Sindh are summarized below:
Getting out of debt: The farmer, as well as the lender (aarhti) owe. They have an interdependent existence in a centuries-old symbiosis. The money trail begins at the point of lending (investors’ or bankers’ fund) and ends with the arrival of commodities (cotton, dates, rice, vegetables) on the market. and so on). Both sides are helpless with floods and loss of goods. Demolition of farmers’ houses adds to debt stress. It is not a simple matter of offering cash or providing in kind for immediate needs. There is a case for legislative measures to wipe out farm debts and loans with a plan to revive the lender. A tenant without land, haarietc. does not have access to formal credit. Historically, Sir Chotu Ram’s famous intervention in the 1930s (The Punjab Relief of Indebtedness Act, 1934 and The Punjab Debtors Protection Act, 1936) is credited with writing off all farm debts. There was also a clause on the protection of creditors. In the recent past, we have seen huge loan write-offs sanctioned by the State Bank of Pakistan. Now is the time to extend a similar helping hand to small lenders and borrowers affected by the flood.
Farm inputs: Land in Upper Sindh is getting ready for Rabi crops (barseem, wheat and brassica). Farmers need money for fuel, seeds and fertilizers; the creditor has no liquidity. Benazir Income Support Program (BISP) grants can be adapted to facilitate wheat cultivation by smallholders. Cash can be exchanged for seed and fertilizer packages. Banks should create easy access to investment to supply inputs. The credit delivery process can be extended to include livestock feed and fodder. For the landless haari, BISP grants should be renamed to provide for livestock and poultry. Subsidized farm inputs, services and credit will be required to be delivered at the doorsteps of displaced farmers.
Drainage: Water in it katcha areas (river line) receded leaving a rich soil cover suitable for cultivation. Meanwhile in some pucca irrigated lands in the areas were flooded due to excessive rain and hill-rain floods. Horizontal drainage has reached its limit. Those who have the opportunity to pump are already draining stagnant water. A redesign of the drainage and irrigation system is needed to deal with the current crisis and for future protection. It is possible to use the “pan evaporation” method to predict the time required for evaporation of stagnant water. Observation sites can be established in affected areas and data can be collected to calculate the required time interval. Accordingly, the crop sequence can be designed for several months beyond the traditional Rabi mix.
Cutting scheme: Product planning for the next six months is essential. This may include new crops such as soybeans and traditional vegetables, forages, edible oilseeds and cotton. Early summer vegetables, onions, peppers, melons and greens are supplied from Sindh to the rest of the country. The seed is a critical input here. Gujranwala and Karachi markets are major suppliers of local and imported vegetable seeds. Among the fruits, the two main causes are dates and bananas. Date palms are propagated by suckers (plants) produced at the base of traditionally growing trees. The floodwaters killed a large number of suckers. Planting material for new palm fields will be scarce for a few years. There is a similar situation with bananas. Seedlings obtained from tissue culture are a technology option for providing planting material. Technology is a completely commercialized option. In the past, it was seen as an academic exercise. It is time to encourage commercial tissue culture laboratories.
Revival of markets: Market infrastructure is damaged, operating capital is lost. Agricultural markets are not just places where goods move forward. They are also epicenters of services and innovation. Now the markets must be rebuilt, they must be built better and bigger. There is an opportunity to rethink the management of markets and warehouses. The case of Punjab Agricultural Market Reforms Authority (PAMRA) and Cattle Marketing Companies can be studied.
Lakes: Sindh has several large lakes and wetlands. Floods have created new lakes in low-lying areas that are difficult to drain. When the water stagnates, mosquitoes multiply. It has biological and chemical control applications. Deeper waters are suitable for aquaculture and Azolas and lotus (floating plants). Azola and lotus produce biomass, food and feed while evaporating water faster. Shallow water and mud can be cultivated with forage grasses (elephant grass, sedge grass, royal grass). Fish seeds, Azola and feeds are available in Punjab and should be mobilized for users in Sindh.
Livelihood and migration: Climate-related migration and the search for livelihoods are inevitable. Our cities are already overcrowded. Mass migration has both benefits and risks. The current crisis calls for offering livelihood options for the displaced – whether through interest-free loans or investment in new skills; solar ovens or internet connection. A collective effort is needed in this regard. There is rich ground for academics for research and for future policy and planning.
Technology: The application of technology offers reliable assessment procedures and planning support. This includes the use of GIS, satellite imagery and data analytics. Pasture fields can be sprayed using drones with reliable surveying equipment. Android Apps are developed to create effective communication.
Experience: About three million students study in the higher education system. The current crisis provides an opportunity to expose our youth and future leadership to crisis management. There is an internship requirement for university students. This is an emergency situation where a phased internship program could be developed to send interns to the flooded areas to volunteer. They will leave with a different skill set and return with improved skill levels and new ideas. The Higher Education Commission (HEC) has many sponsored programs, including the National Research Program for Universities, which can be directed towards floodplain restoration.
Based on rapid assessments, we have identified more than 20 interventions for agricultural rehabilitation. Internship/internship programs are for women and children nutrition and health education. Together we can rebuild communities devastated by floods.
The. the writer is bad chancellor University of Agriculture, Faisalabad