As part of World Food Day 2013 celebrations, International Alert held its Farmer Convention in Islamabad on 27 October 2013.
The event aimed to demonstrate the accomplishments of and highlight the challenges faced by small farmers in Pakistan, and was distinct from any previous commemorations to mark the day in the country. The programme for the evening included performances by musicians, theatre plays, speeches by farmer representatives from across the country, addresses from government and civil society representatives, and live music and cooking. Seerat Asghar Jaura, Secretary for the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, was the chief guest at the occasion.
The convention was held in partnership with Pakistan’s Ministry of National Food Security & Research, Oxfam, the Society for Conservation and Protection of Environment (SCOPE) and the Alliance Against Hunger and Malnutrition (AHHM).
“The significance of this convention is evident from the impressive and immaculate way it was organised. It gave out so many positive messages, and this all with the involvement of diverse actors in organising it. Tonight is really a night for the farmers”, said a journalist at the event.
A delegation of young British people of Pakistani heritage also joined the convention. The visit was arranged as part of a European Commission-supported project titled Promoting Positive Voices in Diaspora Communities, which is being implemented by Alert’s UK programme. The aim of the project is to raise public awareness within UK-based diaspora communities of the structural causes of poverty and conflict in their countries of heritage, building public support for peacebuilding and development processes within these regions.
Speaking at the occasion, the farmer representatives said they appreciated the opportunity to convey some of the key issues they faced. These included water logging and salinity, low per hectare yield, poor infrastructure, and outdated methods of production. They also suggested ways in which they could be assisted in this respect. The government representatives endorsed the demands and needs of the farmers and assured them of their support in addressing the root causes of these problems.
Food insecurity can contribute to violent conflict and threaten basic human security. This was also evident from the message of International Alert’s Secretary General Dan Smith, delivered by Alert’s Senior Programme Officer at the convention.
In his message Dan Smith said: “Acute food security plays a critical role as a risk multiplier and can have an adverse effect on internal dynamics; instability is also a major driver of acute food security. Almost half of the population of Pakistan doesn’t have access to sufficient food for an active and healthy life at all times.
“Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) have the highest percentage of food insecure populations, followed by Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Coping with growing food insecurity is a daunting challenge for the government. This basic issue of people's well-being is a challenge also for the well-being of communities, districts and the country as a whole.”
Photos: SAK Multimedia Consultants/International Alert