Food Security In Agriculture

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By Dr. Priyadarshini Chakrabarti (Basu) (Post Doctoral Researcher, Oregon State University, USA)

Growing issue:

It is the time to rethink our role in how we grow food, how much are we managing to and what the casualties of such food driven conflicts are. If managed astutely, earth has enough to provide for all of us. However, plundering of the natural resources and ill management of the food resources have led to a drastic decline in food production with increasing population. Coupled with climate change and associated drought and the neo world. According to the United Nations, a profound change of the global food and agriculture system is needed if we are to nourish today's 925 million hungry and the additional 2 billion people expected by 2050.

Issues with global food insecurity are like a cascade reaction. With time, there has been an increase in human population. With time, our needs have magnified and diversified. With time there has been a greater depletion of resources. With time, climate change and subtle environmental changes are not only causing a loss damage by means of flood and drought. Hence increasing population is causing greater demands on the existing agriculture infrastructure and there in only up to a point where one can squeeze in the most beyond which the entire agricultural system may collapse.

N.G. Hegde, in the year 2000, had apathy forecasted a grim situation in terms of food production and food demands in the Indian scenario. “it is entimated that once the population in India Crosses 1.38 billion in 2025 A.D., the country will have to importabout 60 million tons of food grains annually. During this stage, the annual demand for food will have increased to 325 million tons/year, while the production might remain stagnant at 250 million tons/year.” Surely this will not be a very pleasant situation for the nation.

1. Issue with increasing population:

With increasing population, India gets an increased dependence on agriculture, fragmentation of existing lands between offspring, decline in soil productivity, out date technologies in most part of the nation and increased pressure on irrigation systems and hence lower yield in fields. Also inadequate marketing of produce in many parts contribute to low income among farmers. Although India has an annual rainfall of 1770 mm, only 30-50% rainwater is utilized effectively, reducing the area under irrigation to only 62 million ha. Against the potential of 140 milion ha. The table shows us how we are faced with an excess population and the growing numbers will only hold the nations back after a point of time.

Sl. No.Census YearPopulation in India% Change
1 1951 361,088,000 --
2 1961 439,235,000 21.6
3 1971 548,160,000 24.8
4 1981 683,329,000 24.7
5 1991 846,387,888 23.9
6 2001 1,028,737,436 21.5

2. Improvement of irrigation facilities:

Irrigation facilities need improvement. Water is the most critical input to boost agricultural production but excessive use of water has not only reduced the irrigation efficiency but has also turned fertile lands into sodic wastelands. Efficient water storage, judicial use of water, provision of water in drought areas will help enhance yield and secure food production. Enhancement of ecofriendly practices in rain fed areas should also be given priority.

3. Land integrity:

Intensive farming often leads to a vicious cycle of exhaustion of soil fertility and decline of agricultural yields. Approximately 40% of the world's agricultural is seriously degraded. Land for agriculture should be meant for agriculture and there should be continuous attempts at ensuring fertile lands for increase agriculture.

4. Intensification of agriculture:

Apparently intensification of agriculture has been extremely profitable for the farming scenario. More and more yield can be obtained from smaller lands by increased use of pesticides, fertilizers and hardier seeds. However this has been a boomerang in the face of the farming community itself. Repeated use of chemicals has depleted the land of its natural goodness, beneficial insects and pollinators visit less, harder to achieve the same yield, drought and rain intensifies the harshness of the yield.

5. Improvement of organic farming:

Organic agriculture is a production system that relies on ecological processes rather than the use of synthetic inputs, such as chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Slow but steady conversion to organic farming has helped increase production for a number of farming groups. Ensuring food security is also ensuring that the environment is not damage or depleted of its natural bounty.

6. Considerations for boosting agricultural production:

While focusing on the development in agricultural production across the country, it is necessary to categories the areas which were benefitted throught Green Revolution and the other areas which had low impact, and develop a suitable strategy looking at ground realities. For areas where agricultural growth is stagnant, strategies like cropping pattern rotation, rebuilding soil productivity, adequate soil nutrients and bio-fertilizers should be promoted for ensuring secured yield.

7. Agri-business activities:

Production of vermicompost, -bio-fertilizers, bio-pesticides not only help to generate income but also ensure better opportunities for the farmers to sell their produce in the market will not only help their integrity but also will boost additional farming practices.

Looking back:

Food security can be enhanced by better production, supply and exchange. In a resource poor country like India, if we are dependent on other for food, apart from other essential commodities, such as oil, natural gas, basic ingredients for fertilizers etc. there will hardly be anything left in the county to export and settle the import bills. Hence without earning any foreign exchange, how can we import food grains to feed our population?

Over the past years, food security and economic crisis have highlighted both the urgent need and the potential for developing sustainable agricultural systems. Increasing population and poverty have deprived millions worldwide from secured food supply. Also, agriculture system is increasingly challenged by water scarcity, climate change and social and political issues.

Astute investments, innovation, policy and social improvement can help secure food supply through agriculture.

However, realizing these gains will require an exceptional level of collaboration among stakeholders in the agricultural value chain, including governments, companies, multilateral and civil-society organizations, farmers, consumers and entrepreneurs. Stakeholder alignment around shared priorities and large scale initiatives is therefore the key to success.

References:

  • http[://vitalsigns.worldwatch.org/vs-trend/organic-agriculture-contributes-sustainable-food-security
  • http://www.agricultureandfoodsecurity.com/content/2/1/16
  • http://www.un.org/en/sustainablefuture/food.shtml
  • http://www.weforum.org/issues/agriculture-and-food-security
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/food_security
  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2011_census_of_India#population
  • Improved integrated farming to augment food and nutrition security masses by N.G. Hegde
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