CPEC and Food Security in Baluchistan

By H.M. Bilal, Mujahid Ali, Rohoma Tahir (Horticulture, UOS)

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is the largest economic project for both parties to make better infrastructure within Pakistan for better trade with China, Pakistan and with link countries. The project was launched on April 20, 2015, between Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif when they signed 51 contracts and a written business communication of Understanding valued at $46 billion as initial cost. The benefit of CPEC is both to change Pakistan’s economy by upgrading its rail, road, air, and energy conveyance systems, and to connect the Pakistani ports of Gwadar and Karachi to China’s Xinjiang province. Xinjiang borders the countries of Mongolia, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India, and the ancient Silk Road ran through its country. This would reduce the time and cost of conveyance goods and services such as natural gas to China. CPEC is part of the larger Belt and Road Initiative is to better the connectivity, trade, communication, and cooperation between the link countries. About $46 billion worth of projects have been committed under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC).

It is estimated that tentatively duration for CPEC completion is 10 years or so. CPEC includes four pillars i.e. the infrastructure, the energy requirements, workforce development and economic progress. CPEC project is an investment for the next 15 years of Pakistan. This is important for Pakistan as it is the duration in which Pakistan to make useful to all its resources could bring Pakistan into global economic widespread. CPEC is a revolution in the field of economics.

Infrastructure development and growth go hand in hand. Ensuring an uninterrupted supply of energy, building a state-of-the-art road, rail, and transport infrastructure and providing reliable urban services pave the way for future investments and growth. If, however, the infrastructure stock is not maintained and new investments are not made at the requisite level, it may lead to power shortages and transmission losses, congested roads prolonging travel time and poor-quality infrastructure services discouraging investors to relocate, thereby straining growth prospects.

CPEC would be a game changer for Pakistan and for its region also. The CPEC would play an important part through economic motivation and regional functioning in the form of broadcasting, connectivity, and partnerships. It is a great project that can change the lives of the people in the region by opening a common vision of mutual benefits and development in the field of economics. CPEC is the wide part of the Chinese leadership and aspiring vision of reconstruction of old Silk Road under the new ‘One Belt, One Road’ (OBOR) initiative.

The people would have economic progress and would get opportunities to trade and investments. The oil and mineral resources of the province would be investigating and the establishment of Gwadar Port, Gwadar International Airport and Special Economic Zones (SEZ) would further improve the importance of the business and economic location of Baluchistan.

Baluchistan is the largest province of Pakistan. CPEC would provide job opportunities for the Balochi man that would get modern forward-looking skills in the future that is being the part of CPEC. The symbolic and specific goal of Karakoram Highway (KKH) is another side of the CPEC strategy. The CPEC is not only passing through developed areas of Pakistan but it would cover developing regions of Pakistan as well.  Some routes of CPEC would greatly pass through GB. The CPEC would not only attract the tourism and direct foreign investment in Pakistan but would also help Pakistan to overflow its prevalent energy conflicts economic benefits for Pakistan.

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CPEC has opened job opportunities for the people of Azad Kashmir and Gilgit-Baltistan. October 16 is globally celebrated as World Food Day. This day is celebrated to lift about food security. On this day, Baluchistan is facing a sensitive food insecurity problem. Drought is taking its loss on the province and problems are further confined by the inability and bad governance of the provincial government. Almost 30 out of 32 districts of Baluchistan are food insecure. Only Quetta and Jaffarabad the two districts have food security in the whole province.

The main source code of food is agriculture. But in Baluchistan, this sector has been a bad influence due to the shortage of water. Almost 80% of the agricultural land of Baluchistan is depended on rain, and in the last of the years, there has been low rainfall. Rainwater is not utilized properly in the river all due to bad management. There is a lack of dams in Baluchistan, in fact, there has been not a single dam which is the main reason that the level of water rapidly falling.

Farmers mostly use tube wells to irrigate the agricultural land but there is the shortage of electricity in Baluchistan Rural areas of Baluchistan doesn’t get more than four hours of electricity daily. As a result, food insecurity has been increased. In this context, there are a lot of things that need to be done to improve the situation and prevent a humanitarian disaster.

The first thing that should be done is to modify the agriculture department. Job structures should be improving and the employee should pay attention to their duties. International organizations should be convict by the Baluchistan government to increase the funding for the drought influenced areas. The government can take the help of experts from the Food and Agriculture Organization to write down the plans to make the entire province food secure. All of this is due to deficiency of struggle by the government to restore irrigation infrastructure and agriculture. As a result, people across the province face food scarcity.

It is scaring that successive governments in Baluchistan have totally unsuccessful to provide sufficient food and development chance for advancement to people in the Baluchistan. The scare of food security in Baluchistan is due to excessive poverty, resulting from bad governance and pathetic condition of food and agriculture departments.

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In June 2007, millions of acres of fertile and well-drained land were flooded by the water of Mirani Dam which suffered the agricultural areas of Nasirabad. The government should pierce more operative programmes for the productivity of food and its provision to the people. Now a day the situation regarding food insecurity and malnutrition at district, tehsil and union council level in Baluchistan has been extensively mapped and analyzed, including the causes of malnutrition, food intake, dietary imbalances and vitamin and micronutrient deficiencies. In addition, the number of women and children, who are most affected by food insecurity, are well documented.

This extensively gathered information tells that in Baluchistan one out of two children appears to be affected by insufficient and unbalanced food in the first two years and causes of stunted growth. It should go without saying that the calculated economic costs of malnutrition and stunted children are many times higher than the costs of effectively solving the issue.

For the last of years, FAO of the United Nations, combined with the Department of Agriculture and mutual benefits of the Government of Baluchistan, has piloted with Integrated home gardens (also named kitchen gardens) at a small scale. A typical home garden in Baluchistan is handling by of women from the same village and consist of a range of fruits/vegetables that are produced nine months in a year, which include water facilities, some goats, and poultry. Most of the produce that is produced by kitchen gardening is consumed by the women, children and their families. If there is an excessive production it can be sold at the local market.

So, afterward finishing the confirmation of 20 ‘pilot’ Kitchen Gardens in 2018, Kharan and Nushki districts, nutritional communication for behavioral change will be observed with women at a small scale. Once effecting, another 500 Kitchen Gardens in both districts in 2018 and 2019 will be grown. Four more districts, Kech, Panjgur, Chaghi, and Washuk, will have 250 Kitchen Gardens Program in each of them after 2019. In the coming year, the goal is all 31 districts in Baluchistan which can only be attained by uniform mutual efforts. We should start planting those crops which require less water as water shortage is the main problem in Baluchistan.

Nearly two months after the World Food Day of 2017, where the government, the private sector and civil society in the country restore their agreement to ending need and all forms of malnutrition by 2030, our joint concentration should remain on the implementation for the encouragement of better the nutritional position and food security of the people in Baluchistan. It is important to recall that if no effective action is taken throughout Baluchistan, we should look for huge economic losses in the future.

Mujahid Ali

I am a PhD scholar in Institute of Horticultural Sciences, UAF and Visiting Lecturer in Horticulture Department in University of Sargodha.

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