Oct 17, 2016
Shyam Khadka, the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations in India, believes that Indian farmers need to be reoriented towards pre-green revolution agricultural technology for adopting sustainable and consumer friendly agriculture practices. According to Khadka climate change will make the target of zero hunger more challenging as the issues of hunger and climate change are significantly inter-linked. Excerpts from an exclusive interview to OneWorld South Asia
OWSA: What kinds of investments in sustainable agricultural practices are needed in developing countries like India?
Shyam Khadka: Investment in sustainable agriculture will require significant investment in farmer’s education, who needs to understand the close relationship between the type of agricultural technology applied and the use of natural resources such as water.
While a part of such re-education involves resorting to conventional pre-green revolution agricultural technology which essentially was organic and largely integrated. On the other hand, with the increase in population and the consumption pattern, there is also a need to develop technology that is not only sustainable but also ensure generally higher productivity.
Of course, farmer’s behaviour will depend upon the incentive structure they are subject to and that will require some significant policy changes. This will in turn require reflection and reorientation of policy makers and in some cases the changes in policy processes.
OWSA: What are the challenges for India in meeting SDG target number two on ‘zero hunger’?
Khadka: India's challenges in meeting SDG target two, zero hunger emanates mostly from distributional aspect of income and assets among the poorest. It involves approximately 200 million poor people, most of whom live in rural areas, suffering from lack of adequate purchasing power to satisfy their basic needs.
This group constitutes of poor women-headed households, tribal population, a part of scheduled caste population, and marginalised communities residing in coastal areas. India has the means as well as broad understanding of the target group that needs to be served on priority basis.
Therefore, the possibility of meeting the zero-hunger target is high. It needs some significant sharpening of the targeting approach and more efficient delivery of targeted poverty reduction programmes.
Of course, meeting the zero-hunger target of the SDGs requires us to address the issue of sustainable use of land and other natural resources and these will require some reorientation of agricultural and related policies.
OWSA: How big is the challenge of food wastage in India?
Khadka: From a historical and cultural point of view, food wastage is disliked in India as food is beyond being just a commodity. This aspect of larger cultural setting is something India need to preserve. There are other factors, however, such as the prevalence of hot and humid climate in large parts of the country, lack of refrigerators and other appliances at household level, and at times ostentatious demonstration of opulence that causes food wastage.
Gradual adoption of mass consumer culture in cities is also not helping much is controlling food wastage. Therefore, there is now a need now to address the issue of food wastage.
OWSA: How can the fight against climate change and hunger unite for a common cause?
Khadka: The issues of hunger and climate change are significantly inter-linked. On the one hand, climate change will make the target of zero hunger more challenging. While on the other side, prevalence of hunger might draw upon more natural resources and thereby weaken the capability to cope and respond to the crisis created by climate change.
This also means that if we tackle one issue effectively, the other is likely to benefit and thus create a virtuous circle.
OWSA: What is FAO agenda for India on this ‘World Food Day’?
Khadka: FAO's agenda for India on the world Food day is no different from the agenda of global community including India. This is enshrined in the SDGs and agreed between the government of India and FAO in the form of Country Programming Framework.
These put heavy emphasis on making Indian agriculture much more sustainable and reducing the vulnerability of the poorer and malnourished segments of Indian society.