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Food Security for Sustainable National Development

Pritam Kashyap
Pritam Kashyap

United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) has defined Food security as “Food Security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. To which food security has three aspects to it – access, availability and utilization of it i.e. the absorption of food. 

The issue of food security, especially in a developing nation like India, raises the twin problems of uncertain food production and unequal food distribution. The impact of unequal food distribution can have adverse effects on both the rural and urban population living below the poverty line. Food insecurity is not only an economic problem but also a problem of non-humanity approach in India.  

Their availability of the food grains is enough to satisfy their needs. According to the statistical data published by the ‘Food Corporation of India’ and the Government of India, food grain availability is 291.95 million tonnes in 2019-20 higher by 6.74 million tonnes than 2018-19. But still, this productivity doesn’t fulfil the demands of people. But it is adequate with nutritional status in terms of protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals for all household members at all times and thus in principle is more than food security. 

Globally food insecurity is said to be increasing in absolute terms despite recent decreases in percentage terms. Even the experts raise concerns that to increase food production along with protecting the environment exclude further expansion of cropland, leaving increased agricultural productivity as an option assuming the world addresses its associated technological and societal challenges. There must be drawing a balance between food security, biodiversity and environment. 

India is the second-largest country in the world in the term of population and food security matters a lot. Green revolution boosted production but the problem of storage of surplus stock remained since ages. It has paved way for High Yielding Variety of seeds and bumper crops of rice and wheat but it didn’t provide for nutrient losses like calorie, protein and fat. Buffer stocks prove beneficial to aid in food security and have also helped in times of food shortage and less productivity. India doesn’t have adequate storage facilities to store huge amount of surpluses, making them rot after the seasons. During the pandemic times also farmers were not able to get an adequate market

rate. When the harvesting had started in February-March 2020, the farmer was getting up to Rs 18 per kg for their produce, but due to lockdown, the supply line was badly affected. Now scenario was that no trader came forward to buy the crop even for Rs 2 per kg.  

Some reports even suggest that despite huge buffer stocks, there are still 8% of Indians who can’t avail meals twice a day and every third child born is registered to be underweight.  

How Sustainable Development will be achieved: 

Goal 2 of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is about Zero hunger which states “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture” (SDG2) recognizes the interlinkages among supporting sustainable agriculture, empowering small farmers, promoting gender equality, ending rural poverty, ensuring healthy lifestyles tackling climate change, and other issues addressed within the set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda. The land used for agriculture should be properly planned that can be achieved by crop rotation and mixed land use pattern and alteration to modern agricultural practices that devoid land of its basic properties. 

Water quality has to be maintained by water harvesting systems, by conserving water, giving farmers incentives for selecting drought-tolerant crops, sprinkler system of irrigation, reducing the use of fertilisers to prevent increased salinity of water, checks on groundwater level and maintaining it by planting legumes that regulate nitrogen levels in the soil and help to maintain groundwater level too. The next goal is to ensure quality air by not farming near to industrial areas or near vicinities where air quality is bad or polluted. It also includes controlling smoke from agricultural burning. This can be improved by incorporating crop residue in the soil, appropriate levels of tillage and planting windbreaks. Soil quality also has to be kept in check for sustainable practices which can be done by reducing soil erosion by terrace farming, low water runoff, and minimum irrigation practices. 

The nation is reaching out to its farmer community by schemes such as Kisan credit scheme, one nation one market, radio & television broadcasts, huge agricultural subsidies on irrigation and fertilisers etc., but is it leading to sustainable agriculture and food security is the question that worries us in the present scenario. India stood as the largest producer of milk (176.35 MT, 2017-18) and second in fruits and vegetable production in the world, after China, it also exports huge quantities of rice and other cash crops but it has failed to deliver good quality grains to its own population. Sustainable agriculture also requires a good supply chain and distribution system to make it reach to each everyone along with providing food security and zero hunger. Public distribution system along with one nation one market and National Food Security Act may help in achieving these goals. 

India stands 102 out of 117 countries on the Global Hunger Index (2019) which is measured by child wasting, stunting and undernourishment. For attaining food security, it has been possible for India to alleviate major hunger-related problems and reduce incidences of stunting but yet is it a goal far away from being achieved. Nutritional security can produce young and healthy individuals that can make a nation sustainable with a higher literacy rate, good education and a higher number of employed people. The issues of post-harvest losses are due to inadequate storage facilities and weak supply chains. Along with supply-side factors, demand-side factors like changing consumption pattern and per capita consumption also needs equal attention. 

The need of the hour is zero hunger attained through not only food security but also nutritional security that can be achieved through sustainable agriculture which creates a better environment, economic profitability and healthy agricultural practices that reduces pollution, makes greener and productive lands, provides food to all that is aided by a good distribution channel that reduces practices of hoarding, black marketing, rotting of food and making it available, affordable and accessible to all that is of good quality enough to be absorbed well by individuals. The creation of a healthier population with access to basic education and finance and other human needs makes a nation stronger economically, socially and culturally; it thus aids in the sustainable development of the nation with reduced inequality, zero hunger and greater accessibility and availability of food to all and by all. 

Pandemic and overall needs to be done:  

The UN World Food Programme has estimated that COVID-19 will increase the number of people facing acute food insecurity around the world up to 265 million in 2020, up by 130 million. This will also mean a rise in malnutrition among children and the overall threat to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals. The government’s initial announcement of Rs 1.74 lakh crore in funds and measures to provide extra rations through its targeted public distribution system (TPDS) for the first three months, doubling the quantity and free distribution of 5 kg of rice or wheat and 1 kg of pulses and additional provisions of cash, have been very helpful to poor and vulnerable families. One Nation, One Card’ across the country is a great move in this direction and no hurdle should allow it to stop its universalisation soon. Strategies such as nutri-gardens or kitchen gardens, micronutrient supplementation and fortification along with direct cash distribution should promote better nutritional outcomes. The availability of farm inputs such as labour, agricultural inputs, machinery and finance, so that the farming system continues to run uninterrupted and for long-term food security is continued to be ensured. Strengthening the same today with timely and strategic initiatives will define how India fares tomorrow and will need continued attention in food security. 

 

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