Social Protection Resource Centre

Innovative Agricultural Technologies Revolutionizing Food Security in Pakistan: Challenges and Opportunities

Agriculture Robotic Working In Smart Farm.

Author: Saad Khalil (Research Assistant)

Introduction
It has been said that the agriculture sector is the backbone of Pakistan’s economy. This sector plays a crucial role in economic development, providing employment opportunities to a significant portion of the population and contributing to food security. However, despite opportunities, the sector faces numerous challenges, including low productivity, limited access to resources and technology, and climate change effects. To combat these challenges and ensure food security, there is an utter need to implement innovative agricultural technologies in Pakistan. These technologies include precision agriculture, horizontal and vertical farming, hydronics, drone technology for monitoring, and biotechnology. By adopting such technologies, it revolutionises the agricultural sector by improving productivity, resource efficiency, and resilience to climate change. By using precision techniques, farmers can optimise the use of resources such as water, fertilisers, and pesticides, resulting in higher crop yields and reduced environmental impact. Furthermore, vertical farming and hydroponics allow for year-round cultivation of crops in controlled environments, maximising land utilisation and reducing water usage. Drone technology can also be used for crop monitoring and pest control, allowing farmers to easily identify and address issues in their fields. In addition, biotechnology can also play a significant role in improving crop characteristics and enhancing resistance to pests and diseases. These innovative agricultural technologies not only address the challenges faced by farmers but can also create new avenues. In this article, we will draw some major attention to the significance of the agricultural economy of Pakistan, its challenges, and the valuable insights of the best international agricultural practices of China as a role model for Pakistan’s agricultural sector.

Agricultural Economy of Pakistan
The largest sector of Pakistan’s economy is agriculture. Most people are either directly or indirectly dependent on this industry. It is the main source of foreign exchange profits, makes up half of the employed labour force, and provides roughly 24% of the GDP in the fiscal year 2020-21 (Pakistan Bureau of Statistics). This sector is not only a major source of livelihood for rural populations but also a key driver of economic growth and food security in the country. The agricultural economy encompasses a diverse range of crops, livestock, and fisheries, making it a crucial sector for poverty alleviation efforts. The agricultural landscape of Pakistan is characterised by a variety of crops grown across different regions. Wheat and rice are the major staple crops, with wheat being the most widely cultivated crop, covering over 8 million hectares of land. Rice cultivation is also extensive, particularly in the Punjab and Sindh provinces. Other significant crops include cotton, sugar cane, maize, and pulses. According to the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Pakistan is among the world’s top producers of cotton, with millions of bales produced annually. These crops not only contribute to the domestic food supply but also form a substantial part of Pakistan’s export commodities, boosting foreign exchange earnings. Furthermore, Pakistan has the longest river, the Indus River. The length of the river is 3180 kilometres, out of which Pakistan occupies more than 70% of the river basin’s total area. The irrigation system of Pakistan accounts for some of the best in the world due to its larger size.

Despite these strategic significances, Pakistan’s agricultural sector faces numerous challenges, including water scarcity, resource mismanagement, land degradation, outdated farming practices, and climate change impacts, which in turn hinder the growth of Pakistan’s green economy to its commanding heights. The World Bank reports that water scarcity is a critical issue, with agriculture consuming the majority of the country’s water resources. Sustainable water resource management practices and the modernization of irrigation systems are essential for long-term agricultural sustainability. Moreover, the impact of climate change on the agricultural sector is catastrophic. Pakistan is one of the most vulnerable countries to climate risks, not only in the region but in the world as well. This non-traditional security challenge not only affects fertile land and crops but also positions human security at severe risk, resulting in a threat to social protection in rural areas of Pakistan. However, the sector also presents opportunities for growth and innovation, such as the adoption of modern agricultural technologies, improved market access for farmers, and value addition in agribusiness. Addressing these challenges while harnessing the sector’s potential can certainly contribute significantly to Pakistan’s economic development and food security goals.

Agricultural Economy of China
China’s agricultural sector is a vital part of the country’s overall economic environment, making a substantial contribution to job creation, food security, and economic expansion. The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) reports that China is one of the world’s leading producers of several agricultural products, including pork, wheat, maize, and rice. China’s agriculture industry has changed dramatically in the last several years as it has incorporated innovative methods and technology to increase output and efficiency. The total land area of China is approximately 9,596,961 square kilometres (km²), out of which the agricultural area is around 135 million hectares (ha). This includes land used for crops, orchards, vineyards, and other agricultural purposes. The total cultivable land is approximately 123.8 million hectares (ha). This includes arable land, permanent cropland, and land under permanent meadows and pastures. Cultivable land is essential for crop cultivation and livestock grazing, supporting food production and agricultural activities. China’s agricultural sector is extensive and plays a crucial role in domestic food production and rural livelihoods. The size and diversity of China’s agricultural industry are noteworthy features. Due to its large geographic area, the nation is able to engage in a variety of agricultural pursuits, from cattle husbandry in the northern plains to intense rice production in the southern areas.

In addition to ensuring food security, this diversity helps China maintain its position as a key participant in the world’s agricultural commerce. According to statistics, millions of people are employed in China’s agricultural industry, especially in rural regions where agriculture continues to be the major source of income. The National Bureau of Statistics of China estimates that over 250 million people worked in rural regions in 2020 in the fields of agriculture, forestry, animal husbandry, and fisheries. This emphasises how important the industry is for creating jobs and revenue, particularly for the rural population. China’s agricultural modernization and social protection experiences offer valuable insights for Pakistan’s agricultural sector. China has put in place a number of laws and initiatives to help its farmers, boost agricultural output, and guarantee sustainable economic growth. Through an examination of China’s approaches to technological adoption, market access, infrastructure development, and risk management, Pakistan may extract useful insights and possible avenues for enhancing its own agricultural industry.

Recommendations
The agricultural sector of China offers valuable learning prospects for Pakistan. China has made significant advancements in agricultural technology, productivity, and food security. Pakistan can learn from China’s experience in implementing innovative agricultural practices and technologies to address its own challenges in the sector. Using precision agriculture and advanced technologies like drones, China has increased efficiency and productivity in its farming practices. China has also achieved sustainable food security through strategies such as vertical farming and hydroponics, which can be adapted and implemented in Pakistan. Furthermore, their focus on state-of-the-art research and development (R&D) in biotechnology has resulted in the remarkable development of high-yielding and disease-resistant crop varieties. Pakistan may benefit from collaborating with China to acquire knowledge and expertise in modernising its agricultural sector. In today’s rapidly changing world, the significance of accurate weather forecasts cannot be overstated. With the unpredictability of weather patterns and the increasing frequency of extreme weather events, having precise weather forecasts is crucial for farmers to make informed decisions regarding planting and harvesting schedules, as well as irrigation and pest control measures. By leveraging space technology and satellite imagery, farmers in Pakistan can access continuous insights on weather data and crop production data. This information can enable them to effectively plan and manage their farming operations, ensuring optimal yields and minimising crop losses. It is also imperative to note that awareness regarding the use of such digital techniques must be given to farmers through government-led trainings and digital campaigns.

In conclusion, Pakistan’ government must mainstream and implement sustainable development into agricultural policies and programmes in order to ensure food security in the country. By learning the best practices of China, we can also certainly boost our agriculture sector for our population and embrace effective and efficient results in the agrarian green economy.

References

  1. Food and Agriculture Organization. (2020). FAOSTAT Database. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#country/41
  2. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). (n.d.). China – Agriculture. Retrieved from: http://www.fao.org/faostat/en/#country/41
  3. Government of Pakistan. (2022). Economic Survey of Pakistan 2021-22.
  4. Indus River. (2024). Retrieved from: https://simple.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Indus_River&oldid=9506985.
  5. National Bureau of Statistics of China. (2021). China Statistical Yearbook. Beijing: China Statistics Press.
  6. Pakistan Bureau of Statistics. (2021). Agriculture Census 2019.
  7. World Bank. (2021). Pakistan – Agriculture Sector Review: Water Resources and Agricultural Development.