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Thursday, December 24, 2015

Can potato help Pakistan fight malnutrition, water shortage and poverty

During 2014, death of children in Thar made headlines. District administration provided 253,590 families with bags, containing 50 KGs of wheat. People in poor regions are facing malnourishment. People in many poor regions, like Thar, rely on wheat for fulfilling their calorie needs.

Wheat crop needs more water to grow than potato crop. Rice, second most consumed food in Pakistan, also uses huge water. Rather than letting people die of under nutrition, policy-makers should introduce potato as popular diet.

Earlier efforts were made by General Ayub’s military Govt. to introduce potato as staple food, but these were unsuccessful.

At present Potatoes, after rice, wheat, and corn, is the fourth-most-consumed food crop in the world.

Potato, first domesticated in areas of southern Peru and north western Bolivia, had played huge role in Europe rise. Since the time it was introduced by Spanish, it has revolutionized the Europe’s economy and impacted demographics. According to historian William H. McNeill : “By feeding rapidly growing populations, [it] permitted a handful of European nations to assert dominion over most of the world between 1750 and 1950”

Agronomists have long been in favor of potato farming in regions with malnutrition, pasture shortage, and poverty due to its high nutrient levels and the ability to grow in challenging conditions.

The potato stands out for its effective water use, yielding more food per unit of water than any other major crop. An increase in the proportion of potato in daily diet can help alleviate pressure on fresh water resources.

Furthermore, Potato production is two times more labor intensive than grain production. Hence more jobs for people living in unirrigated lands. Its productive land usage is another edge over other crops, as it yields four times more per hectare yield than wheat. It can free up land for rapid urbanization.

Replacing wheat with potato in our daily diet is not only healthy but also good for economy. 

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