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Food Is About Basic Rights And Food Is Fundamental: World Food Programme Country Director

Availability of food does not guarantee access to food, says Bishow Parajuli, United Nations World Food Programme Representative and Country Director to India

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New Delhi: Leave no one behind is the central, transformative promise of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and its Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). One of the SDGs is ‘zero hunger’ that seeks sustainable solutions to end hunger in all its forms by 2030 and to achieve food security. As we step a year closer to 2030, NDTV-Dettol Banega Swasth India team spoke to Bishow Parajuli, United Nations World Food Programme Representative and Country Director to India, to talk about the idea of leave no one behind and food security. Here are some excerpts from the chat.

NDTV: Leave no one behind is a very important goal for each one of us, when we talk about thriving and surviving together. Why do you think it is an important theme?

Bishow Parajuli: It is important to leave no one behind because food is about basic rights and food is fundamental. So, leaving people behind to access food means the country is behind, the people are behind, the communities are behind and the country will not progress until you have everybody together into it. The children need to be fed, the women need to fed, the adults need to be fed, and communities to. Everybody needs food for his or her survival, growth and food is peace. Food is fundamental for everybody and working towards ensuring no one is left behind is a wonderful step and statement.

Also Read: There Is Enough Food For Everybody, It Is About Accessibility: Shombi Sharp, UN Resident Coordinator

NDTV: India is one of the largest producers of food grains, fruits as well as vegetables with over flowing granaries. However, despite that, one-fourth of the world’s under-nourished people live in India. How do you explain this dichotomy?

Bishow Parajuli: I would categorically say, availability of food does not guarantee access to food. That is the issue but then that element is being addressed through different other means. The government is taking care of it with intervention programmes and supporting them to have access to food as well as helping purchase food and farmers have market to sell their food. Frankly speaking, it is wonderful that India has access to food. If you remember, 40-50 years ago, India used to be dependent for food. Now India has 310 million tonnes of food. So, bless the farmers, bless the right policies and programmes. What we need to do is continuously making sure everyone is fed so no one is left behind. In addition, the government’s National Food Security Act and programmes like the Public Distribution System (PDS), mid-day meal scheme, Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) are the blessing to start that. Also, what is important, not only in the context of India, but many other countries as well that not everybody is producing food. There are land less farmers and others and they need to buy it so availability is important and we have seen this during the cold time of Ukraine war, the supply has been a major challenge. Globally, the price has doubled. Thanks to God, India had surplus and it helped many countries save their lives. India has been working with the World Food Programme for humanity. Going forward what we need to do is maybe we need to see how do we really ensure everyone has access to nutritive food and nutrition security. Thus, the effort like fortification of rice from honourable Prime Minister’s directive to ensure by 2040 under the public distribution programme, great example. The state of Uttar Pradesh undertaking this take-home ration, multiplying production units and quality and ensuring women and children are getting right nutritive food through Anganwadis. We need to work in ensuring everyone gets nutritive food going forward and that farmers have their market and good value for their produce.

Also Read: “Invest In Public Good”, Says Dr Ulac Demirag, From IFAD On Achieving Food Security In India

NDTV: Moving towards COP27 – the discussions will happen around agriculture as well as food security. The number and intensity of the extreme weather events has increased and they definitely affect access to nutrition. How can we address food security, nutrition as well as climate change all together?

Bishow Parajuli: It is absolutely possible. We have to look for adaptation, we have to look for resilience building and we have to support those people who really need help. The government must have safety net programmes and interventions like public distribution or mid-day meal or children or nutrition package for women and children. I would say that initiatives like what India has, in terms of safety net programmes, are good examples. Of course, there can be also efforts of direct cash support depending on context and situation but the fundamental is adapting to climate change and looking after the vulnerable, the policies, programmes and laws like what India has – National Food Security Act.

Also Read: India Ranks 107 On Global Hunger Index 2022, Government Calls It An ‘Erroneous’ Measure

NDTV: 2023 will be marked as the International Year of Millets. How can millets be available for everyone and in each one of our plates?

Bishow Parajuli: I think we need to bring awareness about this superfood. This is a number one issue. Traditionally, we used to eat this but now it has disappeared from production as well as supply chain. When you look at situation in India, in some of the states like Odisha, Rajasthan, Haryana, and Madhya Pradesh, they produce variety of millets but they have a concern of market availability. Why not have these superfoods included in the public distribution programme or mid-day meal programme? In Odisha, the Chief Minister has introduced millet into the Public Distribution System. In addition, conscious people and references, I think if they help to promote this and bring awareness, you know there is a big influence by celebrities in India. We need those increasing efforts and at the same time, we have to make sure that farmers get the good price for their produce and there is a supply and then there is awareness, wonders can happen. Interestingly, millets need less water and it grows in arid zones. Therefore, where rice and corn will not come in, millets can be a good alternative and substitute to help farmers to continue to have income. It is their livelihood. They produce to sell and consume.

Also Read: “Must Address Food Insecurity To Achieve 2030 Agenda Of Sustainable Development Goals”: FAO Official

NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via the Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. 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 wake of the current 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 wellbeing, 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.

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