many important goals that India must now pursue, perhaps none is of
higher priority than ensuring secure access to food for every one of its
citizens, now and for the future. Given the growing threats of climate
change, biodiversity loss and massive desertification along with the
ever increasing population, the hungergap could rapidly get worse in the
coming decades unless we change direction on many fronts.
Issues of Economic Viability - The first
commitment of the society has to be to the efficiency, prioritisation
and scaling up of food production, which means that the mix of the
factors of production i.e. land, labour, capital, energy, water and
others such as knowledge, technology, infrastructure and market linkages
in the agricultural practices has to be optimised for each social,
economic, resource and geo-climatic context. This also applies to the
mix of crops produced. Given the changes occurring in the climate,
ecosystem productivity, resource prices and transportation costs; the
issues of trade and comparative advantage also have to be examined anew.
Issues of Social Equity - The second issue is the
commitment society must make to universality, fairness and social
justice. It assumes that adequate food and nourishment is the right of
every citizen - urban or rural, rich or poor, powerful or marginalised.
It also means that farmers - marginal, small and large, receive a fair
price for their produce and are not misled, nor pressured to produce
food crops or use practices that may compromise their land productivity
and production decisions in the medium and long term. This issue focuses
on the much needed participatory approach for sustainable policy
development, in order to have truly bottom-up decision making processes
for designing, developing and implementing coherent policies.
Issues of a Healthy Environment The third
commitment is to inter-generational equity and the responsibility we
have for our legacy to the future. Environmental health means that the
productivity of the land and soil is maximised and pollution,
contamination and erosion are minimised.
Policies are often made with an eye on vote banks and
pacifying or benefiting certain constituencies whether it is the poor
masses or the industry. Longer term sustainability benefits will need to
be linked with or factored in the politics of policy making. Instead of
setting production targets that satisfy the needs of policy makers and
money-masters, while leaving common people hungry, we should instead
focus on policies that target ‘Zero Poverty’ or ‘Zero Hunger’, which are
easily measurable, visibly verifiable and as Brazil has shown in the
past decade, eminently achievable. We may conclude that identifying
policy issues related to the three fundamental pillars of sustainability
- equity, environment and economy - whether they are intra-sectoral
within the food security domain or extra-sectoral- must be carefully
made explicit to enable a meaningful public debate.