New Delhi: Food and agriculture has taken a centre stage at the COP28 summit, which is currently being held in Dubai, with over 130 global leaders signing the declaration to make their food systems, from production to consumption, a focal point in national strategies. In the COP28 UAE Declaration on Sustainable Agriculture, Resilient Food Systems, and Climate Action, the leaders have mobilised more than $2.5 billion to address agriculture-related climate issues, scale up adaptation and resilience efforts for farmers, in addition to taking more action to transform production practices, according to the official statement.
Talking in the context of India, agriculture is one of the largest sources of livelihoods in the country. Nearly 70 percent of the rural households depend primarily on agriculture for their livelihood, with 82 percent of farmers being small and marginal, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). However, there are several problems faced by the smallholders when it comes to enhancing their crop production and selling their produce, which further affects food accessibility and security.
To know about the challenges faced by the small-scale farmers and the strategies that can help them, NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India spoke to Takayuki Hagiwara, FAO Representative, India.
Challenges Faced By Smallholders In India
Mr Hagiwara said that the biggest challenge that farmers in India face is climate change, and so, they need to be equipped with climate resilient agricultural practices in future, he said. The weather patterns are so erratic; some places have too much or too little water availability. Mr Hagiwara said,
“Not only we need to educate the farmers about the weather patterns but also about the crop management system.”
How Is FAO Helping The Farmers In Enhancing The Food Production?
In India, about 60 per cent of the agriculture is rainfed. So, most of the agriculture is at the mercy of the weather, the FAO Country Representative integrated. Mr Hagiwara said that FAO extensively works intensively on weather predictability and updates farmers on it.
“Farmers need to be informed about the changing weather patterns to understand when they can sow or harvest. We are working towards weather forecasting in states including Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Himachal Pradesh. We are working towards increasing the efficiency of water usage and regulating it,” he added.
How Can The Government Support The Smallholders?
Government has an important role to play in agriculture, as it can regulate the water resources and ask farmers to consider using water resources according to the needs of the crop, Mr Hagiwara said. The regulation can further make the water resources available to more households, he added. Mr Hagiwara said that the government can enhance crop production by investing in several agricultural practices such as irrigation.
“The government can invest in agricultural practices for a better produce, such as irrigation. Irrigation requires huge investment and that can be one by the government in partnership with private sectors.”
How Digital Interventions Can Benefit The Small-Scale Farmers?
Farmers depend on traditional methods of growing the crop. They gauge the performance of the crop by just seeing it. This is based on the experience, so there is no surety of having a precise forecast, Mr Hagiwara explained. However, digital information helps in gaining more precise information and based on that information, the farmers can add the fertilisers or pesticides according to the need of the crop. Mr Hagiwara said that precision agriculture is a significant thing.
Digital technology can also help farmers understand the soil types and the crop is best suited for it, the FAO country head said.
“Farmers can know about the variations in the soil conditions, the prediction of growth and yield through satellite images,” he detailed.
Mr Hagiwara said that the satellite images will help farmers to plan for harvest and marketing, and to make informed decisions about crop management practices like timing for fertilisation.
Mr Hagiwara said that digitising smallholder agriculture can lower risk, boost incomes, raise production, empower women, and help resolve the pressing issue of producing nutritious food to feed the one of the world’s fast-growing populations.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which in its Season 10 is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Ayushmann Khurrana. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In a world post COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental well-being, self-care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, which is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.