New Delhi: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development seeks to end poverty, hunger, and ensure the lasting protection of the planet and its natural resources, among others. Seven years into the agenda, there is a need to understand where the world stands in eliminating hunger and food insecurity, and ensuring sustainable agriculture. Food and Agriculture Orgnisation (FAO) Officer-in-Charge, Konda Reddy Chavva, spoke to NDTV about the measures that India can take to address the issues.
NDTV: Given that it is about seven years into the 2030 agenda to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), how far are we from achieving it and does it look like a reality?
Konda Reddy Chavva: Let me talk about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially those related to food and agriculture. The 2022 FAO report “Tracking Progress on Food and Agriculture” to SDG indicators states that basically we are not on track even before the COVID-19, and with the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, things went much worse because it affected accessibility to food and employment opportunities, which made everything challenging. That is why it is important for countries to redouble their efforts, and all stakeholders need to come together to address issues related to food and agriculture.
NDTV: We have all seen tough times due to the coronavirus pandemic. What do you think should be the priority, and how can we address it at the point of the redoubling effect ?
Konda Reddy Chavva: It is interesting to note that in India, while every sector took a hit due to COVID-19, it was actually the agriculture sector that continued to support the country. All the countries need to learn about how critical it is to invest in agriculture. So, in the future, when we have to face any pandemic, we will have a buffer stock available to provide support to various communities. Apart from this, we also need to focus on increasing employment opportunities, especially in rural communities. We need to engage with them and identify how we can work across the value chain while trying to expand the employment chain. So, it is not just about production, but how we can go beyond that.
NDTV: When we talk about COP27, tell us how we can ensure that we address food security, nutrition, and climate change together?
Konda Reddy Chavva: One of the things about agriculture is that it is severely impacted by climate. The climate variability and increasing warming temperatures lead to floods, droughts, and other disasters, which further impact productivity, especially in both animals and plants. But the solution also lies in agriculture. We need to look at how we can put it to good use and work with communities for that. We need to be looking at how we choose our crops. Our policies have been focused on addressing issues related to food security, and we have achieved that. But, now it is time to look at how we can address the issue of nutritional security. I think, in some ways, the challenge of nutritional security provides us with an opportunity to think over the crop choices. We can encourage farmers to grow crops that are more climate favourable and less water demanding, such as millets.
NDTV: India has various programmes addressing nutrition, such as the Anaemia Mukt Bharat programme and Poshan Maah, among others, but it remains a huge challenge. How can we double up our efforts and ensure that no child is dying because of hunger?
Konda Reddy Chavva: We have had tremendous success in terms of achieving food security from where we were in the 1960s. Despite the increase in population, we have been able to continuously increase our production levels and address issues related to food security, and now is the time to address nutritional security, as I said. We need to ensure better use of natural resources and diversify the food that we eat. We do not have to only look at rice and wheat systems, but other food items. Besides, we have to ensure that while encouraging farmers to grow millets, we have to include these food items in the Public Distribution System (PDS) as well, so that communities can ‘grow locally and eat locally’. This will also help in reducing our carbon footprints and the severe impacts on the climate.
NDTV: Is awareness the key to address all the above concerns?
Konda Reddy Chavva: Yes, awareness is the key, such as helping farmers in terms of the package of practices, training them, and helping them understand how to adapt to the changes in climate. Apart from that, we need to raise consumer awareness. In India, the rice and wheat systems are so well established that farmers grow more of them. So, we need to increase incentives for them so that they grow and produce alternative crops to address the issues related to food security and nutrition.
The SDG aims to end poverty and hunger, in all their forms and dimensions, and to ensure that all human beings can fulfil their potential in dignity and equality and in a healthy environment.
You can listen to the full Banega Swasth India podcast discussion by hitting the play button on the Spotify player embedded above.
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.