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World Food Trust Organized Seminar on Sustainable Agriculture & Food Security

Sugandh Bhatnagar
Sugandh Bhatnagar
Lamp Lighting Ceremony

“Agriculture is a cause and a solution to environmental problems such as biodiversity loss and climate change. However, sustainable agriculture has the potential to mitigate climate change and strengthen resilience to the impacts of climate change. Therefore, the vision for sustainable agriculture is significant for the world in which food is nutritious and accessible to everyone and natural resources are preserved to maintain ecosystem functions to support current and future human needs.” 

This was the crux of the discussions held at the day-long seminar on “Sustainable Agriculture and India towards Total Food Security” organized by the World Food Trust at New Delhi, which saw active participation of Central and State governments, academicians, and representatives from the NGOs, foreign embassies and the private sector. These included senior functionaries from organizations like Food Safety and Standards Organization of India (FSSAI), BIS, National Water Mission (NMG), National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), National Rain Fed Area Authority, Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA), Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services (ARIAS), NIFTEM, India Water Foundation, India China and America Institute, Rythu Sadhikara Samstha, among others. Eminent speakers joined the discussions and shared their expert knowledge with the audience for a result-oriented approach to lead India towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and total food security before the dawn of year 2030. 

In his opening remarks, Dr Ashok Dalwai, CEO of the National Rain Fed Area Authority, explained the trends, opportunities, and challenges to overcome and achieve sustainability goals. He said: "We need sustainable technologies to increase the yield for the growing populations.” Dr. Dalwai emphasized the significance of deploying new technology to bring new crop varieties: "We have varieties that are responsive to low use of inputs, and the use of genetic technologies, physiological interventions, etc., made it possible. In India, many people are suffering from malnutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiency. With the help of science, we can develop varieties that give us food and nutrition. These fortified varieties not just contain the basic carbohydrates but contain more iron and all other kinds of nutrients that are required."

More crop for every drop of water 

G. Ashok Kumar, Additional Secretary with the Government of India and Mission Director, National Water Mission, highlighted the importance of water in agriculture and elaborated the meaning of Sahi Fasal. Elaborating further, he said: "Sahi Fasal campaign was launched to nudge farmers in the water-stressed areas to grow crops that are not water-intensive, but use water efficiently; for healthy, nutritious and economically remunerative crop which is also environmentally friendly. We are creating awareness among farmers on appropriate crops, micro-irrigation, soil moisture conservation, and crop diversification, such as weaning them away from water-intensive crops like paddy and sugarcane to crops like corn and maize that require less water. Further, on the other side assisting policymakers in framing policies that make effective pricing of inputs (water and electricity); improve procurement and market for these alternate crops; which eventually leads to an increase in farmers' income." 

Vivek Arora, principal lead FFRC at Food Safety and Standards Organization of India (FSSAI), enlightened the audience with FSSAI's Eat Right Initiative, its key functions and elaborated on the importance of Eat Safe, Eat Healthy, and Eat Sustainable. He also stressed that to conserve the environment there is a need to bring in more technologies to improve efficiencies in agricultural practices. 

Rajiv Ranjan Mishra, DG, National Mission for Clean Ganga (NMCG), made a brief presentation on water resources management in the Ganges. According to him, the future of sustainable agriculture or food security is not possible without water. 

Sampath Kumar, CEO, Meghalaya Basin Development Authority (MBDA), presented a case study to explain the authority's significant activities and their work done so far to conserve water and increase sustainability in agriculture. According to him, MBDA pays special attention to water conservation and its optimum management. 

In a virtual presentation, T Vijay Kumar, Executive Vice Chairman of Rythu Sadhikara Samstha (Andhra Government’s Corporation for farmer’s empowerment) elaborated on three main issues - farmers' livelihoods, human health, and planetary health lessons. According to him, sustainable agriculture is the agriculture of the future. He added: "Govt of AP had a vision that all farmers gradually transit from the conventional agriculture to sustainable or climate-resilient agriculture or natural farming. We have multiple emergencies; on one side, we have farmers' distress which is made worst by climate change. Farmers are the frontline soldiers facing the climate change, and the highest risk in their livelihood comes from climate change. Moreover, the current agriculture system is continuously increasing their cost of cultivation." 

Dr. Vijay Kumar also highlighted the issue of soil depletion and said: "We are losing 5 billion tons of soil every year. India is losing 23% of the top soil, and it is an emergency situation. We need to opt for effective agriculture practices for building soil than losing soil to reduce water stress." 

SM Husain, former chairman, Central Water Mission, emphasized the optimum management of water resources in his presentation. Mr. Husain rued at the fact that India has gone down on Food Security Index and supported the Call for Action by the World Food Trust to initiate multi-pronged action on the ground by all stakeholders, in a combined manner, as the need of the hour. 

Ashish Kumar Bhutani, state project director, Assam Rural Infrastructure and Agricultural Services (ARIAS) mentioned that the state of Assam had strengthened its cluster-based production approaches. “There are many institutional reforms brought at the admin level at the agricultural department. Assam is an agricultural state, and it has brought a more market-oriented production perspective to its production value chains. We have identified and prioritized various value chains in the field of agriculture and horticulture," he added. 

Dr Chindi Vasudevappa, VC- NIFTEM, explained about role of NIFTEM in preparing the much-needed workforce. He said: "NIFTEM is the brainchild of MoFPI, Government of India that caters to the needs of various stakeholders such as entrepreneurs, food processing industry, exporters, policymakers, government, and existing institution. We are working for the industry and are trained to build in capacity, critical manpower that can address the needs of the industry, especially in food processing. Moreover, our curriculum is designed in a way that addresses the needs of the post-harvest and food processing industry." 

The full-day conference also included presentations of Suneeti Toteja, Scientist-E, Standardization Head, Food and Agriculture at the Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS), where she briefed on BIS and the major activities of the standards.  

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