The Vice President of India, Shri M. Venkaiah Naidu highlighted the need to constantly review our food, agriculture, and trade policies. He also called for reorienting agricultural priorities towards more nutrition-sensitive food systems.
Nutrition-Sensitive Food Systems
Nutrition-sensitive food systems are the ones that go beyond staple grain productivity and rather place emphasis on the consumption of micronutrient-rich nonstaples. In fact, this is supposed to happen through a variety of market and nonmarket interventions.
Nutrition-sensitive approach not only considers policies related to macrolevel availability and access to nutritious food, but it also focuses on household and individual-level determinants of improved nutrition. In addition to agriculture, intrahousehold equity, behavior change, food safety, and access to clean water and sanitation are integral components of the food system
This virtual conference will help in evolving new strategies and practices to promote food security and nutrition. Nutrition-Sensitive Food Systems were also extensively discussed. Dr. M S Swaminathan, Prof. K Vijayaraghavan, scientists, and researchers from India and abroad joined in the online conference.
The Vision of the Virtual Conference
The M.S Swaminathan Foundation (MSSRF) organized the virtual conference on ‘Science for Resilient Food, Nutrition, and Livelihoods’. In the inauguration, the Vice President drew attention towards impacts associated with poor diet quality. He said that both undernutrition and obesity are significant risk factors for Non-Communicable Diseases. We must step up investments in improved storage, processing, and preservation. Hence this will help to retain the nutritional value of food products, rather than investing in highly processed foods.
Prof. M.S Swaminathan is a visionary scientist and the architect of India’s Green Revolution. The Vice president expressed happiness that MSSRF aims to accelerate the use of modern science and technology for agricultural and rural development. Expressing his respect and gratitude to Dr. Swaminathan for helping farmers through technology, the Vice President said that he closely follows his suggestions.
The present scenario on Nutrition-Sensitive Food Systems
Talking about Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), the Vice President said that it is time to take stock of the progress made so far. Citing a UN report which states the number of people suffering from hunger in the world has been slowly increasing in recent years. Shri Naidu said that nearly 750 million people were exposed to severe levels of food insecurity in the world in 2019. Drawing attention to these worrisome hunger indicators in the world, the Vice President stated that urgent, focussed, and concerted action at national, regional, and global levels are required.
Furthermore, India has made significant strides in reducing hunger, undernourishment, infant mortality through various government programs. Shri Naidu expressed satisfaction that the Government of India renders the highest priority to combating health and nutrition problems in the country. The government offers provision to provide nutritious breakfast to school children in recently announced Education Policy. It will be really helpful for children who are unable to get one time’s food properly.
Impact of Covid-19 pandemic
The problem of hunger and undernourishment may become more acute with the corona pandemic. It induces loss of livelihood and the global economic slowdown. Shri Naidu praised Indian farmers for record food grain production despite so many challenges and limitations during the lockdown period. He said, “They could do so because of their commitment, hard work, and native knowledge.” He further added that healthy, socially connected and prepared people are better able to cope with the disasters. Hence, he called for an urgent need to invest in building resilient communities.
Shri Naidu called for making agriculture more resilient and profitable. He also emphasized the need to minimize pre-harvest and post-harvest losses and improve market infrastructure. Farmers should be able to get their produce from the farm gates to markets at a reasonable cost.
Hence, he wanted the policymakers to promote investment in irrigation infrastructure and focus on R&D. Laboratories must be firmly linked to farms and fields. It will help to raise the productivity of nutritious foods and to reduce their cost. He also wanted the scientist to make the optimum use of ICT to remain connected with the farmers. It provides them timely advice and inputs crucial to the success of their crop.
Coping with Natural Hazards
Highlighting the importance of anticipatory research, the Vice President said that anticipatory warning benefitted the farmers during recent locust attacks. He called for similar anticipatory warnings to be made for natural hazards such as floods. This will help farmers to get early warnings for any natural calamity.
Therefore, there will be less damage to crops and farmers to be less affected. He called for blending the traditional knowledge of indigenous communities with Scientific knowledge for human welfare and reduction of hunger. Concerted action by the public, civil society, Panchayati raj institutions and governments will accelerate progress and achieve success in this area.
The Vice President hoped that this conference will help to make the national policies more robust by providing the necessary incentive to the process of policy implementation.
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