Challenges of food security in 21st century

The world is at a critical juncture vis a vis global food security scenario writes

We just observed World Food Day. Every year we celebrate it worldwide on 16 October to commemorate the date of the founding UNFAO in 1945. The day is celebrated widely by many other organizations concerned with hunger and Food Security, including the World Food Program and International Fund for Agricultural Development.

Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.Food security is the combination of the following three elements like Food availability i.e. food must be available in sufficient quantities and on a consistent basis. It considers stock and production in a given area and the capacity to bring in food from elsewhere, through trade or aid.Food access i.e. people must be able to regularly acquire adequate quantities of food, through purchase, home production, barter, gifts, borrowing or food aid. Food utilization i.e Consumed food must have a positive nutritional impact on people. It entails cooking, storage and hygiene practices, individuals health, water and sanitations, feeding and sharing practices within the household.

Global scenario

Food security is under stress due to conflict, weather extremes associated with global climate change, and the economic and health challenges associated with the COVID19 pandemic are all driving hunger. "Inequality -- between regions, countries, districts, and communities -- is pervasive and, (if) left unchecked, will keep the world from achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of zero hunger.The world is in a very different place to where it was six years ago when it committed to the goal of ending hunger, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition by 2030.At the time, we were optimistic that with transformative approaches, past progress could be accelerated, at scale, to put us on track to achieve that goal. Yet, the past four editions of The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) revealed a humbling reality. Conflict, climate variability and extremes, and economic slowdowns and downturns are the major drivers slowing down progress, particularly where inequality is high. The COVID-19 pandemic made the pathway towards SDG2 even steeper.The number of people in the world affected by hunger increased in 2020 under the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic. After remaining virtually unchanged from 2014 to 2019, the prevalence of undernourishment (PoU) climbed to around 9.9 percent in 2020, from 8.4 percent a year earlier. Almost 690 million people around the world went hungry in 2019. High costs and low affordability also mean billions cannot eat healthily or nutritiously. As progress in fighting hunger stalls, the COVID-19 pandemic is intensifying the vulnerabilities and inadequacies of global food systems. While it is too early to assess the full impact of the lockdowns and other containment measures, at least another 83 million to 132 million people may go hungry in 2020. If recent trends continue, the Zero Hunger target of the Sustainable Development Goals will not be achieved by 2030.

Indian Scenrio

Food security concerns can be traced back to the experience of the Bengal Famine in 1943 during British colonial rule, during which about 2 million to 3 million people perished due to starvation.Since attaining independence, an initial rush to industrialize while ignoring agriculture, two successive droughts in the mid-1960s, and dependence on food aid from the United States exposed India’s vulnerability to several shocks on the food security front.The country went through a Green Revolution in the late 1960s and early 1970s, enabling it to overcome productivity stagnation and to significantly improve food grain production.Despite its success, the Green Revolution is often criticized for being focused on only two cereals, wheat and rice; being confined to a few resource abundant regions in the north-western and southern parts of the country that benefited mostly rich farmers and putting too much stress on the ecology of these regions, especially soil and water.The Green Revolution was followed by the White Revolution, which was initiated by Operation Flood during the 1970s and 1980s. This national initiative has revolutionized liquid milk production and marketing in India, making it the largest producer of milk of late, especially during the post-2000 period, hybrid maize for poultry and industrial use and Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) cotton have shown great strides in production, leading to sizeable exports of cotton, which made India the second largest exporter of cotton in 2007–2008.

Concerns vis-a-vis Food Security in India

India, currently has the largest number of undernourished people in the world i.e. around 195 million.Nearly 47 million or 4 out of 10 children in India do not meet their full human potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting.Agricultural productivity in India is extremely low.According to World Bank figures, cereal yield in India is estimated to be 2,992 kg per hectare as against 7,318.4 kg per hectare in North America. The composition of the food basket is increasingly shifting away from cereals to high⎯value agricultural commodities like fish, eggs, milk and meat. As incomes continue to rise, this trend will continue and the indirect demand for food from feed will grow rapidly in India.According to FAO estimates in ‘The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2018” report, about 14.8% of the population is undernourished in India.Also, 51.4% of women in reproductive age between 15 to 49 years are anaemic.Further according to the report 38.4% of children aged under five in India are stunted (too short for their age), while 21% suffer from wasting, meaning their weight is too low for their height.India ranked 76th in 113 countries assessed by The Global Food Security Index (GFSI) in the year 2018, based on four parameters—affordability, availability and quality and safety.As per the Global Hunger Index, 2018, India was ranked 103rd out of 119 qualifying countries.

Challenges to Food Security

Challenges to food security include Climate,lack of access to remote areas, rural-to-urban migration,Inadequate distribution of food ,Biofuels,.Conflict,.Unmonitored nutrition programmes,Lack of coherent food and nutrition and Corruption

International Initiatives

The High-Level Task Force (HLTF) on Global Food and Nutrition Security was established by the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in 2008.It aims to promote a comprehensive and unified response of the international community to the challenge of achieving global food and nutrition security.Formulation of the First Millennium Development Goal (MDG 1), which included among its targets cutting by half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.The United Nations Secretary-General launched the Zero Hunger Challenge in 2012 during the Rio+20 World Conference on Sustainable Development. The Zero Hunger Challenge was launched to inspire a global movement towards a world free from hunger within a generation. It calls for Zero stunted children under the age of two,100% access to adequate food all year round,All food systems are sustainable,100% increase in smallholder productivity and income and Zero loss or waste of food.

Way Forward

Food security of a nation is ensured if all of its citizens have enough nutritious food available, all persons have the capacity to buy food of acceptable quality and there is no barrier on access to food.The right to food is a well established principle of international human rights law. It has evolved to include an obligation for state parties to respect, protect, and fulfil their citizens’ right to food security.As a state party to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, India has the obligation to ensure the right to be free from hunger and the right to adequate food.India needs to adopt a policy that brings together diverse issues such as inequality, food diversity, indigenous rights and environmental justice to ensure sustainable food security.

Dr .Tariq Ahmad Safapuri is the senior faculty in the Department of Food Technology,IUST Awantipora.

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