As global leaders convene for COP28, the increasingly dire consequences of the climate crisis cast a somber shadow over the planet’s future, jeopardizing peace and prosperity. Unchecked climate change is anticipated to lead to a 20% increase in hunger and malnutrition, while global warming is expected to cause a 21% decline in food productivity.
- Food Security
With climate change threatening global food productivity, Odisha’s efforts in climate proofing its agricultural system have resulted in a unique development model. Examine if this model can be applied to the whole of India in order to achieve food security. (15 Marks, 250 Words).
Background: State of Food Insecurity in India:
- India is positioned at 111th among 125 countries in the Global Hunger Index, indicating a severe level of hunger.
- In comparison, neighboring countries like Pakistan (102nd), Bangladesh (81st), Nepal (69th), and Sri Lanka (60th) have achieved better rankings than India.
- India’s GHI score for 2023 is 28.7, falling into the “serious” category on the GHI Severity of Hunger Scale.
State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) 2023 Findings:
- Mumbai Case Study: The report highlights a specific case study in Mumbai, where the cost of meals has surged by an alarming 65% in just five years. Conversely, salaries and wages have only seen an increase of 28%-37% during the same period.
- Global Comparisons: A comparison between India and other countries in the report reveals that, although the cost of a healthy diet in India remains relatively low, it remains unattainable for a significant portion of the population due to income disparities. In 2021, 74% of Indians could not afford a healthy diet.
The Tale of Odisha:
- Against the backdrop of a deepening global food crisis, exacerbated by the escalating climate crisis, heightened conflicts, and distressed livelihoods, Odisha’s transformative journey is gaining recognition as a model and source of inspiration for establishing food security based on principles of equity and sustainability.
- Odisha’s narrative revolves around three specific themes in the current context: the state’s enhancement of food security through the transformation of agriculture via a community-driven approach, and the establishment of resilience to climate impacts.
Agricultural Revolution in Odisha:
- Over the last two decades, Odisha has undergone a significant shift from relying on rice imports from other states and struggling to make ends meet before the 2000s to achieving its highest recorded food grain production of 13.606 million tonnes in 2022.
- Two noteworthy aspects characterize this transformation: a majority of farmers are small/marginal, and productivity has increased despite a stable crop area.
- The primary crop, rice, has seen a threefold increase in average yield over the past two decades. In 2000-01, the average yield was 10.41 quintals per hectare, soaring to 27.30 quintals per hectare by 2020-21.
- Once dubbed the “land of hunger,” Kalahandi district has now become Odisha’s rice bowl, as shared by Odisha’s Chief Minister at the United Nations World Food Programme headquarters.
Initiatives that have helped Odisha:
The primary focus has been on empowering small and marginal farmers to increase their income, directly contributing to fortifying their food security and establishing resilient livelihoods. Key initiatives such as the Krushak Assistance for Livelihood and Income Augmentation (KALIA) flagship scheme and the dissemination of scientific crop management practices, both through conventional and digital extension methods, have led to increased cultivation of non-paddy crops, while paddy cultivation has decreased. Additionally, schemes like the Odisha Millet Mission have played a crucial role in diversifying crops and promoting climate resilience.
- Owing to consistent advancements in the agricultural sector, Odisha has become a surplus state in paddy production and ranks as the fourth most significant contributor to the Food Corporation of India’s paddy reserves.
- According to the 2020-21 statistics, Odisha contributes 9% of India’s total rice production, accounting for 4.22% of the country’s overall food grain production.
Initiatives that have helped Odisha:
- The collaboration between the United Nations World Food Programme and the Government of Odisha has spurred innovative pilots aimed at enhancing food and nutrition security programs.
- Examples include the use of biometric technology in the Targeted Public Distribution System in the remote Rayagada district in 2007 and rice fortification in Gajapati district.
- In the 2022 State Ranking Index for the National Food Security Act by the Department of Food and Public Distribution, Government of India, Odisha emerged as the top-ranked state nationwide.
- The WFP works in conjunction with the Government of Odisha on initiatives related to food security, livelihood, and climate resilience.
Resilience and Sustainability
- Given its geographical location and specific environmental conditions, Odisha faces heightened vulnerability to the impacts of climate change.
- This susceptibility has the potential to disrupt existing growth strategies and worsen poverty, posing risks to lives, livelihoods, assets, and infrastructure.
- In response, Odisha has proactively devised a comprehensive Climate Change Action Plan to tackle these challenges, encompassing various sectors such as agriculture, coastal zone protection, energy, fisheries and animal resources, forests, health, industries, mining, transport, and urban and water resources.
- Formulated by a team of experts from diverse departments and incorporating input from civil society, this plan assigns responsibilities for implementation to various departments and agencies, overseen by a committee led by the Chief Secretary.
- The approach to climate resilience is evolving from the grassroots level. The Crop Weather Watch Group holds weekly meetings, conducts field visits, and engages in video conferences to monitor the crop program.
- This proactive monitoring enables authorities to take necessary measures during adverse weather conditions like cyclones, floods, and droughts, which frequently affect the state.
- At the district level, officials from allied departments undertake crop planning, considering the agro-climatic zone.
- Farmers are embracing climate-resilient cultivation practices, including integrated farming, zero-input-based natural farming, cultivation of non-paddy crops, improved water management, utilization of water-saving devices, e-pest surveillance, and the adoption of large-scale farm mechanization with women-friendly, drudgery-reducing implements.
Odisha’s transformative journey, transitioning from scarcity in food grains to surplus production, reflects sustained efforts in climate-proofing its agricultural system, diversifying crops, safeguarding the interests of smallholders, and ensuring food and nutrition security for the vulnerable. This journey serves as a distinctive development model for other states, especially in the face of the challenges posed by global climate change.