Adnan Khatri  Journalist

“Hunger is exclusion — exclusion from the land, from income, jobs, wages, life and citizenship When a person gets to the point of not having anything to eat, it is because all the rest has been denied. This is a modern form of exile. It is death in life…” — Josue de Castro

Post 2015 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) set by United Nations Organization (UNO) is a big challenge for Sindh Government to achieve it.

Goal No.1 No Poverty: End poverty in all its forms everywhere!!.
Goal No.2 Zero Hunger: End Hunger, achieve Food Security and improved nutrition and promote Sustainable Agriculture!!.

Unemployment and food insecurity in rural areas of lower Sindh is the most discouraging challenge being faced by the Sindh government to achieve the targets recently set United Nations Sustainable Development Goal No.I and II for ending the hunger, achieve the food security and improved nutrition and promote UN’s sustainable agriculture. The rural areas are fast losing their agriculture-based employment potential due to persistent shortage of water, land degradation, constant floods and climate change. Almost fourteen million people including women farmers in rural Sindh directly depend on agriculture as their major source of livelihood.

However, this source of livelihood and employment is under severe pressure due to variety of reasons. Drought, faulty water distribution mechanism (head to tail agriculture lands), poor management of water resources, kaccha water courses (waste of natural water) land degradation, lack of research and inept market policies are the few among the long list of reasons taking toll of agriculture economy and a sharp decline in the agricultural crops including vegetable, wheat, cotton, sugarcane etc. Owing the reasons, recently more than 173 innocent children died of acute food shortage and water-borne diseases in Thar district of lower Sindh.

According to the National Nutrition Survey (NNS) in 2011, almost 58 per cent of Pakistanis are food insecure. From those approximately 28 per cent do not have resources to access food. Two thirds of these are focused in the rural areas, with Sindh as the worst hit of all — 72 per cent of the province is food insecure. Out of these 21 per cent are with hunger, 34 per cent are with ‘moderate’ hunger (have only one meal a day) and 17 per cent are with ‘severe’ hunger (they go more than three days without sufficient food). For these statistics to exist in an agricultural country like Pakistan (which is reportedly producing a surplus amount of wheat) is very worrying indeed.

The situation, according to an expert, is alarming and calls for an enhanced national awareness and welldesigned interventions to reduce widespread malnutrition and poor dietary practices particularly among women and children in Sindh.

Declining produce has a direct bearing on rural poverty and employment. A World Bank report, “Securing Sindh’s Future-The Prospects and Challenges Ahead” paints a very grim picture of unemployment in Sindh. It reveals that due to growing population, rise in literacy and migration, nearly 600,000 additional people would be entering in job market each year in Sindh. This is in contrast with the long-term annual job creation rate of 350,000 in the province.

However, climate change effect is likely to increase in the coming years and availability of water in river system would continue to be a question mark. To manage this risk, there is a need to diversify employment opportunities both in rural as well as urban areas of the province. The Sindh government needs to explore non-conventional avenues to create employment opportunities apart from revitalizing its agriculture sector.

Agro-based industry could provide some relief but incentives are required to attract investment in rural areas. Poor law and order conditions and weak infrastructure have also been a barrier to growth of agro-based industry. The industry in Sindh is mainly concentrated in Karachi except handful of units in Hyderabad and Sukkur.

Since rural lower Sindh has predominantly agriculture based economy, human resource required for industrial sector has not been developed there. No significant investment was made in infrastructure required for promoting rural industry. Due to lack of demand and poor administration, institutes of vocational training and job skills are also in bad shape in rural areas.

The Sindh government should devise a comprehensive strategy to tackle the challenge of unemployment, poverty and food insecurity especially in rural areas so that the targets set by Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) could be achieved.

It would be advisable set up a ‘human resource development and employment authority’ to execute long-term strategies for creating job opportunities for rural and urban youth to reach out to national and international job markets.