Increased awareness on organic food could help the farmers

Agriculture supports almost half of Pakistan’s population and around one-fifth of land is cultivated. However, there are very few organic farmers in Pakistan and banned pesticides are still frequently in use. Organic farmer Mr Ijaz Hussain thinks there are opportunities to change that and benefit both farmers and consumers. 

– Currently most farmers who practice organic farming here in Islamabad do so as a hobby, but I think this can change, Mr. Ijaz Hussain says, a retired government officer and a passionate advocate of organic farming while showing his organic farm in Chak Shahzad, Islamabad.

Hard to go organic
Being an organic farmer can be difficult in Pakistan. Most organic seeds need to be imported from abroad and there is a lack of organic fertilizers available – unless you maintain your own livestock. This makes it difficult to make a living on organic farming but Mr. Ijaz Hussain is convinced that there are great possibilities in the future to change the situation.

– One way forward is to raise awareness regarding the food we eat. Today the demand for organic food in Pakistan is almost non-existing and people are not aware of it´s benefits, especially for the farmers.

National policy – an important tool
Another important way to go would be to create a comprehensive national policy on organic farming, he thinks.

– One great concern is the availability of highly hazardous pesticides that are banned internationally but still available here in Pakistan. Also, if the government encourages people like me by at least ensuring the availability of organic seeds and organic fertilizers at subsidized rates, more and more people will get motivated to grow organic food.

Therefore, during Green Action Week 2015 TheNetwork for Consumer Protection in Pakistan arranged a seminar together with civil society stakeholders to target policy makers, government, and academics to analyse existing food regulatory frameworks and formulate a future course of action with recommendations on how to make food safer and more sustainable in Pakistan. The Network also developed a brochure and materials on organic food in Urdu and English to disseminate to consumers in shopping malls in Islamabad, and engaged with federal and provincial policy-makers to call for action to formulate a safe organic food policy for Pakistan.

– This would help to build a strategy to overcome future challenges and ensure the availability of safer organic food choices. I have committed to provide my farm as a study venue for students and consumers alike to advocate the concept of organic farming, says Mr. Ijaz Hussain.