Pakistani higher education institutions are playing an increasingly important role in helping to overcome food security and agricultural issues in the country through collaboration with leading US universities.
Food security refers to the availability of food and one’s access to it. While farmers are increasing their productivity — particularly in growing wheat — and the country is enjoying crop surpluses, the masses are still suffering from shortages and price hikes.
Middlemen, smugglers and corrupt government officials are among those who have contributed to the worsening situation. Food experts have also blamed country’s inept economic managers, whose shallow approach to implementing effective policies has impacted both farmers and consumers.
Under the Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Programme, six research projects have been initiated to deal with the food security situation including effective management of greenhouses to ensure plants’ healthy growth.
Two projects have been jointly endorsed by the University of Punjab and US Department of Agriculture. The first centres on improving sugarcane production by employing new breeding methods that yield better crops. The study is helping to make Pakistan’s sugarcane industry more competitive and aiding its farmers increase production and reduce losses. The second, which focuses on improving dairy production, is expected to have a positive impact on the quality and relevance of future education in the field.
The National University of Science and Technology and Washington State University have also started a joint initiative to increase local knowledge on combating rust fungi.
In addition, a number of projects aimed at encouraging indigenous research at Pakistani universities on food security issues have been financed by the Higher Education Commission under its National Research Programme for Universities.
HEC Chairperson Javaid Laghari said the commission’s objective is to develop local expertise and indigenous technology through strong collaborations with research groups in leading foreign universities.
“These projects will help to strengthen relations between local and foreign institutions based on the exchange of knowledge and technology to minimise food security issues in Pakistan,” he said.
Laghari remarked that the HEC has facilitated Pakistani universities in introducing a better variety of crops and fruits and is working closely with the farmer community.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 31st, 2013.