Food security to nutritional security in India

Source: The Hindu

Syllabus: GS-2- Policy

Context: Strong food systems will have to be built back as the world is not on track to achieve global targets by 2030.

What is a food system?

  • It is a framework that includes every aspect of feeding and nourishing people: from growing, harvesting and processing to packaging, transporting, marketing and consuming food.
  • A food system must provide enough nutritious food for all without compromising feeding future generations and would be called a sustainable food system.

How has the food system of the country performed this year?

  • Central and State governments were able to distribute around 23 million tonnes from India’s large domestic food grain reserves in three months through the Public Distribution System. It helped in providing much-needed emergency assistance to families around the country.
  • The government successfully mobilised food rations for 820 million people from April to November 2020, including finding alternate solutions to provide food rations to 90 million school children.
  • Agriculture grew at 3.4% during the first quarter this financial year and the area cultivated this kharif exceeded 110 million hectares.

What are the issues faced by India?

  • The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 revealed that over 40 million children are chronically malnourished, and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.
  • Climate change continues to be a real and potent threat to agro-biodiversity, which will impact everything from productivity to livelihoods across food and farm systems.
  • Intensified food production systems with excessive use of chemicals and unsustainable farming practices cause soil degradation, fast depletion of groundwater table and rapid loss of agro-biodiversity.
  • In India, more than 86% farmers have less than two hectares of land contributing around 60% of the total food grain production and over half the country’s fruits and vegetables.

It destroys human possibilities. One who could have contributed immensely to the study of Hindi literature ends up pursuing Economics or, for that matter, one who carries the burden of St Stephen’s Economics might have found real satisfaction in pursuing History in a not so “reputed” institution like Deshbandhu College.

What are the steps taken to counter the challenges?

  • The FAO, IFAD and the WFP worked in close coordination to support the Government of India’s Empowered Group 5 to facilitate supply chain and logistics management, so necessary items such as food and medicines were available.
  • The agencies provided daily updates on the real-time situation on the ground, checking challenges/red flags, dynamic subjective data and good practices from their sources in the field.
  • The Integrated Child Development Services which provides cooked meals and take-home rations to 100 million children under the age of six, as well as to pregnant and lactating mothers.
    • The mid-day meal programme, are however some examples of how the government is working to fix these challenges.
  • India is dealing innovatively with climate change. For example, through the development of drought and flood tolerant seed varieties, weather-based agricultural advisories, promotion of millets, and small-scale irrigation.
  • The way we produce food must change through agro-ecology and sustainable production practices in agriculture and allied sectors.
  • Stop the waste as one-third of the food we produce is wasted. That is why the UN, and our three agencies; the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organisation), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (The World Food Programme) are committed to working with government, civil society, farmers’ organisations and the private sector to build sustainable food systems.

Way forward

  • Everybody has a role to play in transforming our food systems so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and provide decent livelihoods for food chain workers.
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