Pakistani universities are collaborating with leading American universities to address food security in joint research projects throughout the country. Pakistani higher education institutions are playing a pivotal role in resolving food security and agricultural issues in the country under the facilitation of Higher Education Commission (HEC).
Food security refers to the availability of food and one’s access to it. The food security situation in Pakistan seems extremely chaotic, as despite the fact that farmers are producing more and the country is enjoying surplus crops, the masses are still facing shortage and unabated price hike; food security issue is getting serious, courtesy of the nefarious elements such as middlemen, smuggling mafia and official network of some relevant departments.
Under the Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Programme, six research projects have been initiated to deal with food security situation in Pakistan, including “Management of Greening by Producing Healthy Plants, Monitoring Vectors and Identification of Tolerance”, between the University of Agriculture Pakistan and University of California USA. It aims to create a new breed of citrus plants that is resistant to graft transmissible pathogens and as a result the project improved productivity in Pakistan and benefited the citrus industry. Another project, “Enhancing Sugarcane Production in Pakistan by Modern Breeding Techniques”, between the University of the Punjab Pakistan and US Department of Agriculture aims to improve sugarcane production by using new methods of breeding that yields better crops. The study is helping to make Pakistan sugarcane industry more competitive and help sugar farmers to increase production and reduce losses.
A project between National University of Sciences and Technology Pakistan and Washington State University USA, “Secure Pakistan Wheat Production through Controlling Rusts”, has also been initiated to increase local knowledge about combating rust fungi by testing local wheat with rust strains, which will be quite helpful in achieving better food security for Pakistan.
Another project, “Novel Triple Acting Chimeric Antimicrobials for Eradication of Multi-drug Resistant Strains of Staphylococcus Aureus” between the University of the Punjab Pakistan and US Department of Agriculture is focusing on improving dairy production in Pakistan and the successful execution of this project will help improve the quality and relevance of education and research and will also improve the family income of the average farmer.
In addition, a number of projects aiming at encouraging indigenous research at Pakistani universities over food security issues have been financed by HEC under its National Research Programme for Universities (NRPU).
Commenting on these programmes, HEC Chairperson Dr Javaid R Laghari said that the goal of HEC is to develop local expertise and indigenous technology through strong collaborations with research groups in leading foreign universities. These projects help encourage foreign relationships based on the exchange of knowledge and technology to minimise food security issues in Pakistan. Pakistan-US Science and Technology Cooperation Programme serves as the focal point for technology transfer activities, helping HEC in its mission that aims to facilitate institutions of higher education and helps equip the individuals with better knowledge who will further take part in socio-economic growth of Pakistan.
Dr Laghari remarked that under HEC facilitation, Pakistani universities have not only introduced better variety of crops and fruits but are also closely working with farmers. He also hoped that these projects would play a significant role in economic development of Pakistan.