Ploughing a new channel for India’s food systems

  • IASbaba
  • February 25, 2022
  • 0
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  • GS-2: Government policies and interventions for development in various sectors and issues arising out of their design and implementation. 
  • GS-3: Agriculture

Ploughing a new channel for India’s food systems

Context: In an effort to spur national and regional action to deliver the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) through transforming food systems, the UN Food Systems Summit called for action by governments in five areas: 

  • nourish all people
  • boost nature-based solutions
  • advance equitable livelihoods, decent work and empowered communities
  • build resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses
  • accelerate the means of implementation.

Such a transformation in the Indian context would involve enhancing interfaces between the spheres of science, society and policy, focusing on sustainability, resource efficiency and circularity. 

How mix of Policy & Science led to success of Green Revolution?

  • India’s Green Revolution in the 1960s, was achieved not only through the development of improved high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat but also through policy measures and development of institutional structure. 
  • It included a vast agricultural research and technology transfer system at the national, regional, State and local levels. 
  • The Training & Visit (T&V) system introduced in the 1970s with World Bank assistance was key to the science-society interface as it established a cadre of agriculture extension specialists at the local level.
  • The necessary behavioural changes in adopting the improved seeds and practices brought about by the T&V system in the 1960s enabled science to steer the process of change. 

Why India needs a second Green Revolution?

  • Although India is now self-sufficient in food grains production in the macro sense, it has about a quarter of the world’s food insecure people
  • Macro- and micronutrient malnutrition is widespread, with 18.7% of women and 16.2% of men unable to access enough food to meet basic nutritional needs, and over 32% of children below five years still underweight.
  • India is ranked 101 out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index, 2021. 
  • The country faces the dual challenge of achieving nutrition security, as well as addressing declining land productivity, land degradation and loss of ecological services with change in land use. 
  • Therefore, in the context of widespread concerns about poverty and malnutrition there is the need for a second Green Revolution.

What should be the approach for agriculture going forward?

  • The siloed approach of ‘agriculture’ serving ‘food security’ needs must give way to ‘food systems’ for ‘sustainability’ and ‘better nutrition.
  • Agriculture as a sector should embrace the range of activities and actors involved in food production, aggregation, processing, distribution and consumption embedded in their socio-economic and physical context. 
  • A theory of change ought to bring the focus back on sustainability, resource efficiency and circularity as the central pillars towards transforming food systems. 
  • An agro-climatic approach to agricultural development is important for sustainability and better nutrition. 
    • It is assumed that a meticulous review of agro-climatic zones could make smallholders farming a profitable business, enhancing agricultural efficiency and socio-economic development, as well as sustainability. 
  • Crop diversification and precision for enhanced crop productivity based on soil type, climate (temperature and rainfall), and captive water resources.
  • The focus should be on improving farmers’ competitiveness, supporting business growth in the rural economy, and incentivising farmers to improve the environment.
  • A stress status of the natural resource base — soil and water in different agro-climatic zones — will help understand the micro as well as meso-level interventions needed with regard to technologies, extension activities and policies. 
  • Lastly, infrastructure and institutions supporting producers, agri-preneurs and agri micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in their production value chain are central to the transition. 

Connecting the dots:

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