Pakistan is one of the climate-vulnerable countries. The floods in 2022 washed away 4 million acres of crops. Nearly 15% of rice and 40% of the cotton crops were lost. The agriculture sector has faced losses of $12 billion in floods. On the other hand, the severe heat wave in March 2022 reduced the wheat yield significantly as the grain could not reach its mature size because of early higher temperatures at 40-42 degrees Celsius.
This temperature rise affected crops and the flowering of mango trees, which reduced mango production in 2022. In January 2023, the negative effect of climate change can be observed, where severe frost in January devastatingly affects the potato crop in Punjab. Due to high temperatures, winters are becoming shorter and reducing the productivity of our winter crops, such as wheat. Similarly, irregular rains and higher temperatures at pollination and maturity stages badly affect Kharif crop yields.
Such variability in climate has raised the need for climate-resilient crop varieties that must hold high yields, be heat tolerant and have a short duration. These crops must be tolerant to waterlogging and water stress conditions. The research institute of Pakistan has failed to fulfil the country’s requirements due to a lack of budget and poor institutional and human capacity. Therefore, Pakistan has to import seed which mainly includes rice, canola, sunflower, vegetables etc. This is an unsustainable solution for a country like Pakistan with a large agriculture sector.
To combat the challenge, the government has to draft an enabling environment policy and provide incentivise to the private sector. Pakistan uses two to three times more water to produce the same crop, which increases the country’s uncertainty due to increased extreme weather events like dry spells and heavy rainfall. The government should improve water management practices through various resource conservation technologies, improve farm irrigation practices and introduce water-smart farming. Moreover, Climate change is increasing the outbreak of crop pests, which may further increase crop loss. To mitigate that, there is a need to introduce climate-smart pest management systems.
To protect the agriculture sector, there is a need to introduce climate-smart agriculture which comprises three components; increasing agricultural productivity, building resilience to climate change (adaptation), and reducing greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change (mitigation).