New Delhi: 828 million people were affected by hunger in 2021 that is 46 million people more from 2020 and 150 million more from 2019, reports The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2022. Around 2.3 billion people in the world (29.3 percent) were moderately or severely food insecure in 2021. With startling levels of food insecurity, how do we achieve the goal of ‘leave no one behind’ – this year’s theme for World Food Day? To discuss the same, NDTV spoke to Dr Ulac Demirag, Country Director and Representative, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The International Fund for Agricultural Development invests in rural people, empowering them to increase their food security, improve the nutrition of their families and increase their incomes. Talking about food security, Dr Demirag said,
In the world, there are about 800 million small-scale producers and they are feeding about 3 billion people. Therefore, 3 billion people are eating the food that produced by small-scale producers. If you look at India alone, 75 million households are small-scale producers that are themselves very often the most vulnerable to food insecurity. It is a very big paradox in fact. At IFAD, we are working with marginal producers that are very vulnerable and, you know, poverty and vulnerability is a pair that goes as much as prosperity and resilience. We are working really to move them from ‘survive’ to ‘thrive’ to make these farmers more resilient and more food secure.
India is one of the largest producers of food grains, fruits and vegetables, with overflowing granaries. Despite that, one-fourth of the world’s undernourished people live in India. Talking about the dichotomy and explaining the role of agriculture in ensuring food security, Dr Demirag said,
Agriculture must become a game changer or must become a part of the game changer for India. We are food producers but at the same time, we have all these poor people still being so vulnerable to going hungry themselves. Something must change and I believe that there is very much scope to improving investment. As a public sector, we need to invest in the public good that creates level playing field so that private investment can come in because only through private investment we can really bring agriculture to the scale that it needs. We will also only then be able to see the adoption of innovations. We need to have productivity. Once these smallholder farmers are also getting entry to the market. Because for now, they are very much excluded.
Further talking about achieving the goal of zero hunger, as enshrined in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Dr Demirag stressed upon investment. He said,
We have to invest in public goods that create a situation in which much more investments is coming into the agricultural sector but at the same time, we have to not only look at the amount of investment but also the quality of investment. Because there are only certain investments that trigger the change that we want to see. The transformative change for better lives, better resilience and better nutrition. We want to have a healthy environment. All this comes through right investment.
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 diarrhoea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.