The Times of India, 26th July 2021

Renowned agronomist Dr. Norman Borlaug once said, “you can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery”, a sentiment that holds weight even today, as the world battles a global pandemic. Access to adequate and nutritious food translates to good health, and hence, the key to ensuring a resilient population lies in ensuring food security. Though animal-based foods have better nutritive value with superior digestibility, the water footprint of these is quite high for a tropical country like India to cope with.

Threats to India’s Agricultural Productivity

India is one of the largest food producers in the world, with the agriculture sector employing nearly half of the workforce in the country and contributing to 17-18% of the GDP. Despite this, our country is home to over 190 million undernourished people and ranks 102 nd out of 117 qualifying countries on the 2019 Global Hunger Index. This number is expected to rise significantly under the threat of climate change and its adverse effects on food production. It is estimated that climate change has about 4-9% impact on agricultural output each year, presumably causing about 1.5% loss in GDP annually. India lags far behind most countries as far as productivity (quantity of a crop produced on one unit of land) is concerned. However, total production in India is among the highest in the world, owing mainly to the area under cultivation. Our population size of over 1.3 billion, coupled with resource limitations caused by climate change, has made food security more challenging — with only 2.4% of the world’s total land area, India has to support ~18% of the world’s population. In a scenario where expanding land area is almost impossible, India would require more efforts to enhance productivity as well as resource use efficiency. Thus, stringent and innovative steps need to be taken towards achieving sustainable development goal-2 of Zero Hunger by 2030, which not only targets ending hunger but also focuses on doubling agricultural productivity and farmer incomes.

Lately, there has been an increased push for agricultural reforms and use of modern technology and understanding the key factors that are driving these conversations is necessary for implementing viable solutions.