Agriculture is central to human survival and is probably the human enterprise most vulnerable to climate change. The agriculture sector, as the single largest sector of Pakistan’s economy, is its lifeline. It accounts for 45% of the labor force,
21% of GDP and 70% of total export earnings. Agriculture in Pakistan is greatly
affected by short-term climate variability and could be significantly impacted by long-term climate change. As the duration of crop growth cycles is related to temperature, an increase in temperature will speed up crop growth and shorten the time between sowing and harvesting. This shortening could have an adverse effect on productivity of crops and fodder for livestock. The hydrological cycle is similarly likely to be influenced by global warming, necessitating the agriculture and livestock sectors, particularly in rain-fed areas, to adapt to climate change.
Since the agriculture sector is heavily dependent on the water sector, a number of adaptation measures identified in Section 4.1 are equally applicable to the agriculture sector and hence will not be repeated. To enhance national food security the Government of Pakistan, in collaboration with relevant entities, shall take on the following additional adaptation measures:
- Develop appropriate digital simulation models for assessment of climate change impacts on physical, chemical, biological and financial aspects of agricultural production systems in various agro-ecological zones;
- Develop new varieties of crops which are high yielding, resistant to heat
stress, drought tolerant, less vulnerable to heavy spells of rains and less prone to attack by insects and pests;
- Develop and introduce better breeds of livestock with higher milk productivity and which are less prone to heat stress and more drought tolerant;
- Develop quality datasets on crop, soil and climate related parameters to identify ideal cropping patterns for each region and facilitate research work on climate change impact assessment and productivity projection studies;
- Enhance the research capacity of various relevant organizations to make reliable predictions of climatic parameters and river flows for seasonal, inter- annual and inter-decadal time frames, to assess the corresponding likely impacts on various crops and to develop appropriate adaptation measures;
- Promote targeted research on adoption of sustainable land management practices;
- Enhance the capacity of the farming community to take advantage of the scientific findings of relevant research organizations.
- Improve crop productivity per unit of land and per unit of water by increasing the efficiency of various agricultural inputs, in particular irrigation water;
- Promote energy efficient farm mechanization to increase yields and labor saving;
- Improve farm practices by adopting modern techniques such as laser land leveling, crop diversification, proper cropping patterns and optimized planting dates;
- Promote through financial incentives, solar water desalination for irrigation and drinking particularly in saline groundwater regions;
- Improve irrigation practices by adopting, wherever feasible, modern techniques such as the use of sprinklers and trickle irrigation;
- Develop capacity based on Remote Sensing and GIS techniques to assess temporal changes in land cover in different agro-ecological zones;
- Promote biotechnology in terms of more carbon responsive crops, improved breeds and production of livestock using genetic engineering.
- Establish Climate Change Units in agriculture research organizations to devise adaptive strategies for projected impacts of climate change on agriculture;
- Promote horizontal expansion of cultivated lands through development of wastelands, and rainwater harvesting through community based approaches to development;
- Promote feed conservation techniques and fodder banks in arable areas;
- Ensure availability of quality feed and fodder to livestock to supplement their grazing on rangelands;
- Improve the nutritional quality of feed through the use of multi-nutrient blocks (MNB) prepared from urea, molasses, vitamins and minerals;
- Ensure an enabling financial environment for farmers to invest in and adopt the relevant technologies to overcome climate related stresses.
- Develop a proper risk management system including crop insurance to safeguard against crop failures due to extreme events (such as floods and droughts);
- Improve the extension system and enhance use of the media to allow effective and timely communication of climatic predictions and corresponding advice to farming communities;
- Encourage farmers, particularly in rain-fed areas, to avoid monoculture and, instead, plant a variety of heat and drought resistant low delta crops, so as to reduce the risk of crop failure;
- Encourage agriculture drought management practices that recognize drought as part of a highly variable climate, as opposed to treating it as a causal natural disaster;
- Establish livestock disease monitoring and surveillance systems at district level.
Author: Ali Hassan Shabbir
M.Sc. (Hons.) Agricultural Economics
UAF, Faisalabad, Pakistan.