Food and Nutrition Security in India

News: 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. Not surprisingly, widespread concerns about poverty, malnutrition and the need for a second Green Revolution are being made in tandem.

Background:

  • Macro- and micronutrient malnutrition is widespread in India. 18.7% of women and 16.2% of men are unable to access enough food to meet basic nutritional needs. Over 32% of children below five years are still underweight as per the recently released fifth National Family Health Survey (2019-2021) phase 2 compendium. India is ranked 101 out of 116 countries in the Global Hunger Index, 2021.
  • 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, a pointer to the amount of food necessary to allow all income groups to reach the caloric target (2,400 kcal in rural and 2,100 kcal in the urban set-up).

Way to sustainable Food System:

  • 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; and accelerate the means of implementation.
  • In the context of the intensifying economic, environmental and climate challenges and crisis, the need of the hour is a good theory of transition encompassing the spatial, social and scientific dimensions, supported by policy incentives and mechanisms for achieving a sustainable, resilient and food secure agriculture.
  • An agro-climatic approach to agricultural development is important for sustainability and better nutrition.
  • Data compiled in the agro-climatic zones reports of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research and the erstwhile Planning Commission of India reveal enormous potential for 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.
  • 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.
  • Strengthening and shortening food supply chains, reinforcing regional food systems, food processing, agricultural resilience and sustainability in a climate-changing world will require prioritising research and investments along these lines.
  • 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.
  • This should be aligned to the national and State policy priorities such as the National Policy guidelines 2012 of the Ministry of Agriculture for the promotion of farmer producer organisations, and the National Resource Efficiency Policy of 2019 of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.