Although it has declined in recent years as a percentage of the country’s gross domestic product (GDP), the agricultural sector sustains the livelihoods of 45 percent of Pakistan’s population (FAO 2012). In particular, wheat production is a mainstay of the country’s food security, with 24 million tonnes of wheat produced in 2010. Rice production has also doubled since 1980 and is now one of the country’s major export crops.

Despite the growth in production of staple crops, Pakistan has experienced a sharp decline in food security in recent years due to a combination of militant activity, natural disaster, and economic instability. In 2010, the country experienced its worst natural disaster in decades when flooding submerged almost one-fifth of the country’s landmass. The floods destroyed infrastructure, left almost 20 million people without access to food, clean water, and health services, and severely damaged the country’s agricultural sector (WFP 2012). The food insecure population rose from 38 percent of the total population to 50 percent (83 million people) between 2003 and 2009; it is estimated that this number has risen further to 90 million people in the aftermath of the 2010 floods (WFP 2012). Militant activities have also had severe financial impact on the country, contributing to widespread unemployment and a skyrocketing inflation rate that reached 16 percent by the end of 2010 (WFP 2012).

Pakistan’s rural population faces particular challenges, with two-thirds of the total population and 80 percent of the poor population living in rural areas (IFAD 2012). Poverty is particularly widespread in the country’s many mountainous areas where isolated communities, rugged terrain, and ecological fragility make agricultural production difficult and where a lack of access to markets and services contribute to widespread chronic poverty.

For more information, visit the Pakistan Strategy Support Program website.