Sustaible Agriculture, Nutrition for Zero Hunger

Dr B K Mukhopadhyay

At the very outset let us have a close look at the latest UN Report: globally, one in nine people  people in the world today (795 million)  are undernourished; the vast majority of the world’s hungry people live in developing countries, where 12.9 per cent of the population is undernourished.; Asia is the continent with the most hungry people – two thirds of the total [the percentage in southern Asia has fallen in recent years but in western Asia it has increased slightly]; Southern Asia faces the greatest hunger burden, with about 281 million undernourished people; in sub-Saharan Africa, projections for the 2014-2016 period indicate a rate of undernourishment of almost 23 per cent; Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45 per cent) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year; One in four of the world’s children suffer stunted growth; in developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three and 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, with 23 million in Africa alone.

Side by side the assessment on Food security is also very vital to take note of - agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households; 500 million small farms worldwide, most still rain fed, provide up to 80 per cent of food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Investing in smallholder women and men is an important way to increase food security and nutrition for the poorest, as well as food production for local and global markets; since the 1900s, some 75 per cent of crop diversity has been lost from farmers’ fields. Better use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to more nutritious diets, enhanced livelihoods for farming communities and more resilient and sustaible farming systems; if women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million and then 1.4 billion people have no access to electricity worldwide – most of whom live in rural areas of the developing world. UN rightly observes that it is energy poverty in many regions that is a fundamental barrier to reducing hunger and ensuring that the world can produce enough food to meet future demand.

Can we think of a situation where there would be three simultaneous disasters; specifically a heat wave in South America, an explosion of windblown wheat stern rust pathogen across Russia and a particularly strong El Niño southern oscillation cycle—all perfectly plausible events given current climate trends? The impact of this would be enough to cripple global food security.

A model created by Anglia Ruskin University’s Global Sustaibility Institute in located that “… society essentially collapses [in 2040] as food production falls permanently short of consumption.” But this scerio is based on a “business as usual” approach, one in which man-made climate change leads to a combition of increased flooding and increased drought, with agriculture facing the prospect of functioning under water stress conditions as soon as 2025.

However, if carbon emissions are slashed and agriculture adapts, this scerio does not have to play out. A timely warning indeed!

Gaps Galore

It is beyond any shade of doubt that global food security is one of the most pressing societal issues of our time. Though advances in agricultural technology and expertise will significantly increase the food production potential of many countries / regions, yet these advances will not increase production fast enough to meet the demands of the planet’s even faster-growing human population.

It has been a fact that population pressures would continue to tip the balance against proper land and water magement in many developing countries. While agricultural production is critical for any form of sustaible future, focusing on the agricultural sector alone without regard for other important factors which influence food production is not the right way. But here lies the problem with the developing block. Population programmes requires to be integrated into overall development objectives and be linked to other resource issues so that comprehensive development turns into reality.  

With falling per caput food production and resource degradation, the strategic plan is to be incorporated with population concerns [viz. population growth, distribution and rural-urban migration patterns incorporate population]. For that matter community development strategy which integrates essential social services as well as production resources is welcome.

Side by side, sustaible development strategies [encompassing soil erosion and impoverishment, deforestation, falling agricultural output, and poor water magement] has to gain ground - also be implemented coupled with  rural agricultural extension schemes which provide credit, seeds, fertilizers and advice to poorer farmers. Adequate support has to  be given to research on the integration of traditiol and emerging technologies for food production. Local knowledge should not be given a back seat.

In a word - optimal resource magement that is capable of increasing crop yields, preventing land degradation, while providing sustaible livelihoods for millions of rural poor. tiol population programmes, on the other hand, should include comprehensive and accessible materl and child health care programmes and family planning services not only to reduce the size of families and improve the health and well-being of the entire community, but increasing also the crucially needed food production ensuring protection of the environment while easing the burdens of the poor.

FAO has rightly noted that it is not only fincial resources that are needed. Beyond the factors that exacerbate the current crisis, there is a whole series of fundamental problems that need to be resolved, in particular how aid is channeled and how to make it reach smallholder farmers effectively, as well as reform of the world food security governce system for more coherence in the action of governments and development partners, the share of tiol budgets dedicated to agriculture and private sector investment. ‘It is vital, particularly in times of crisis, that support to agriculture not be reduced. Only a healthy agricultural sector, combined with a growing non-farm economy and effective safety nets and social protection programmes will be sufficient to face the global recession as well as eradicate food insecurity and poverty’.

Needed More and More Realistic Actions

At this very juncture in order to avoid the unpalatable consequences of widespread hunger and even starvation in the years and decades to come , a firm commitment is needed to increase crop yields of land area, nutrients applied, and  at the same time amount of water used. The positive impact of such efforts will considerably lessen the severity of the food shortage and lift hundreds of millions of people out of a state of hunger and malnutrition, thereby preventing widespread starvation, premature death and social unrest

So, when huge population still suffer from hunger and chronic malnutrition, coupled with economic and fincial crisis, the consequences of climate change, and the decrease in the amount of usable agricultural land worldwide, the same will all exacerbate the situation.

As per latest assessments global food production has been assessed to rise by 70 percent by 2050 to cater for growth in world population of more than 30 percent. Can we achieve??

Tinkering around the present models only could succeed globally to an extent - leaving the gaps uncovered!! Time to be realistic while planning for tomorrow!

(The Writer,  a noted Magement Economist, an intertiol Commentator on Business and Economic Affairs and Principal, Eminent College of Magement and Technology, can be reached

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