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⬅ CARBS Business Review

The Ripple Effect: Climate Change Imperils Sustainable Food Security

Muhammad Aslam

22 February, 2024

The Ripple Effect Climate Change Imperils Sustainable Food Security
In the face of ever escalating climate change, the corollaries on the sustainable food security are increasingly manifested. The multifaceted impact of climate changes has shaken the balance of ecosystem by inducing drastic changes in temperature, altered precipitation pattern and harsh weather conditions. The cascading effects of climate change has posed serious threats to food production, distribution and storage system. 
Sustainable Food Security relates to the well-being of the all man-kind. It emphasizes the consistent availability, affordability, accessibility and utilization of safe and nutritious food at all time to human being for meeting their daily dietary needs (United Nation’s Committee on World Food Security). It also ensures the endurance and maintaining the health of the ecosystem. 

Sustainable Food Security is being jeopardized due to various factors such as rapid population growth, urbanization, socio-economic disparities, and climate change. Climate change is characterized by long term alterations in the earth’s climate encompassing extreme variations in temperature, rainfall and weather patterns over several years ( Human activities including but not limited to emission of greenhouse gases, deforestation, industrial processes and changes in land use patterns are contributing significantly to this phenomenon.
The ramifications of climate change are far reaching putting approximately 80% of global population at the verge of greater risk of crop failure and hunger. The huge part of the population affected by climate change is residing in Saharan Africa, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. It is estimated that 3.1 billion of global population are unable to afford healthy diet and demand for healthy diet is being projected to increase by 70 % in 2050.

Globally, the contribution of Pakistan in greenhouse gas emission is less than 1%. However, it is, currently ranked as the fifth most climate-vulnerable country in the world that is facing cosmic economic losses due to climate change as witnessed by catastrophe of 2022. The devastating flood in August 2022 affected over 33 million people of Pakistan. The national economy bore the brunt with a total loss of $30 billion including $3.2 billion in agriculture. Resultantly, climate change led to severe food security issues in the country.
Wheat, being the major staple food crop of the Pakistan and accounts for 72% of the daily dietary requirement of the people has remained under sever threats due to climate change. Climatic induced factors like abrupt variations in temperature and precipitation are creating favorable conditions for the growth of pests, molds, and insects. Post-harvest losses including both qualitative and quantitative, exacerbate significantly high due abnormal variations in the environmental factors. It is reported that 1.60-M.M. Tons wheat of Sindh Food Department and 40,000-M. Tons of PASSCO wheat stocks were damaged during unprecedented rain/flood-2022. 

The convolved mechanism of variations in environmental factors needs to be envisaged in depth to improving handling techniques for better management of stock. Abiotic factors such as air composition (CO₂ & O₂), moisture, temperature, sunlight, and wind along with biotic factors like insects, rodents, birds, molds, and weeds, contribute to the vulnerability of stored wheat. Climate change directly impacts storage conditions by creating conditions conducive to the proliferation of pests and molds.

Changes in the humidity level due to sporadic and unexpected rains impact on the storage life of the grains. It is established that the shelf life of the seed is doubled for every 1% decrease in the moisture level (Harington, 1972). Environmental temperature especially within the range of 25 to 35 ºC creates ideal conditions for rapid growth of storage insects and pests (Proctor, 1994). It is coupled with level of moisture contents if it exceeds 12% that resultantly, stimulate mold growth as well as chemical degradation of grains, rendering them unfit for consumption (Brennand and Hendricks, 1988). Temperature and humidity control measures, including ventilation and aeration are crucial to mitigating these risks.

The protection of agriculture commodities is ensured through availability of modern storage facilities that play a pivotal role in mitigating the impact of climate change on wheat storage. Furthermore, these facilities not only curtail storage losses through the adept management of food stocks but also provide a potential measure to save a substantial quantity of 4.0 million metric tons of wheat worth of Rs. 416 billion which otherwise is lost due to the effect of various environmental  and social factors.

 The array of storage options available underscores the versatility required in addressing diverse storage needs. Cold storage units, gunjis, godowns, concrete silos, steel silos, tower silos and hermetic silo bags offer varying levels of capacity, durability and protection against environmental factors. Their collective role is paramount in countering the challenges posed by climate fluctuations, ensuring efficient handling of food stocks and ultimately contributing to the resilience of overall the agricultural ecosystem.

Being a qualified agricultural scholar, I strongly believe that climate resilient storage infrastructure storage facilities are crucial to achieve sustainable food security. Furthermore, to meet the rising challenges of food security, more serious efforts and interventions are required under strategic framework provided by the National Food Security Policy. This framework entails development of close partnerships with the provincial governments, entrepreneurs, research scientists, investors, exporters, importers, academia, progressive farmers and civil society for achieving food security and nutrition. Moreover, a robust mechanism for policy implementation, monitoring and evaluation should developed to make the country’s population healthier, productive and prosperous.   

Following additional measures are inevitable to be taken for effective safety and security of the stock.
⦁ Temperature and Humidity Control: Use of information and communication system (ICT) and sensory devices for regular monitoring of temperature and humidity levels within storage facilities.

⦁ Pest Management: Implementing effective pest management strategies including the use of insecticides and fumigation to prevent infestations due insect/pest and mold attacks.

⦁ Use of Covered Storage Facility: preferred use of covered storage facilities like modern godowns and silos to protect against environmental hazards and shifting from bag to bulk of food grain to reduce the prices and controlling inflations.

⦁ Quality Testing: Regularly inspecting the quality of stored wheat through visual inspections, moisture content testing, and spoilage checks.

⦁ Rotation: Practicing first-in, first-out (FIFO) rotation policy to ensure that older wheat is used or released before newer stock to prevent deterioration.

⦁ Emergency Plans: Developing contingency plans for extreme environmental events to protect stored wheat or to shift it safe place and ensuring its safety.

⦁ Regular Maintenance: Cleaning and maintenance of storage facilities to prevent vulnerabilities and avoiding compromising storage integrity.

In the face of global climate change, food security is on the brink of relentless challenges. It evokes a comprehensive environmental mitigation plan to ensure a sustainable grain supply in the country. Safeguarding the food supply chain is vital for effectively ensuring food security in the country. Understanding the intricate impact of environmental factors on wheat storage and adopting modern storage solutions, sustainable practices can bolster our resilience against climate change threats. It calls for integrating modern technologies, adaptation best practices and fostering collaborations among stakeholders for achieving a secure, safe, thriving and sustainable agricultural ecosystem.


Muhammad Aslam

Muhammad Aslam

Muhammad Aslam is a dedicated professional currently serving as Deputy General Manager at the Pakistan Agricultural Storage & Services Corporation (PASSCO) in Lahore. As Deputy General Manager, Aslam plays a pivotal role in overseeing various operations within PASSCO, contributing significantly to the organization's mission of supporting farmers and ensuring food stability in Pakistan.


Please note that all opinions, views, statements, and facts conveyed in the article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official policy or position of Chaudhry Abdul Rehman Business School (CARBS). CARBS assumes no liability or responsibility for any errors or omissions in the content. When interpreting and applying the information provided in the article, readers are advised to use their own discretion and judgement.

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