Local Conceptions of Food Security in Northern Pakistan: Issues of Scale
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In 1980s, the Chinese-Pakistan all-weather friendship materialised with the creation of a modern highway that links Kashgar, in China, to Rawalpindi, in Pakistan. The highway has also enabled intense food goods exchanges between the North and the South of the country. As part of the national development trends of the Pakistani government, these economic exchanges of food, combined with modernisation, should contribute to food security. Yet according to official surveys, food security is declining. This research analyses the local conceptions of food security in the Northern areas in order to understand the complex food security situation in the North, using the Karakoram Highway as a temporal and spatial analytical tool. The results reveal issues of scale between Northern and national discourses of food security. The national development discourse of food security – strongly influenced by foreign donors such as the US and the FAO – focuses on economic growth, the productionist paradigm and globalisation. Local conceptions of food security are shaped by communities’ history, culture and relationships with nature. Most communities, except former ports on ancient trade routes, reject the highway as a mean to access subsidised and imported food, and instead only rely on tradition micro food systems to maintain their identity and their food sovereignty. The importance of relationships between people is fundamental to local concepts of food security, where survival depends on social cohesion amongst and within sister communities regarding food. The findings challenge the main contemporary concept of food security formulated by the FAO and the World Bank. This study denounces the invalidity of the FAO methodology and it calls for a reformulation of current institutional concepts of food security. It calls for a concept that excludes power relations embedded in the Western symbolic of hunger, and that includes the various local perceptions of food security.