Feeding humanity, Saving the Planet

  • IASbaba
  • September 6, 2022
  • 0
Agriculture, Economics
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Context: There is increasing awareness that humans are over-exploiting this planet’s natural resource endowment. This may threaten the very existence of humanity.

Consequences of over exploitation of natural resources:

  • Degradation of lands, especially the topsoil that is crucial for providing us with food, animal feed and fibre.
  • Groundwater is depleting and its quality is becoming poorer with the increasing use of chemical fertilisers and other industrial waste.
  • The air pollution at an alarming rate in certain parts of the world, especially in India, where at times it is difficult to even breathe in a city like Delhi when stubble burning peaks in farmers’ fields in Punjab and Haryana.

What is the real cause behind such a rapid deterioration in nature’s wealth:

  • There is imbalance between people, our planet, and the political economy of policies.
  • What we know is that roughly it took more than 2,00,000 years for homo sapiens to evolve into the current form of mankind. In 1804, for the first time in history, the human population touched one billion.
  • In next billion was added in 123 years with the count touching two billion by 1927. Several major breakthroughs in medical science ensured that the next billion was added in just 33 years by 1960.
  • The next billion was added in just 14 years with the population reaching four billion in 1974. The next billion took just 13 years (five billion in 1987), 11 years thereafter (six billion in 1998), 12 years thereon (seven billion in 2010), and another 12 years to touch eight billion in 2022.

This explosive growth of population, with higher and higher aspirations, has created a huge imbalance between the demands of people and the capacity of this planet to supply them in a sustainable manner.

Can this planet provide food for all through natural farming without the use of any chemical fertilisers, pesticides, modern high yielding varieties of seeds etc.?

  • Many governments, religious organisations, and some NGOs and individuals believe that there is no option but to go back to nature and practice organic/natural farming
  • Sri Lanka, for example, wanted to get rid of chemical fertilizers.
  • Even in India, we have some states (like Sikkim) declared as organic states, state like Andhra Pradesh is also scaling up natural farming and many others states are attempting to do so.
  • SAVE SOIL: A MOVEMENT THAT BEGAN 24 YEARS AGO: For three decades now, Sadhguru from ISHA Foundation has been continuously bringing the importance of soil and has said repeatedly at several international platforms: “Soil is our life, our very body. And if we forsake soil, in many ways, we forsake the planet.”
  • These are practice are in growing phase with the expectation that they are safe for society, augment their incomes and ensure food security for the masses through ample availability of food at affordable prices.

However, certain conducted studies which shows certain negative aspect of it such as

  • Studies conducted by ICAR in India show that with the adoption of natural farming yields go down for major staple crops like wheat and rice by as much as 30 to 50 per cent.
  • Given that India is going to be the most populous country on the planet in 2023, we need to take policy decisions with better and more scientific evidence if we want to avoid a Sri Lanka-like fiasco.

Use of Modern-technological tools to enhance the crop production:

  • AIML (Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning), GIS (Geographical Information System),which can use enormous data to bring about precision in farming.
  • Use of sensors, drones, doves, and LEOs (low earth orbits), space technologies, cloud computing, are all bursting out to provide the basis for a revolutionary epoch.
  • Drips, hydroponics, and aeroponics, vertical farming, are all available for mankind to get much more with very little exploitation of the planet’s natural resource endowment.

Government’s initiative for sustainable agriculture:

  • Mission Organic Value Chain Development for North Eastern Regions (MOVCDNER):
    • It is a Central Sector Scheme, a sub-mission under National Mission for Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA), in North-Eastern states
    • which aims to development of certified organic production in a value chain mode to link growers with consumers and to support the development of entire value chain starting from inputs, seeds, certification, to the creation of facilities for collection, aggregation, processing, marketing, and brand building initiative.
  • Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) :
    • It is an elaborated component of Soil Health Management (SHM) of major project  under National Mission of Sustainable Agriculture (NMSA) which promotes organic farming through adoption of organic village by cluster approach and Participatory Guarantee System (PGS) certification.
  • Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana:
    • The scheme has come a long way since its inception in 2007 and has been implemented across two plan periods (11th and 12th). The scheme incentivizes States to increase public investment in Agriculture & allied sectors.

Therefore, there is need to address certain areas of concerns for sustainable farming

  • Precise and efficient use of Subsidy: In India, specifically, we have the culture of free power, free water, almost 80 to 90 per cent subsidy on urea, and so on. These subsidy policies may have been good in the 1960s or the 1970s when the country was hugely food deficit. But they are continuing and even increasing. So, effective and target subsidy should be provided with ‘sunset’ timing.

Thus, Precision farming needs to be promoted to get more output with less exploitation of natural resources while considering that natural resources are not exploited. This will help in sustainable food grain production which can feed the planet.

Source: Indian Express

Previous Year Question

Q.1) In the context of India, which of the following is/are considered to be of practice(s) of eco-friendly agriculture? (2020)

  1. Crop diversification
  2. Legume intensification
  3. Tensiometer use
  4. Vertical farming

Select the correct answer using the code given below:

  1. 1, 2 and 3 only
  2. 3 only
  3. 4 only
  4. 1, 2, 3 and 4


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