US based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has been advocating greater investment in agricultural sector and strengthening rural-urban linkages for faster eradication of global poverty. Shenggen Fan, director general, IFPRI, spoke to Sandip Das on need for the Indian government to incentivise cultivation of fruits, vegetables, pulses and poultry instead of focusing solely on increasing output of rice and wheat, which would help small farmers.
Has rapid urbanisation in South Asia regions, especially in India, accelerated poverty reduction? What has been impact on small farmers following migration of people into big cities?
Urbanisation is happening all over the globe. At the current level about 50% of people live in urban centers while by 2050 around one third of the global population would be living in urban clusters. In South Asia, as per our assessment, between 2001-2015, urban population grew by 186 million and expected to expand by 250 million by 2025. However, it’s a double edged sword. Poor people migrate to cities and do not have proper access to amenities. Urban dwellers, especially slum dwellers, are vulnerable to agricultural market shocks as they are net food buyers. However, there are opportunities as well. If these people are provided jobs and facilities, their nutrition food intake increases, thus reducing poverty. Meanwhile, those people left behind in rural areas should be encouraged to promote cultivation of more healthy food such as legumes, fruits, vegetables and chicken for meeting the demand for the urban centres as well as for their self. This has
However, there are opportunities as well. If these people are provided jobs and facilities, their nutrition food intake increases, thus reducing poverty. Meanwhile, those people left behind in rural areas should be encouraged to promote cultivation of more healthy food such as legumes, fruits, vegetables and chicken for meeting the demand for the urban centres as well as for their self. This has huge impact on poverty reduction.
What are the factors behind advocating diversification of agriculture with a focus on production of nutritious food such as fruits, vegetables, pulses and poultry products?
Rice and wheat crops are traditional crops. The future lies with fruits and vegetables, chicken and fish. Besides, rice cultivation does not give good returns to farmers like fruits and vegetables. In countries such as Japan, South Korea and China, the rice consumption has fallen dramatically, while in the South Asian region, the overall rice consumption has increased despite economic prosperity. It’s a question of tradition and other food is more than expensive than rice and wheat. The agricultural policy and research in South Asia, including India, supports rice and wheat production. This must change.The government must give thrust to agricultural research to support more production of fruits, vegetable, fish and livestock. In India, wheat and rice production are incentivised through price support system (minimum support price), which puts the production of fruits, vegetables in a disadvantageous position. Research on value chain, post harvest technologies for fruits and vegetables should be encouraged.
Why is so much focus on growing nutritious foods while decades ago, the focus was on increasing production of cereals. Has sustainable agricultural production is the reason behind focus on growing nutritious food?
It relates to stages of economic development the countries were in. In 1960s and 1970s, the problems was about hunger, we never had enough to eat and cultivation of rice and wheat provided essential food security. After achieving food security broadly, we now urge the Indian government to make nutritional security included in the National Food Security Act (NFSA). We urge the government to provide milk and pulses under NFSA.From the climate change prospective, during rice production, excessive water is used and it also emits methane which is seven times more damaging than carbon dioxide. Production of rice comes with a price. The government’s policy should give thrust on growing nutritious, healthy and sustainable food.