Climate Change & Food Security in South Asia

Climate Change & Food Security in South Asia

Extreme weather events are becoming frequent and intense due to climate change and it has a direct impact on food insecurity. Unfortunately, the South Asian region, due to its high population density, restricted access to resources, and high resilience of food on agricultural practices is more prone to climate change-induced food insecurity. According to Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) latest report more than 1 billion people are facing moderate to severe food insecurity in South Asia. Rising temperatures due to El Nino climatic phenomenon is causing uncertainty in the weather patterns that are impacting the quality and quantity of food crops.

According to a recent report by World Food Programme, Pakistan and Afghanistan, two countries in South Asia, are at high risk of becoming the world’s “hunger hotspots” from June to November 2023.

Nearly 26 million people in Afghanistan and Pakistan are suffering from acute food insecurity due to extreme droughts triggered by climate change.

Climate Change and Changing Agricultural Patterns                    

The impact of climate change is resulting in significant disturbances in the meteorological trends that impact farming methods in the South Asian region. The manifestation of climate change in the region is evidenced by atypical weather phenomena such as droughts, heat waves, floods, and other anomalous weather patterns. The massive floods of 2022 in Pakistan wiped out 1.7 million hectares of agrarian land and 800 000 heads of livestock that pushed millions of rural households into poverty and food insecurity.

The irregularity of precipitation poses a significant challenge for farmers. Alterations in the temporal distribution of monsoons and fluctuations in precipitation strength present a potential hazard to traditional farming methodologies and crop cultivation timetables.

The lack of precision in weather predictions harms agricultural productivity and poses a challenge for farmers in terms of scheduling their crop cycles.

Elevated temperatures can induce heat stress, which can impede crop growth, flowering, and productivity. This was witnessed in the case of India, currently the world’s second-biggest wheat maker, restricting the export of wheat products in 2022, to fight off deficiencies that caused a spike in costs all over the world.

South Asia is no stranger to natural disasters such as droughts, floods, heat waves & cyclones. Nevertheless, their occurrences and intensity are growing more frequently as a direct result of global warming.

According to Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) the recent massive cyclone Mocha badly hit the agriculture and fishery sectors of Bangladesh and Myanmar, causing a severe loss of assets crucial for livelihoods and posing a longer-term threat to food security.

The detrimental effects of climate change on farming operations can be traced back to the lower levels of agricultural output and productivity that have been seen. Due to the high number of people who rely on agriculture as their primary source of income, the region’s capacity to produce sufficient quantities of food to satisfy demand is at risk. Agricultural practices need to be adapted to the changing conditions in South Asia in order to avoid the negative effects of environmental risks and assure food security.

Water Scarcity and Irrigation Challenges

The depletion of water resources is posing significant challenges for farmers in this region. Population growth is one of the main factors in the growing problem of freshwater scarcity. Furthermore, the phenomenon of climate change intensifies the issue of water scarcity, primarily as a result of alterations in precipitation patterns and amplified rates of evaporation. In a recent research groundwater depletion in India is expected to grow up to 75% by 2050 and Pakistan

‘s total water demand is expected to increase from 163 km3 to 225 km3 by 2015 to 2050 respectively.

Both groundwater and rain-fed irrigation are used widely in South Asian countries to fulfill the water requirement of agricultural land. But many of the current irrigation systems don\’t utilize water most effectively. This results in either using more water than is necessary or not having enough water to maintain healthy crops.

The South Asian agricultural sector relies heavily on consistent access to water, and implementing effective water governance frameworks and policies is imperative.

This entails providing assistance to water-related infrastructure, promoting cooperation among pertinent stakeholders, and fostering water-saving practices. The issue of water scarcity and reduced agricultural productivity resulting from climate change necessitates a comprehensive strategy that integrates novel technologies, policy modifications, and civic engagement.


South Asia’s food security is seriously threatened by climate change, which has an impact on agricultural productivity, livelihoods, and food supply. The difficulties are made worse by a lack of water, shifting weather patterns, and catastrophic events. It is essential to put in place climate-smart agricultural practices, develop climate information systems, better water management, diversify livelihoods, and reinforce policy frameworks to address these concerns. To maintain robust and sustainable food production in the face of climate change, regional cooperation and quick action are required.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own. They do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of the South Asia Times.

Iqra Naseer

Iqra Naseer, MPhil in Environmental Science from Quaid I Azam University, Islamabad, is a Research Fellow at South Asia Times (SAT). Passionate about academic pursuits, she specializes in leveraging digital platforms to disseminate research effectively. She can be reached on X (formerly Twitter) at @iqraqazi7.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *