Context: 16th of October is being celebrated as World Food Day. Food is the essence of life and the bedrock of our cultures and communities. A proper food system can be a powerful means to bring people together to grow, nourish, and sustain the planet. 

The food system

  • It is a framework that includes every aspect of feeding and nourishing people: from growing, harvesting and processing to packaging, transporting, marketing and consuming food. 
  • To be sustainable, a food system must provide enough nutritious food for all without compromising feeding future generations.

Challenges to food systems:

  • Global hunger: More than two billion people globally still lack access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food. 
    • Projections show that the world is not on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030, or to meet global nutrition targets.
  • Multi-dimensionality of India’s food challenges: 
    • Malnutrition, Anemia: The Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 revealed that over 40 million children are chronically malnourished, and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic. 
    • Intensified food production systems with excessive use of chemicals and unsustainable farming practices cause soil degradation, fast depletion of groundwater table and rapid loss of agro-biodiversity. 
    • Fragmentation of landholdings: In India, more than 86% of farmers have less than two hectares of land contributing around 60% of the total food grain production and over half the country’s fruits and vegetables.
    • Climate change continues to be a real and potent threat to agrobiodiversity, which will impact everything from productivity to livelihoods across food and farm systems. 
      • Climate-related shocks made it difficult for farmers to deal with pest and locust attacks, as well as floods and cyclones.
  • COVID-19 poses a threat to food security and agricultural livelihoods. It also compounds the threats already faced by 690 million people around the world. 

Initiatives taken for food security

Government initiatives:

  • Public distribution system: Central and State governments were able to distribute around 23 million tonnes food grain during lockdown through the Public Distribution System. It provided much-needed emergency assistance to families around the country. 
    • The government also successfully mobilised food rations for 820 million people including finding alternate solutions to provide food rations to 90 million schoolchildren. 
  • Agricultural growth: Due to the government’s efforts to remove bottlenecks in the food supply chain during lockdown, the agriculture sector grew at 3.4% during the first quarter this financial year and the area cultivated this kharif exceeded 110 million hectares. 
  • Agricultural productivity has improved significantly in recent decades. India has gone from being a net importer to a net exporter of food grains. 
  • Dealing with climate change through the development of drought and flood tolerant seed varieties, weather-based agricultural advisories, promotion of millets, and small-scale irrigation. 
  • The Integrated Child Development Services provides cooked meals and take-home rations to 100 million children under the age of six, as well as to pregnant and lactating mothers.
  • The mid-day meal programme under which every child in every Government and Government aided primary school was to be served a prepared Mid Day Meal.

Initiatives by UN

  • The UN, and its three agencies — the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organisation), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (The World Food Programme) are working with government, civil society, farmers’ organisations and the private sector to build sustainable food systems.
    • The FAO is celebrating 75 years of fighting hunger in over 130 countries. 
    • IFAD has become the first UN agency to receive a credit rating.
    • For its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict, WFP was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2020.
  • The food agencies of the United Nations (UN) have pledged to work together to end hunger, eradicate food insecurity and achieve Sustainable Development Goal 2.

Way forward: The Coronavirus crisis is also an opportunity to adopt innovative solutions based on scientific evidence so they can build back better and make food systems more resilient and sustainable. 

  • Sustainable agriculture: The way we produce food must change through agroecology and sustainable production practices in agriculture and allied sectors
  • Curbing wastage: We must stop wasting the food as one-third of the food we produce is wasted. 

The governments, the private sector, civil society and local communities — have a role to play in transforming our food systems so they can withstand increasing volatility and climate shocks, deliver affordable and sustainable healthy diets for all, and provide decent livelihoods for food chain workers. 

Food and Agriculture Organisation:

  • It is a specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger.
  • The main goal is to achieve food security for all and make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. 
  • With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.
  • The FAO was established in 1945 and is headquartered in Rome, Italy.
  • It helps governments and development agencies coordinate their activities to improve and develop agriculture, forestry, fisheries, and land and water resources. 
  • It also conducts research, provides technical assistance to projects, operates educational and training programs, and collects data on agricultural output, production, and development.

IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development)

  • It is an international financial institution and specialized United Nations agency based in Rome, the UN’s food and agriculture hub. 
  • IFAD’s mandate is investing in rural people and enabling inclusive and sustainable transformation of rural areas, notably through smallholder agriculture-led growth.
  • It provides grants and low-interest loans to food projects.

The World Food Programme 

  • It is the food-assistance branch of the United Nations
  • It is the world's largest humanitarian organization, the largest one focused on hunger and food security, and the largest provider of school meals. 
  • Founded in 1961, it is headquartered in Rome.

Image source: United nations

After reading this article, answer the following question for Mains answer writing practice. Also you can get your answer checked free of cost by clicking on the following link.

For Mains:

Q) The Coronavirus crisis is also an opportunity to adopt innovative solutions based on scientific evidence so that India can make food systems more resilient and sustainable. Discuss. (250 words)