World Food Day – Issues, Challenges and The Way Forward – All India Radio (AIR) IAS UPSC

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World Food Day – Issues, Challenges and The Way Forward

Search 16th Oct, 2020 Spotlight News Analysis here: http://www.newsonair.com/Main_Audio_Bulletins_Search.aspx  

TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • Issues relating to development and management of Social Sector/Services relating to Health, Education, Human Resources.
  • Welfare schemes for vulnerable sections of the population by the Centre and States and the performance of these schemes

In News: The World Food Day was observed globally on October 16th. It is observed every year in honour of the Food & Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations which was founded in 1945. The principal reason behind launching and celebrating world food day is to secure and advance the food security across the world, particularly in days of the crisis.

Theme for 2020: “Grow, Nourish, Sustain. Together. Our actions are our future.”

India’s Global Hunger Index 

  • India ranked 102nd on the Global Hunger Index, despite high food production. 
  • Nutritional security requires measures to improve protein and vitamin deficiencies.

What are the four pillar of food security? 

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) states that the four pillars of food security are  

  1. Availability 
  2. Access 
  3. Stability  
  4. Utilisation

COVID-19 and Food Security

An invisible crisis is building in the wake of COVID-19. According to a UN report titled The State of Food Security and Nutrition 2020, the pandemic will add 83 – 132 million more people to the total number of undernourished in the world. This is one of the most severe and long-term impacts of the pandemic. 

Nationwide lockdowns, extreme weather conditions, altered environment conditions, crop-damaging locust attacks have disturbed food systems. A more significant number of families will be forced to opt for nutrient-low substitutes, resulting in malnourished children and affecting pregnant women and nursing mothers. There is an urgent need for governments and society to address the coming crisis.

  • An additional 135 million people could face acute food insecurity in the coming months, and millions more could lose their jobs.
  • To recover and build resiliency, we must create new innovative food partnerships.

How did India’s food system work during Pandemic?

  • During the COVID-19-precipitated lockdown, the FAO, IFAD and the WFP worked in close coordination to support the Government of India’s Empowered Group 5 on facilitating supply chain and logistics management, so necessary items such as food and medicines were available.
  • Over the past few decades, India has gone from being a net importer to a net exporter of food grains. This strength has been evident through the pandemic. 
  • During April to June 2020, Central and State governments were able to distribute around 23 million tonnes from India’s large domestic food grain reserves through Public Distribution System
  • The government also successfully mobilised food rations for 820 million people from April to November 2020, including finding alternate solutions to provide food rations to 90 million schoolchildren. 
  • During Pandemic’s initial days of lockdown, there were efforts to remove bottlenecks in the food supply chain to ensure that agricultural activities weren’t disrupted. 
  • As a result, agriculture grew at 3.4% during the first quarter this financial year and the area cultivated this kharif exceeded 110 million hectares.

Challenges Ahead

  • Labour shortages may impact the harvest of upcoming produce leading to shortages
  • Shortage of fertilizers, veterinary medicines and other input could also affect agricultural production.
  • Closures of restaurants diminishes the demand for fresh produce and fisheries products, impacting small & marginal farmers that has long term consequences on Urban areas
  • Food processing sector will face difficulties due to shortage of working capital and workers
  • Countries adopt restrictive trade measures to safeguard their own national food security
  • Restricted trade practices will lead serious disruptions in the world food market resulting in increased price volatility & price hikes.
  • Low-income food-deficit countries will be the worst hit in cased of restrictive global food markets, thus precipitating humanitarian crisis (hunger deaths)

Initiatives by India

POSHAN Abhiyaan

  • Ministry: Ministry of Women & Child Development 
  • Objective: To improve nutritional outcomes for children, pregnant women and lactating mothers.

FSSAI’s Eat Right India movement targets to promote safe and healthy food for everyone in an environmentally sustainable way. It is a part of its mandate to provide safe and wholesome food for all citizens. This will improve the food safety ecosystems and lift the hygiene and health of our citizens

Promotion of the production and consumption of nutri-cereals (millets): 

  • High in dietary fibre, nutri-cereals are a powerhouse of nutrients including iron, folate, calcium, zinc, magnesium, phosphorous, copper, vitamins and antioxidants. They are not only important for the healthy growth and development of children but have also been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes in adults.
  • Usually grown by small and poor farmers on dry, low-fertile, mountainous, tribal and rain-fed areas, millets are good for the soil, have shorter cultivation cycles and require less cost-intensive cultivation. These unique features make millets suited for and resilient to India’s varied agro-climatic conditions. Moreover, unlike rice and wheat, millets are not water or input-intensive, making them a sustainable strategy for addressing climate change and building resilient agri-food systems.
  • The three major millet crops currently growing in India are jowar (sorghum), bajra (pearl millet) and ragi (finger millet). Along with that, India grows a rich array of bio-genetically diverse and indigenous varieties of “small millets” like kodo, kutki, chenna and sanwa. Major producers include Rajasthan, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Haryana.

Steps taken by Govt.:

  • The government hiked the MSP of nutri-cereals, which came as a big price incentive for farmers.
  • Included millets in the public distribution system to provide a steady market
  • Running a Rs 600-crore scheme to increase the area, production and yield of nutri-cereals. With a goal to match the cultivation of nutri-cereals with local topography and natural resources, the government is encouraging farmers to align their local cropping patterns to India’s diverse 127 agro-climatic zones.
  • Setting up nutri-gardens, promoting research on the interlinkages between crop diversity and dietary diversity and running a behaviour change campaign to generate consumer demand for nutri-cereals.

Elimination of trans-fat from the food supply chain

  • Aim is to make India free of trans-fat by 2022, a year ahead of WHO’s target.
  • Present in partially hydrogenated vegetable oils such as vanaspati, shortening and margarine, trans-fat is a major contributor to the rise in non-communicable diseases in India

The Way Forward

Investing in nutrition is a fast and smart strategy to drive development, address poverty and protect human rights. The World Bank says that the return of nutritional investments can be as high as 1: 35 – that’s a Rs 35 return on every rupee invested in a quality diet.

  • The FAO recommends improved information systems and collaborating with the private sector to solve distribution problems.  
  • Nutrition-centric programmes like the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) and mid-day meals need to keep going strong even though Anganwadi Centres and schools (nodal agencies for the schemes) might not open soon. 
  • As frontline warriors, India’s 1.4 million Anganwadi workers, who are the core of India’s Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) scheme, play an essential role in breaking the cycle of malnourishment by identifying under nourished children in the local communities and providing sustainable learning to mothers and families on basic, health, nutrition, immunisation, the importance of micronutrients to combat malnutrition in India. To improve the nutritional status in rural India, more support must be provided to empower the Anganwadi workers. Providing access to digital technology and financial benefits can help multiply the difference they make in addressing the nutritional crisis. The technology will enable them to review their interventions better and prioritise their actions for improved outcomes.
  • Inter-state collaboration and learning can be a viable solution in India’s case. For ex: States like Kerala, Tamil Nadu and Odisha have responded well even during lockdown times by providing dry ration, under these schemes, from door-to-door. 
  • Direct cash transfers into the accounts of eligible beneficiaries have worked in states like Rajasthan to reduce stunting, wasting and underweight among children and can be launched at the national level. 

Successful and sustained nutrition initiatives need the collaboration of government agencies, non-governmental organisations, policymakers, schools, civil society, food industry, and media. These partnerships will ensure attain the long-standing goal of zero malnutrition.


A. Sustainable Development Goal 2 – “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”

B. In the year 2020

  • FAO is celebrating 75 years of fighting hunger in over 130 countries
  • IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) become the first UN agency to receive a credit rating
  • The World Food Programme (WFP) was awarded the Nobel Prize for Peace

C. 2020 Nobel Peace Prize: To the UN agency World Food Programme (WFP), “for its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict”.

  • Established in 1961
  • Headquartered in Rome, Italy
  • Months after it was set up, the WFP faced a humanitarian crisis when more than 12,000 people died in an earthquake in Boein Zahra in northern Iran. The WFP sent tonnes of wheat, sugar and tea. Thereafter, it played an important role in providing food aid in Thailand and Algeria.
  • Launched its first development programme in 1963 for Nubians in Sudan. In the same year, the WFP’s first school meals project – in Togo – was approved. Two years later, WFP became a full-fledged UN programme.
  • Today, the WFP is the world’s largest humanitarian agency combating hunger.

D. According to State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2020 report –

  • The world is not on track to meet the goal of zero hunger by 2030.
  • Around 8-13 crore people globally are likely to go hungry this year due to the economic recession triggered by COVID­19.
  • Almost 690 million people around the world went hungry in 2019. (up by 1 crore in 2018)
  • Hunger continues to be on the rise since 2014 and the global prevalence of undernourishment, or overall percentage of hungry people, is 8.9%.
  • Asia remains home to the greatest number of under nourished (38 crore). Africa is second (25 crore), followed by Latin America and the Caribbean (4.8 crore).

SOFI report is a join report issued annually by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, UNICEF, the World Food Programme and the World Health Organization.

E. FAO supported India’s proposal to declare 2023 as the International Year of Millets.

  • Global Hunger Index (GHI) Report 
  • Prepared by the Concern Worldwide (an Irish agency) and the Welt Hunger Hilfe (a German organization) 
  • The report is based on four GHI indicators namely, undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality. 
  • India’s child wasting rate was extremely high at 20.8% – the highest 
  • India’s rank has slipped from 95th position (in 2010) to 102nd (in 2019)

F. Child wasting: Child wasting refers to the share of children under the age of five who are wasted, i.e, they have low weight with respect to their height, reflecting acute undernutrition. 

Connecting the Dots:

  1. Hunger is not related as much to food production as to access and distribution. Comment. 
  2. What do you understand by ‘hidden hunger’? Which sections of the population are affected most by hidden hunger? Analyze.

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