With higher temperatures, changing landscapes and wild life habitat, and increased risks of storms, droughts and floods, climate change is redefining patterns of life on the planet.
The global Climate Risk Index 2017 ranked Pakistan seventh in the ten most effected countries by climate change.
Under the Paris Climate Agreement, adopted on December 12, 2015, member States are responsible to determine, plan, and report their contributions in mitigating global warming. Pakistan signed the agreement on April 22, 2016, ratified on November 10, 2016, and thus the agreement entered into force on December 10, 2016.
Besides adopting National Climate Change Policy 2012, the Parliament also passed Climate Change Act 2016 aimed at strengthening the institutional ability with the establishment of Pakistan climate change council, Pakistan climate change authority, and Pakistan climate change fund.
In Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the Provincial Cabinet approved the provincial Climate Change Policy on September 6, 2017. The policy is envisioned to mainstream climate action in the development planning, especially in the economically and socially vulnerable sectors, and is aimed at mitigating negative impact of climate change on water, food and energy reservoirs.
Asif Mohmand, Accountability Lab fellow in Pakistan, closely working on the impact of climate change on farmers, provincial level policy formulation, program development efforts and the prevailing situation on ground.
In Mardan, Asif met with a sixty years old farmer, Hazrat Hassan, who was bewildered by the sudden and drastic changes in the weather directly affecting the family crops and their annual yield.
Hazrat Hassan is helpless, hopeless, and indecisive about steps required for the protection of his crops, and is worried as this was the only occupation his whole family was engaged in since the time his fore-fathers were still young.
Aware of his family’s dependency on agriculture as the only source of food and income, he has no idea of the impact of climate change and its severity for crops and farmers like him.
He is puzzled by the fact that “the overall expenditures on cultivation have increased as farmers are investing their capital on expensive fertilizers and seeds from the market.”
Majority of the farmers in Mardan are helpless in the wake of the outburst of phenomenon like climate change and environmental degradation and their direct impact on productivity and agricultural yields. They are not in a position to discern ways for protection of their crops from the extreme weather conditions and thus be able to continue with farming as a rewarding occupation.
The information extracted from the Agriculture Extension Department, District Mardan, states that around 48000 families are dependent solely on agriculture in the district. The department provides services to farmers in terms of new and improved cultivation methods and is responsible for enhancing awareness among farmers regarding climate change, its extreme impact on the agricultural productivity, as well as for proposing ways and methods to improve agricultural yields.
However Provincial cabinet completed work on climate change policy but as per the officials of the department Government has not yet initiated any specific project to address climate change and conduct awareness raising sessions with farmer communities about the changes and hazards of the gradual environmental degradation.
Agriculture is the backbone of Pakistan economy and almost seventy percent of population is dependent on the sector. Additionally, 36 percent labor force of the country in connected to the sector, majority of them, however, are not aware of the sensitivity and impacts of climate change for their agrarian land.
Dr. Hafiz Ali, Deputy Director KP Agriculture Extension Department, shared that there were 25 agriculture extension offices operating in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, staffed with 92 officers.
The department, he further shared, lacks modern technology, funds and staff to access farmers and educate them on adapting required methods for protecting their crops and increasing agricultural yields. He revealed that climate change is a major threat to the agriculture sector of the region, particularly to the crops like wheat, maize, and fruits.
The current degrading environment is also dangerous to biodiversity in the region and its forests. Scientists believe that if countries could not manage the emissions of greenhouse gases, it will destroy life on the planet earth.
Climate change is being debated for the decades among countries and state members of the UN. The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change was adopted in 1992. Since the first conference of parties (COP) meeting on climate change in 1995 at Berlin, Germany, every year the COP meetings are held at different countries. In 2015, the Paris Agreement was adopted in COP held at Paris, France. Under the agreement, member states will attempt to reduce emission of greenhouse gases as well as take serious steps to protect human lives from the impact of climate change. Climate Action is also part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) agenda till 2030.
Dr. Inam Ullah Khan, Associate Professor at Agronomy Department Agriculture University Peshawar, revealed that although Pakistan does not emit greenhouse gases of a noticeable quantity, it is listed seventh in the list of ten most affected countries in the world. The nature and geographical position of KP, he further revealed, is more vulnerable to extreme events of the climate change. He further explained that wheat is our major crop, however, in the last one decade, whenever the crop required rain during germination, it never showered. Dr. Inam added that countries like Japan, China and USA facilitate their farmers during such occurrences, however, in Pakistan, there is no compensation for farmers from the State.
Owing to ever increasing threats of climate change in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is leading the policy formulation process through its Climate Change Cell (KPCCC).
Afsar Khan, Deputy Director KPCCC, shared that CCC has worked on the preparation of policy draft in consultation with relevant stakeholders, including Government Line departments, academia and civil society. Responding to a probe, he admits that farmers were never made part of the consultations during the preparation of draft policy.
The policy draft was approved by the provincial cabinet on September 6, 2017, however it has not been discussed on the floor of the provincial assembly thus far.
Farmers like Hazrat Hassan are neither guided by the respective line departments on how to effectively manage the impact of climate change for their crops and improved agricultural yields, nor are they being given any opportunity to participate at any stage of the policy formulation process where they may share their concerns and suggestions.
While concluding his remarks, Hazrat Hassan revealed, “In my sixty years life, I have not seen even a single person who has visited us and has guided us about farming methods, seeds, timings or any other such thing.”
Asif Mohmand and Noor Ul Islam are partners at ProgNat Development Initiative (PDI).