World Food Day 2022: Leaving no one behind

Published on Oct 16, 2022 12:02 AM IST

The article has been authored by Konda Reddy Chavva, officer-in-charge, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in India.

On World Food Day, here’s a look at how NGOs in Delhi-NCR have been providing ration, warm meals, etc. to support the less privileged as well as refugees.
On World Food Day, here’s a look at how NGOs in Delhi-NCR have been providing ration, warm meals, etc. to support the less privileged as well as refugees.
ByHindustan Times

Agrifood systems face multiple challenges - the ongoing pandemic, climate risks, rising prices and international conflicts. These exacerbate global food security. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report (2022) by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), estimates that 828 million people faced hunger in 2021. The number has grown by 150 million since the Covid-19 outbreak. Most affected vulnerable populations include landless workers, smallholder farmers, women and children. While safeguarding food security and nutrition, the crucial need to reshape agrifood systems in order to not leave anyone behind is critical. By aligning agrifood systems with the 2030 Agenda, several Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including SDG-2 (zero hunger), can be achieved. The World Food Day, observed annually on October 16, is an important reminder to re-commit to plans and actions driving better production, better nutrition, better environment and better life, leaving no one behind.

India faces food and nutritional security challenges particularly the triple burden of malnutrition (undernutrition, overnutrition and micronutrients deficiency). As per the latest National Family Health Survey (NFHS-5, 2019-21) by the Government of India (GoI), 36% children under 5 years of age are stunted, and 24% women and 23% men are obese. Pertinent challenges like extreme weather conditions, land degradation and water scarcity are limiting food production. Annually in India, food waste accounts for 40% and food loss accounts for 18-25$ of the food produced. Biosecurity threats from transboundary pests and diseases worsen the situation. Considering these wide-spectrum problems, India as the largest developing economy in overcoming these challenges can set an example for the world.

GoI continues to take active measures to tackle such issues. Championed by GoI, with the unequivocal support of FAO and many member nations, 2023 was declared as the International Year of Millets (IYoM) at the UN General Assembly in March 2021. Millets, often called "nutri-cereals", have been a part of India’s agriculture and culture since ancient times. Millets offer numerous benefits compared to wheat and rice. They are climate-resilient, have a short cropping-period, require less water and are nutrient-rich. IYoM will be crucial to raise awareness about this indigenous nutri-cereal and its benefits for smallholder farmers i.e. 86 % of India’s farmers. It is essential to scale indigenous practices of farmers and millets can be a harbinger in this direction. FAO’s study on millets in India emphasises on boosting initiatives for enhancing the productivity of nutri-cereals, demand generation via value addition, market and infrastructure development, and policy reforms.

Notable initiatives by GoI for improving access to nutritious food include Take-home ration, Pradhan Mantri Poshan Shakti Nirman Yojana, Mission Poshan 2.0 and Pradhan Mantri Garib Kalyan Anna Yojana. For including more smallholders in the agri-value chain, GoI fuels the vision of 10,000 Farmer Producer Organisations (FPOs). Currently, about 3,000 FPOs have been formed. The primary agriculture credit societies (PACS) have been the strong suit in post-independent India. There over 47,000 cost-effective PACS. GoI actively promotes the agricultural cooperatives, where each stakeholder is a dynamic member.

FAO bolsters GoI’s and several state governments’ efforts to support smallholder farmers, encourage sustainable practices, and improve nutritional outcomes. FAO collaborated with the National Institute of Rural Development and Panchayati Raj, the Indian Council of Medical Research, National Institute of Nutrition and the National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management to enhance capacities of nutrition-professionals and extension advisory services on nutrition-sensitive agrifood systems. FAO works in eight target states, viz., Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Odisha, Rajasthan, Uttarakhand, Chhattisgarh, Haryana and Punjab for promoting crop diversification and landscape restoration. In Andhra Pradesh, FAO is partnering with the state government and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research to develop a methodological framework for sustainable agrifood systems, and enhance capacities of farmer facilitation centres and key stakeholders to support farmers. Further, harmonised monitoring and early warning system for Fall Armyworm (FAW), a pest, in India is being developed by FAO. This continues to significantly contribute in controlling FAW in maize-growing areas in the country.

Given the current challenges, all food actors need to play their part to ameliorate the situation. Governance mechanisms need to ensure equal access to social protection. Civil society organisations can provide access to skills-based training to producers. Businesses can support smallholders by improving their access to finance and technology. As consumers by being more responsible in our food choices, agrifood systems can evolve. Some actions we can undertake:

Support smallholder farmers by purchasing from local haats/farmers market and look out for smallholder-supporting labels on food items.

Mitigate climate change by choosing local and seasonal foods, and limiting consumption of resource-intensive foods. Grow some of your own food like tomatoes and capsicums in kitchen gardens.

Donate food instead of wasting it. Supermarkets and restaurants can create or join programmes to donate safe foods, which would otherwise spoil, to food banks or relief organisations.

The article has been authored by Konda Reddy Chavva, officer-in-charge, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Representation in India.

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