KARACHI - Food security is vital for good health of human beings with rich nutrition but changes in climatic patterns are affecting food availability and forcing some institutions to find solutions to this problem. Home gardening comes as one of solutions along with other new modern scientific techniques.

In this contemporary era of technology some institutions around the world are making all-out efforts for gaining access to scientific as well state-of-the-art techniques and terming home gardening as one of the sound approaches to food security.

Asia-Pacific Network (APN) for Global Change Research is a regional platform and Pakistan is one of its 22 members coping with the challenges of global change and sustainability.

APN funded-project titled, "Vulnerability of Home Garden Systems to Climate Change and its Impacts on Food Security in South Asia" has provided a deep understanding of fresh veggies to the people with opportunities of household income.

Recently, APN in collaboration with the University of Peradeniya, Sri Lanka, organised a South Asia Media Visit to Kandy, Sri Lanka for journalists of eight countries to highlight home gardens' value.

According to the above study, "The home gardens in study areas showed resilience to climate change and considerable contribution to household food security."

"Home garden is a term used for an agroforestry system, combining multiple farming components such as crops, trees, shrubs, herbs, livestock and occasionally fisheries, practiced on the land adjoining the household."

It is said that home gardens' total area in South Asia is about 200 million hectors and over 80 per cent of home gardens in the region (South Asia) are extremely small with an average size of less than 0.6 hectares (the size of a small football field), says the APN document.

According to data available on the website of the Ministry of National Food Security and Research, Pakistan, the agriculture sector contributes 21.4 per cent to GDP and employs 45 per cent of the labour force.

"One in three Pakistanis does not have regular and assured access to food. The most vulnerable are children, particularly girls, women and the elderly, especially among the lower income groups," it adds.

The slow process of technological innovations and the poverty, food security and food safety remain major challenging issues in the country.

"The sector of agriculture in the country is facing a manifold challenges and agriculture performance in Pakistan has been poor in the recent years with low growth of 3.1 per cent in 2011-12 and 3.3 per cent over the last decade".

People in Pakistan also suffer from transitional food insecurity owing to variability in their incomes and food availability throughout the year.

Apart from other major looming issues on food security, agricultural lands in Pakistan, particularly in urban centres, are also being converted into housing projects by cutting short local cultivation of vegetables which is depriving people of healthy veggies.

In some parts of the country, growers are cultivating vegetables with contaminated water and introducing chemicals to grow foods quicker, which is creating health problems for the people.

Home garden systems and awareness about their importance are the need of the hour to meet demand of healthy veggies for the people in the country.

Research institutions, policy makers and all those who are connected directly or indirectly with the agriculture and food security should focus on and pay their attention to new and scientific techniques to improve the food security in Pakistan.

According to World Food Program (WFP), the food security means when: "People are considered food secure when they have availability and adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life."

The proper planning for home garden systems in the urban areas of the country can bring a positive change to the lives of the people in terms of healthy foods. And, which also can save them from the severe impacts of climate change as home gardens also play vital role in adaptation to climate change.

Pakistan is rich in minerals but it needs a proper planning to conserve and utilize those in a befitting manner keeping in view the climatic changes and its impacts.

Like other countries of the world, where impacts of climate change are growing inordinately, Pakistani departments concerned should practice scientific research and implement those positive recommended decisions to provide its people with rich food with enough quality and quantity for living a healthy life.