Minister vows to raise voice for small farmers hit by climate change


LAHORE: Punjab Minister for Environment Zakia Shahnawaz has said that small farmers, especially women were the worst hit by the impact of climate change.

The situation in many parts of Punjab was depicting the same reality and hence, urgent policy measures are needed to save the lives and livelihoods of millions of people living in extreme vulnerability. She said she raise voice at every possible forum for small farmers hit by climate change.

She expressed these views while chairing the launching ceremony of a report highlighting budget analysis of Punjab (2016-17), in particular reference to allocation against climate change adaptation. The ceremony was organised by Oxfam and Indus Consortium under GROW Campaign here on Wednesday. The provincial minister acknowledged that GROW campaign has been instrumental in making the voice of small growers and women farmers heard at various levels.

Experts, civil society representatives, farmers, academia and Parliamentarians also shared their concerns regarding climate change induced disasters and termed it a real threat to small farmers, especially women. They viewed that agriculture was one of the pillars of Pakistan’s economy and major livelihood source of rural communities of Pakistan.  It has a heavy reliance on Punjab province but current situation and vulnerability to agriculture and livestock sector due to climate change was hampering the progress of the sector.

Aneela Bibi, Research Associate at the Federal Ministry of Finance earlier presented the Key finding of climate changed focused budget analysis of Punjab. According to the report, despite declining situation of agriculture in Pakistan, a mere 3.36 percent of the Public Sector Development Programme (PSDP), or PKR 23,497 million, was allocated to agriculture for the year 2015-16. As a percentage of the total budget this has also been declining over recent years i.e. from 10.28 per cent in the year 2010-11 to current levels.

The report further elaborated that tackling climate change was also under-resourced as only 0.15 percent of the PSDP allocated to this urgent priority responsible for causing hundreds of lost lives and billions of lost dollars every year in Pakistan. The PSDP allocation for 2015-16 amounted to PKR 1,055 million.

Haibat Ali Khan, Chief Environment (PPH) Planning and Development Department of Punjab said that in the budget allocation process; utmost importance to be given to small farmer’s issue by ensuring developmental projects for rural community’s participation.

Earlier, women farmers from communities from Rajanpur, Layyah and Multan, areas prone to climate change impacts, informed the audience that due to climate change and natural disasters, their crops are washed away, food couldn’t be stored, and livestock has perished due to lack of vaccinations. This resulted as discontinuity in education of their children and poor healthcare of the household in addition to other impacts. On behalf of all women farmers and small growers, they appealed to the government to come up with gender inclusive and pro poor policies and plans with appropriate resource allocation.

Javeria Afzal, ACD Oxfam, on behalf of Muhammed Qazalbash, Country Director Oxfam explained that Oxfam has been creating awareness among the rural communities on climate change adaptation and has also provided them a platform to raise their voice for pro poor policies and legislation. She pledged for continued support for reducing poverty, strengthening the voices of marginalized people and to bridge the gap between policy makers and citizens, especially rural communities.

Ashiq Hussain Bukhari, Coordinator Provincial Steering Committee, Prof. Dr Sajid Rasheed Ahmad, Principal, College of Earth and Environmental Sciences (CEES), Waseem Ahmed Cheema, Environment Protection Agency Director, Muhammad Mehmood, Secretary Agriculture Punjab, Kiran Simon and Jamshaid Fareed from Indus Consortium also spoke on the occasion.