Food Security and its relevance in today’s world
By 2050, the world must feed nine billion people. According to the Global Hunger Index 2014, India ranks 55 out of the world’s 120 hungriest countries even behind some of its smaller South Asian counterparts like Nepal (rank 44) and Sri Lanka (39).
Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, is the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.
In simple terms food security is when food is available, accessible and affordable to everyone always.
Singapore is the second-most food secure country in the world which has maximized productivity from very limited land resources. The Sino-Singapore food zone established in Jilin Province, China, in 2010, is just one example of food diversification efforts. The Jilin food zone has been designed as a foot-and-mouth disease-free-zone so that it can be an important source of pork. It is meant to enhance the city-state’s food security. This will provide further resilience against food supply disruptions.
Singapore has become food secure by increasing the resilience of its food supply by
- Diversification of sources,
- Creating the Food Fund, and
- Facilitating food imports
Other Asian countries can benefit from Singapore’s example.
India with a population of over 1.3 billion people is the second most populous nation after China facing the challenge of ensuring food and nutrition security to its people. India faces the triple burden of malnutrition:
- inadequate calorie intake and under-nutrition among large sections of the population
- excess intake of dietary energy leading to obesity and related health issues among the other section of the population,
- pervasive micronutrient deficiencies.
Some of the key challenges that India faces in ensuring food security are:
- Comprehensive legislative framework for ensuring food security in the form of a National Food Security Act (NFSA)
- Food price inflation is not matched by a commensurate increase in incomes for wage-earners.
- Public distribution system which has led to the corruption, leakages and inefficiencies in the implementation of food-related schemes.
- Climate change and erratic monsoons as well as droughts has increased India’s food security challenges.
- Maintaining of sustainable nutritional security, to provide adequate quantity and quality of food rich in nutrition is a major challenge.
To deal with its food security problem, India operates one of the largest food safety nets in the world – The National Food Security Act 2013. India must leverage modern technologies and efficient business models, forge public private partnerships, etc. to tackle its food security issue.
The Amul Story is a successful example to emulate:
Amul began the ‘dairy cooperative movement’ in India and formed an apex cooperative organization, Gujarat Co-operative Milk Marketing Federation Ltd. (GCMMF) in 1946. Today it is jointly owned by some 2.2 million milk producers in Gujarat, India. Amul the largest food brand in India today with an annual turnover of Rs.30 Billion per annum.
The primary goal of the ‘Milk Cooperative’ has been to build a strong Indian society economically through an innovative cooperative network, to provide quality service and products to end-consumers and good returns to the farmer members.
Information Technology (IT) has played a significant role in developing the Amul brand. The logistics behind co-ordination and collection of some 7 million liters of milk per day from 11,400 separate Village Cooperative Societies throughout Gujarat and then storing, processing and producing milk products at the respective 12 District Dairy Unions, are commendable.
The installation of 4000 Automatic Milk Collection System Units (AMCUS) at Village Societies to capture member information, milk fat content, the volume collected and amount payable to each member has proved invaluable in ensuring fairness and transparency throughout the entire Amul organization.
In 1996 Amul was one of the first major organizations in India to have a website. This site has been used both to develop an intranet of Amul distributors as well as a cyber-store for consumers, one of the first examples of e-commerce activity in India.
Leveraging technologies such as use of satellite, ground-based remote sensors in the oceans, rivers, and farms, can be used to forecast the drivers of food security with greater accuracy. The following are a few examples of how technology can be used to increase food security in a developing economy like India, with its growing population burden:
- The agriculture technology firm aWhere has created a global agronomic weather database with 1.6 million ‘virtual weather stations’ that can predict current and future weather events at 9km intervals. aWhere can also highlight “pocket droughts” where small geographical areas might be experiencing severe water access issues, even when the larger region has plenty of rainfall.
- New farming techniques in the award-winning CHAI programdeveloped by FHI 360 and the International Development Centre, Canada (IDRC) is being adopted by farmers. Over 200,000 Ugandan farmers are receiving climate adaptation information in local languages, increasing agricultural productivity in communities vulnerable to climate change. Studies conducted by the CHAI program showed that access to adaptation information improved by up to 48 percent in the CHAI intervention districts, while the effectiveness of adaptation actions increased by up to 33 percent in the intervention areas.
- In the SAPARM program, developed by Project Concern International, USAID, and Google, in Ethiopia, paper print outs of Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) satellite images of Ethiopia’s cattle grazing areas are given to pastoral clan leaders. These high-tech, yet easily accessible maps show vegetation density and greenness down to a 10 km2 area, and almost 80% of pastoralists in the intervention community used the maps for migration decision making and more than half said it was their most important source of information. There was a 47% drop in herd mortality.
- the University of Maryland’s leadership on Group on Earth Observations’goal of tying remote sensing platforms into a Global Earth Observation System of Systems so that all nations can prosper from better satellite data, and the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation initiative to create technology innovations that directly benefit farmers.
The E-agriculture Strategy Guide, published by the FAO and the International Telecommunication Union can provide a framework for countries in developing their national e-agriculture strategies, which can infuse the entire agriculture value chain with new technologies. These strategies include an e-agriculture vision, an action plan, and a framework by which results can be monitored and evaluate.
Food preservation is another aspect that can eliminate food insecurity by way of reducing wastage. Various technologies in food preservation such as canning, pickling, use of cold chain to transport fresh produce etc. go a long way in preventing food wastage.
Technology can play a stellar role in mitigating effects of adverse climatic conditions causing food insecurity but added to this an effective political will is needed to ensure that the economic gains from advances in technology are more widely distributed among the poorer sections of the society.
Poverty and Hunger: Issues and Options for Food Security in Developing Countries. (n.d.). Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.foodsecurityportal.org/policy-analysis-tools/poverty-and-hungerissues-and-options-food-security-developing-countries
Taking food security indoors in Singapore. (n.d.). Retrieved May 02, 2017, from https://smartcitiescouncil.com/article/taking-food-security-indoors-singapore
Mondal, P. (2014, March 29). Food Security in India: Definition, Availability of Food Grains and Other Details. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.yourarticlelibrary.com/foods/food-security-in-india-definition-availability-of-food-grains-and-other-details/32148/
Lal, N. (2016, July 30). Hunger in a Time of Plenty: The Curious Case of Indian Food-Security. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://thewire.in/54809/chronic-hunger-lingers-in-the-midst-of-plenty/
Vota, W. (2017, April 13). How Technology Can Reduce Hunger and Improve Food Security. Retrieved May 24, 2017, from https://www.ictworks.org/2017/04/06/how-technology-can-reduce-hunger-and-improve-food-security/