Reasons for Agricultural Decline in Pakistan and Suggestions to Curtail It

Reasons for Agricultural Decline in Pakistan and Suggestions to Curtail It by Khalid Nazir

Agricultural Decline in Pakistan and Solutions | Daily Writeups | Opinions

The article is written by Khalid Nazir, a student of Sir Syed Kazim Ali.

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Outline

1- Introduction
2- A bird’s eye view of agricultural decline in Pakistan

3- What are the reasons for the agricultural decline in Pakistan?

  • Acute water scarcity occurs due to inefficient water management practices, outdated irrigation systems, and the over-extraction of groundwater.
    • Evidence: According to the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), “Pakistan ranks 14 among the 17 extreme high water risk countries, including hot and dry countries like Saudi Arabia.”
  • Fertility of the agricultural land is reduced due to soil erosion, salinity, and degradation.
    • Evidence: According to the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, “Approximately 16 million hectares of land, about 20 per cent of total arable land, is affected by soil degradation.”
  • Havoc wreaked by changing weather patterns, erratic rainfall, and extreme temperatures due to climate change, perpetuates the downfall of the country’s agricultural department.
    • Evidence: According to Express Tribune, “A study points out that in Pakistan climate change will decrease agricultural productivity by 8-10 per cent till 2040, with staple crops like wheat being one of the major losers.”
  • The use of obsolete farming and cultivation techniques, limits productivity, wastes resources and threatens food security.
    • Evidence: According to the News, “Pakistan is 10 to 15 years behind countries, like Brazil and Argentina, in adopting modern farming and cultivation techniques and tools.”

4- How can the country’s agricultural sector be galvanized?

  • To prioritize constructing water infrastructure like dams and reservoirs to enhance water storage capacity
  • To invest in agricultural research and development to restore the depleted fertility of the agricultural land
  • To promote the cultivation of climate-resistant crops and introduce drought-resistant varieties
  • To upgrade and modernize irrigation systems for efficient and effective water utilization

5- Critical analysis
6- Conclusion

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Answer to the Question

Introduction

The importance of agriculture for Pakistan, an agricultural country, cannot be overstated as a significant portion of the country’s population is nourished by agriculture. Agriculture has long been a vital sector in Pakistan; however, in recent years, the country has faced a decline in agricultural productivity, severely threatening food security and economic sustainability. This decline is attributed to a multitude of reasons and factors. Some of the key factors responsible for perpetrating the decline of the agricultural sector in the country include acute water scarcity, soil degradation, climate change, and obsolete farming techniques. However, hope is far from being lost as Pakistan is not only home to the world’s largest single irrigation system, Sukkur Barrage, but also possesses one of the most fertile lands in the world. Indeed, prioritizing the construction of water infrastructure to enhance water storage capacity, investing in agricultural research and development to treat soil degradation, and upgrading and modernizing irrigation system for efficient water distribution can do wonders in revitalising the country’s agriculture sector and making it one of the world’s most advanced and developed agricultural sectors. In conclusion, rejuvenating Pakistan’s agriculture system is important for the country’s food security and economic stability. By addressing water scarcity, soil degradation, and climate-related challenges, Pakistan can reinvigorate its agricultural department, making it peerless globally for generations.

A bird’s eye view of agricultural decline in Pakistan

Moreover, Pakistan is an agriculture-based economy, involving more than 50 per cent of its population directly or indirectly. However, the contribution of agriculture to GDP has been declining over the years. Indeed, despite employing over 37 per cent of the national workforce and contributing about 70 per cent to Pakistan’s exports, it contributes only 23 per cent to the country’s GDP. This decline in the agriculture-to GDP ratio does not come out of the blue. Rather, it is being materialised by the numerous challenges the country’s agricultural sector faces today. Acute water scarcity, soil erosion, climate change, and obsolete farming, cultivation, and irrigation techniques have brought the country’s agriculture sector to its knees.

What are the reasons for the agricultural decline in Pakistan?

  • Acute water scarcity occurs due to inefficient water management practices, outdated irrigation systems, and the over-extraction of groundwater.

To begin with, it is pertinent to understand that a plethora of reasons perpetuate the downfall of the country’s agriculture sector. First, acute water scarcity due to inefficient water management practices, outdated irrigation systems, and over-extraction of groundwater is hampering the development of Pakistan’s agriculture department. Water is the most important resource for crops to grow, and the shortage of this key resource is a disaster for the country’s agriculture sector. According to the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics (PIDE), Pakistan ranks 14 among the 17 extreme high water risk countries, including hot and dry countries like Saudi Arabia.” This fact shows the severity of the water scarcity issue that Pakistan has to face. Therefore, water shortage is fueling agricultural decline in Pakistan.

  • Fertility of the agricultural land is reduced due to soil erosion, salinity, and degradation.

Moreover, reduced fertility of the agricultural land is also negatively impacting the country’s agriculture department. The key perpetrators responsible for depleted fertility are soil erosion, salinity, and over-use of fertilisers. This fertility depletion is gradually transforming the arable land into barren land, further reducing the already small amount of arable land. According to the Pakistan Academy of Sciences, “Approximately 16 million hectares of land, about 20 per cent of total arable land, is affected by soil degradation.” This fact showcases the scale of the havoc wreaked by soil degradation on the country’s agricultural system. Hence, soil degradation is perpetuating the downfall of Pakistan’s agricultural sector.

  • Havoc wreaked by changing weather patterns, erratic rainfall, and extreme temperatures due to climate change, perpetuates the downfall of the country’s agricultural department.

Furthermore, climate change is inflicting horrific devastation on Pakistan’s agriculture sector. It elevates the intensity and frequency of natural calamities, such as flooding, erratic rainfall, and extreme temperatures, resulting in unprecedented damage to Pakistan’s agriculture sector. According to Express Tribune, “A study points out that in Pakistan climate change will decrease agricultural productivity by 8-10 per cent till 2040, with staple crops like wheat being one of the major losers.” This loss will further aggravate the precarious situation because Pakistan is already struggling to meet domestic demand for wheat. Hence, climate change is negatively impacting the country’s agricultural sector.

  • The use of obsolete farming and cultivation techniques, limits productivity, wastes resources and threatens food security.

Last but not least, using outdated and obsolete farming and cultivation techniques wastes resources and limits production, threatening food security in the process. According to the News, “Pakistan is 10 to 15 years behind countries, like Brazil and Argentina, in adopting modern farming and cultivation techniques and tools.” This report reveals the dire strait of the country’s agricultural department. Moreover, embracing modern, technology-driven farming practices is essential for improving efficiency and overall agricultural output, making the agriculture system prosper and flourish at a breakneck speed. Therefore, the utilisation of deprecated farming practices is hindering the development of the country’s agricultural sector.

How can the country’s agricultural sector be galvanised?

  • To prioritize constructing water infrastructure like dams and reservoirs to enhance water storage capacity

The reasons mentioned above are the key perpetrators fueling the downfall of Pakistan’s agricultural system. However, despite these factors hampering the development of the country’s agricultural sector, Pakistan has immense potential for dominating the worldwide agricultural system due to possessing one of the world’s largest irrigation systems and globally peerless fertile lands. Some suggestions are below to breathe new life into the country’s agricultural system and make it the most competitive and cutting-edge agricultural institute globally. First and foremost is constructing water infrastructure, such as dams and reservoirs. This endeavour will save water from being wasted and eliminate the possibility of flooding to a great extent. This approach ensures a more reliable water supply for agriculture and rids the country of the perpetual threat of flooding. Hence, developing water infrastructure can galvanise the country’s agricultural system.

  • To invest in agricultural research and development to restore the depleted fertility of the agricultural land

Second, investing in agricultural research and development to restore soil degradation and depleted fertility is important for increasing production. This enhanced production will enable the agricultural sector to contribute to the economy by exporting excess crops and produce to other countries. Moreover, this investment is also crucial for developing sustainable agricultural practices. This includes initiatives to restore soil fertility, prevent erosion, and promote responsible land management. Hence, investing in the research and development of the agricultural sector will go a long way in making the agriculture department flourish.

  • To promote the cultivation of climate-resistant crops and introduce drought-resistant varieties

Apart from the above arguments, promoting the cultivation of climate-resistant crops and introducing drought-resistant varieties are of key importance for improving the country’s agricultural system. As the tell-tale signs of climate change, such as flash flooding, errant rainfall, and droughts, are becoming more and more commonplace, encouraging the cultivation of crops resilient to adverse effects of climate change is crucial as it can help in mitigating the impact of water scarcity and erratic rainfall. Therefore, encouraging the cultivation of climate-resistant crops will help agricultural departments cope with the challenges presented by climate change.

  • To upgrade and modernize irrigation systems for efficient and effective water utilization

Lastly, upgrading and modernising irrigation systems and methods is necessary for effective and efficient water utilisation. The inefficiency of Pakistan’s agricultural sector’s current irrigation system is evident in the report, explaining that more than 60 per cent of irrigation water ends up being wasted due to obsolete irrigation methods. Employing advanced and cutting-edge irrigation systems like drip irrigation systems can save a large amount of water that is being wasted. Hence, introducing a better and more efficient irrigation system can galvanise the country’s agricultural sector.

Critical analysis

Critically, despite having immense potential for making the country’s agricultural system flourish, it is plagued by the lack of water infrastructure, obsolete cultivation and irrigation practices, and the shortage of agricultural research and development. And addressing these flaws requires a comprehensive and coordinated effort. While the proposed strategies are promising, their successful implementation hinges on factors such as government policies, financial investments, and the active participation of farmers. Additionally, considering the multifaceted nature of the issues, a holistic and integrated approach that combines water management, soil conservation, and technical advancement is necessary.

Conclusion

In conclusion, revitalising Pakistan’s agricultural sector is imperative for the country’s food security and economic stability. By addressing water scarcity, soil degradation, and climate-related challenges through strategic infrastructure, research, and modern farming practices, Pakistan can lay the foundation for a more sustainable and resilient agricultural future. The collaboration of government, agricultural experts, and local communities is crucial for the successful implementation of these measures and for ensuring the prosperity and flourishment of the country’s agricultural sector, eclipsing the progress and development of all other agricultural systems across the globe.

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