June 12, 2011
Dept of Social Work, Amritapuri
According to Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, India is growing more food than ever before. Last year’s 4% growth target was surpassed coming in at 5.65%, with production of wheat, pulses and oil seeds reaching record highs.
This year the Food Corporation of India is expecting to procure 25 million tons of wheat, well beyond the usual 7 million ton benchmark.
Such facts were presented by Pravin Patkar, Prerana Founder & Chairperson and Adjunct Faculty at the Amrita Department of Social Work at the recently organized International Conference on Society, Technology and Sustainable Development.
In his talk, Patkar elaborated on India’s food security, highlighting obstacles impeding India’s ability to meet its citizens’ current and future food requirements.
The Green Revolution, which Patkar called the chemicalization of agriculture, was behind an enormous boost in crop yields. It took off in the late ‘60s, adopting intensive farming methods dependent on chemical fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides as a means to increase production.
Patkar said that it transformed India. “From a food deficit country approaching the developed world with a begging bowl … India became an occasionally food exporting country with impressive buffer food stocks.”
However, it became increasingly apparent that the Green Revolution in the long run, harmed as much as it helped. For instance, the environment suffered damage due to the use of chemicals, which reduced soil fertility, polluted ground water and greatly diminished water resources, Patkar explained
And unexpectedly, increased crop yields didn’t always result in ending hunger. “Hunger continued as a result of mishandling of food rations by the Public Distribution System,” he said.
“Additional problems included unsatisfactory macro-economic and procurement policies; poor transportation and storage facilities, deficient food subsidies and the large scale corruption rampant in the system,” he remarked.
“The most daunting threat to food security today is global warming causing climate change,” he emphasized.
A study by the New Delhi-based Indian Agricultural Research Institute (IARI) estimated that with every one degree Celsius rise in temperature, around 4 to 5 million tons of India’s wheat production will be lost.
A recent assessment by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) estimated that 1.6 billion people in South Asia will be threatened by climate change causing decreased crop yields.
A gigantic problem to tackle, but Patkar made some suggestions for achieving sustainable food security now and in the future. Organic farming, without the use of soil and water destroying chemicals; drip irrigation that didn’t waste water unnecessarily; and grain and seed banks created and managed by villagers.
The necessity for innovations in land utilization and management, water conservation, renewable energy and the control of greenhouse gas emissions was also mentioned.
In essence, Patkar suggested that a major metamorphosis is needed. Although, in the short term the battle against famines and starvation deaths has been won and the country’s grain coffers are brimming. However, a much bigger challenge lay ahead. How can we tackle that one?