‘India’s thrust on organic farming could tackle food insecurity, migration’

By Ruchika Uniyal

Alternative methods of farming, such as organic farming, introduced by the Indian government in several states is the right strategy to tackle food insecurity, improving nutrition and alleviating poverty in the country, Gilbert F Houngbo, the president of the International Fund for Agricultural development (IFAD), said here on Tuesday while announcing a target contribution of USD 3.5 billion in loans and grants by IFAD for developing countries.
“In December 2017, when I was in India I saw the plans laid out by the Indian ministry of agriculture for various agricultural schemes PM Narendra Modi has launched. I do believe organic farming is one of the right strategies that can be used to fight food insecurity, improve nutrition and alleviate poverty in India. In fact, the right approach to farming and non-farming activities could be the answer to economic migration,” Houngbo told TOI on the sidelines of the forty-first session of the IFAD Governing Council.

The Centre has been laying thrust on organic farming as one of the ways of doubling farmers’ income by 2022. Recently, agriculture minister Radha Mohan Singh at the North-East Regional Agriculture Fair 2018 said that farmers can increase their income by adopting technologies like crop rotation, integrated farming and organic farming instead of relying on traditional farming.

Since Sikkim became India’s first fully organic state in 2016, there is a push on other states to also go fully organic. A recent study of the Paramparagat Krishi Vikas Yojana (PKVY) released in November 2017 shows that since the programme was launched in 2015, 6,211 organic clusters have come up in 25 states.

Last month, the Centre sanctioned Rs 1,500 crore to promote organic farming in Uttarakhand. Prime minister Narendra Modi had spoken about developing Uttarakhand as an organic state during his visit to Kedarnath in 2017.

The IFAD president, however, said that a country must keep in mind the changing pattern of consumption while introducing alternative methods of farming.

Houngbo also said that efforts to eliminate hunger and poverty have to be redoubled in the face of difficulties posed by climate change. “The past year saw a succession of extreme weather events and was one of the warmest years ever recorded.” While saying that IFAD will intensify its work on climate, nutrition and gender, Houngbo said, “Our world is marked with great suffering and fragility. In 2017, more than 250 million people crossed borders – fleeing conflict, catastrophes and poverty. That is a new record.”

He said that 90% of the contributions by the IFAD member states will now go to lower-income and lower-middle income countries. Houngbo added that IFAD will set up regional hubs which will also help it get closer to rural communities.

“We will also sharpen our focus on youth employment,” he said, adding that there are 1.2 billion young people in the world today and most of them live in rural areas of developing countries. He said that the number of youngsters in the age group of 15 to 24 who are in living in “fragile situations” and are thus forced to migrate is growing every day.

The president added, “Transforming rural areas into more dynamic economies can make a major contribution in eliminating hunger and poverty, offering an alternative to migration.” He said that 90% of the contributions by the IFAD member states this year will go to lower-income and lower-middle income countries.
In Uttarakhand, much of the young and able-bodied youths having migrated leaving only the old and the infirm to fend for themselves. According to the 2011 Census, there are 968 uninhabited villages in Uttarakhand and a total of 3.36 lakh houses are locked in the 13 districts of the Himalayan state.
(The writer was in Rome to attend a rural reporting workshop at the invitation of Thomson Reuters Foundation)

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