Food security by Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations has defined it as “Food Security exists when all people, at all times have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Food security has three aspects to it – access, availability and utilization of it i.e. the absorption of food.
While, Nutritional Security can be defined as “adequate nutritional status in terms of protein, energy, vitamins, and minerals for all household members at all times and thus in principle is more than food security”.
Despite all efforts, India continues to be a food insecure country. Though food grain production has boosted up from 50.82 million tons to 209 million tones, under nutrition has reduced only 20%. Because of low productivity there are widespread micro-nutrient deficiencies.
Though the state promises to raise the level of nutrition and standard of living by article 47, it hasn’t yet achieved its goal of reaching everyone. Green revolution boosted production but the problem of storage of surplus stock remains. Buffer stocks prove beneficial to aid in food security; it has helped in times of food shortage and less productivity.
But in the past few years, the problem of storing food has raised a lot of issues. India doesn’t have adequate go-downs and storage facilities to store huge amount of surpluses, making them rot after the seasons. It has been a constant struggle for India to manage the two goals of food and nutritional security.
Statistics suggest that despite huge buffer stocks, there are still 8% Indians who can’t avail meals twice a day and every third child born is registered to be underweight. It was observed that just improving grain availability does not help in achieving nutritional security. The major concern is the huge micro nutrient deficiency and hunger problems in India.
Food and Nutritional Security
For a nation to be sustainable in terms of food it has to achieve two important goals of food as well as nutritional security. India somehow lacks behind in providing a better nutritional security to people. Although it moves ahead of just a calorie requirement definition of food security, it still hasn’t managed to map the nutritional losses it faces.
Green revolution of the 1960’s paved way for High Yielding variety of seeds and bumper crops of rice and wheat but it didn’t provide for nutrient losses like calorie, protein and fat.
Nutritional security here is not just dealing with availability of food rich in these nutrients but also making them affordable to people and also being of good quality that can be consumed and absorbed.
It also faces a problem of poverty where people lack basic health and sanitation. There are huge out of pocket expenditures faced by people when they seek private healthcare that makes them curb their expenses towards other basic amenities one being good quality food and grains .
Along with a diet rich in all nutrients, there also should be unrestricted access to better education, health and sanitation facility and other basic human needs that ensures that children are provided with vaccinations, a healthy environment free of disease producing bacteria and viruses.
With sustainable development goals of 2030 (SDG II) of Zero hunger and no poverty comes the practice of sustainable agriculture. Sustainable agriculture involves agricultural practices using good seeds, protecting soil quality, air and water pollution. It involves integration of economic profitability, environmental health and social and economic equity.
This not only requires input from the resources used but also the farmers who use these resources that should be used adequately and efficiently. The land used for agriculture should be properly planned that can be achieved by crop rotation and mixed land use pattern and an alteration to modern agricultural practices that devoid land of its basic properties.
Water quality has to be maintained by water harvesting systems, by conserving water, giving farmers incentives for selecting drought-tolerant crops, sprinkler system of irrigation, reducing use of fertilisers to prevent increased salinity of water, checks on ground water level and maintaining it by planting legumes that regulate nitrogen levels in the soil and help maintaining ground water level too.
The next goal is to ensure quality air by not farming near to industrial areas or near vicinities where air quality is bad or polluted. It also includes controlling smoke from agricultural burning.
This can be improved by incorporating crop residue in soil, appropriate levels of tillage and planting wind breaks. Soil quality also has to be kept in check for sustainable practices which can be done by reducing soil erosion by terrace farming, low water runoff, and minimum irrigation practices.
Mix of Food Security & Sustainable National Development
Food security for India has been much of a task to achieve because of poor infrastructure, weak supply link, and poor storage facilities and failed distribution system.
Though India is reaching out to its farmer community by schemes such as Kisan credit scheme, television broadcasts, huge agricultural subsidies on irrigation and fertilisers etc, but is it leading to sustainable agriculture and food security is the question that worries us today.
India stood as the largest producer of milk (108.5 MT) and fruits and vegetables (97.6 MT) in 2008-09, it also exports huge quantities of rice and other cash crops but it has failed to deliver good quality grains to its own population.
Public distribution system emerged in the 1960’s during inter war periods to eliminate hunger in urban scanty areas while it was revamped in 1992 and the targeted PDS was launched in 1997 with an aim to provide food security to the poor.
While evaluating the PDS system we can say that though it helped the poor to buy grains at much discounted prices and live a livelihood, it also created weak supply chains, diversion of grains and distorted distribution.
Though with TPDS government targets production of hoarse grains like millets, horticulture and fish production and making it available to its beneficiaries, it still has to deal with weak supply chains and inadequate storage systems.
Buffer stocks rot till they find good buyers of it; it lays there until the farmer can make no profits from it. Sustainable agriculture also requires a good supply chain and distribution system to make it reach to each one to make food security and zero hunger a reality.
India stands 97 out of 118 countries on Global Hunger Index which is measured by child wasting, stunting and undernourishment. With almost attaining food security, it has been possible for India to alleviate major hunger related problems and reduce incidences of stunting but yet is it a goal far away from being achieved completely.
Nutritional security can produce young and healthy individuals that can make a nation sustainable with higher literacy, good education and higher number of employed people. The issues of post harvest losses, inadequate storage facilities and weak supply chains are what India has to look at in terms of governance.
Along with supply side factors, demand side factors like changing consumption pattern and per capita consumption also needs equal attention.
The need of the hour is zero hunger attained through not only food security but also nutritional security that can be achieved through sustainable agriculture which creates good environment, economic profitability and healthy agricultural practices that reduces pollution, makes greener and productive lands, provides food to all that is aided by a good distribution channel that reduces practices of hoarding, black marketing, rotting of food and making it available, affordable and accessible to all that is of good quality enough to be absorbed well by individuals.
The creation of a healthier population with access to basic education and finance and other human needs makes a nation stronger economically, socially and culturally; it thus aids in sustainable development of nation with reduced inequality, zero hunger and greater accessibility and availability of food to all and by all.