Sustanable development goals and Indian agriculture

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were the world’s time bound and quantified targets for addressing extreme poverty in its many dimensions. There were eight MDGs. The first MDG was to eradicate extreme hunger and poverty, second to achieve universal primary education, third to promote gender equality and empower women, fourth to reduce child mortality, fifth to improve maternal health, sixth to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases, seventh to ensure environmental sustainability and eighth to develop a global partnership for development. Since that, a lot of progress has been made towards achieving the set targets. Between 1990 and 2002 average overall income increased by over 21 per cent. The number of peoples living in extreme poverty declined by estimated 130 million. The child mortality rates fell from 103 deaths per thousand live births a year to 88. Life expectancy rose from 63 years to nearly 65 years. An additional eight per cent of the developing world’s people received access to water and an additional fifteen per cent acquired access to improved sanitation services. The world has made significant progress in achieving many of the goals. Although extreme poverty has been reduced, yet more than one billion peoples in the world still live on less than $1 a day. The progress in achieving the MDGs has been uneven. There are huge disparities across and within countries. Within the countries poverty is still prevalent in rural settings. Sub Saharan Africa is still the epicenter of crisis with continuing food insecurity, rise of extreme poverty accompanied by a stunningly high child and maternal mortality and large number of peoples living in slums besides a widespread shortfall in most of targets of MDGs. A lot still needs to be done.

To do that lot, the sustainable development goals are framed as a part of the global collective efforts after the Millennium Development Goals with more focus on sustainability. On 25th September, 2015 countries adopted a set of goals to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all as a part of new Sustainable Development Agenda (SDG). The SDGs are to be achieved by 2030. The SDGs are seventeen in number with 169 targets covering a broad range of sustainable development issues. Over half of the SDGs relate to global food security and nutrition and four are directly related to hunger. These four are no poverty, zero hunger, climate action and life on land. At present there is a gap of about seventy per cent between the food needed to feed 9.7 billion people by 2050 and the food produced in 2006. Thus the global food systems have to be reshaped if we have to achieve the SDG’s in general and those related to agriculture in particular. We need to close the 70 per cent gap in food grains production. Similarly agriculture’s demand for water could rise by over 30 per cent as availability shrinks. Additionally per capita arable land is also expected to decrease by 50 per cent by 2050 and about 30 percent of food is wasted every year. Reports also suggest that the global cereal yields are projected to fall by 20 per cent by 2050.

India scenario is no different. While we have achieved considerable progress in reducing poverty hunger and malnutrition, yet millions of peoples go to bed hungry. Similarly, malnutrition is another aspect of the hunger which leads to much type of diseases in the children ultimately affecting the economy of the country. In the country there is a huge gap between the actual yields and the potential yield that we can have. This yield gap is more in case of pulses, oilseeds and other neglected crops. At the same time we have to look into the Public Distribution System by plugging the leekages and the diversions. Huge amount of food grains meant for the poors are diverted to fill the coffers of the rich. There are various factors for low yields of crops in the country as compared to most of the developed countries. Actually farmers still use the local varieties for years which with the passage of time decline in yield and become susceptible to many diseases. This also results in a low Seed Replacement Ratio (SRR) in the country. As such the yield can be increased by increasing the seed replacement ratio, providing high yielding and hybrid varieties to the farmers. We have also to achieve the set of SDGs with limited and shrinking resources, the climate change effect on agriculture which has lead to yield reduction in the country especially rainfed regions, land degradation, shrinking size of land holdings remembering that more than eighty percent of the farmers in the country are marginal and small and loss of biodiversity.

By way of chemical intensive agriculture, already we have harmed the agro-ecology a lot. We have lost most of the diversity in our flora and fauna, many insect and weed species have become resistant to various antibiotics, many new weed species have emerged, many new diseases are taking their toll and soil have been degraded. Thus to achieve the targets of SDGs related to agriculture, we have also to focus on climate smart practices like zero or no tillage, rain water harvesting, practices that make best possible use of available resources with minimum loss to the natural ecosystem and loss of biodiversity. Farm mechanisation also saves a lot of energy and labour and also results in input use efficiency. Also as most of the farmers in the country are marginal and small our policies and institutions should support them. The financial institutions need to provide them credit easily. Similarly more and more farmers and more and more crops should be brought under insurance cover. Farmer mobilization by organising them into farmer and commodity interest groups should also be taken up. These groups should than be linked to the markets to increase their bargaining power and get more income.
To achieve these goals not only the governments are to do their work, but as responsible citizens of the country we also need to contribute in achieving them in whatever little bit we can. This is also necessary to save the planet from the catastrophe we are heading for.
(The author  Dr. Parveen Kumar is from Sher-e-Kashmir University of Agriculture Sciences and Technology of Jammu)

Source: State Times

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