Food Security in India: Challenges and Solution

By Mayank Yadav|Updated : May 12th, 2021

In this article we will discuss about food security, its meaning and scope, its challenges and solution in detail. It is important topic for various exams like BPSC, SI, AAO, Amin and other state level exams. Direct questions can be asked from this topic. You should not miss this topic at all. Have a nice day!! 

As per United Nations' Committee on World Food Security, Food security means that all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets their food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy life.

Food security was described at the 1974 World Food Conference with a focus on supply: "availability at all times of sufficient, nourishing, diverse, healthy, and moderate world food supplies of essential foodstuffs to support a steady expansion of food consumption and to offset fluctuations in production and prices."

Calories to digest out to consume per person per day, available on a household budget, can be used to determine food security. Food security measures and metrics are designed to capture some or all of the key components of food security, such as food availability, accessibility, and utilization/adequacy.

Challenges to Food Security in India

  • Climate Change: Farming is difficult due to rising temperatures and unreliable rainfall. Climate change affects not only crops, but also animals, forestry, fisheries, and aquaculture, and can have serious social and economic implications, such as lower wages, eroded livelihoods, trade disruptions, and negative health effects.
  • Lack of access to remote areas: Tribal populations have experienced substantial economic backwardness as a result of living in rural, difficult terrains and practising subsistence farming.
  • Increased rural-to-urban migration, as well as a large informal workforce, has resulted in the unplanned development of slums that lack basic health and hygiene services, inadequate housing, and increased food insecurity.
  • Overpopulation, poverty, lack of education and gender inequality.
  • Inadequate distribution of food through public distribution mechanisms (PDS i.e. Public Distribution System).
  • Non-ownership of a below poverty line (BPL) status excludes deserving recipients of the subsidy, as the criterion for determining a household's BPL status is subjective and varies from state to state.
  • Biofuels: The growth of the biofuel industry has limited the amount of land available for food production.
  • Conflict: Enemies can use food as a tool by cutting off food supply in order to gain land. Crops can be lost as well during a battle.
  • Unregulated nutrition programmes: While there are a number of nutrition-related programmes planned in the country, they are not being properly implemented.
  • Inconsistent food and nutrition policies, as well as a lack of intersectoral coordination among various ministries.
  • Misconduct: Redirecting grains to the open market for a higher profit margin, selling low-quality grains at ration shops, and frequent shop openings all contribute to food insecurity.

Recent Government Initiatives

  1. National Food Security Mission: It is a 2007-launched Centrally Sponsored Scheme. Its aim is to increase rice, wheat, pulses, coarse cereals, and commercial crop production by expanding the region and improving productivity. It aims to improve farm economy by restoring soil fertility and productivity at the individual farm level. It further aims to augment the availability of vegetable oils and to reduce the import of edible oils.
  2. Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY): It was established in 2007 and allows states to select their own agriculture and allied sector growth activities in accordance with their district/state agriculture plans. In 2014-15, it was turned into a Centrally Sponsored Scheme, with 100 percent federal funding. For three years, from 2017-18 to 2019-20, the Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana (RKVY) has been renamed Rashtriya Krishi Vikas Yojana- Remunerative Approaches for Agriculture and Allied Sector Rejuvenation (RKVY-RAFTAAR).
  3. Objectives: Making farming a profitable economic activity by increasing farmer initiative, reducing risk, and encouraging agri-business entrepreneurship. Pre- and post-harvest infrastructure, as well as agri-entrepreneurship and innovation, are both priorities.
  4. E-marketplace: Through a pan-India trading portal, the government has developed an electronic national agriculture market (eNAM) to link all regulated wholesale produce markets.
  5. By 2017, the country's gross irrigated area would have increased from 90 million hectares to 103 million hectares, thanks to a massive irrigation and soil and water harvesting programme.
  6. Over the last two decades, the government has taken major measures to fight undernutrition and malnutrition by introducing mid-day meals at colleges. It is a centrally sponsored scheme that includes all school children in Government and Government-Aided Schools in Classes I-VIII.
  7. Anganwadi systems to provide rations to pregnant and lactating mothers,
  8. Subsidised grain for those living below the poverty line through a public distribution system.
  9. Food fortification
  10. Under the Targeted Public Distribution System, the National Food Security Act (NFSA) of 2013 allows up to 75 percent of the rural population and 50 percent of the urban population to obtain subsidised food grains.
  11. For the purposes of issuing ration cards under the Act, the eldest woman of the family, who is 18 years or older, is required to be the head of the household.

International Organizations involved in ensuring Food Security

Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO):

Established as a specialized agency of the United Nations in 1945. One of FAO's strategic objectives is to help eliminate hunger, food insecurity, and malnutrition.

World Food Programme (WFP):

WFP, which was founded in 1963, is the leading UN agency that responds to food crises and runs hunger-relief programmes all over the world.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) is a non-profit organisation that (IFAD):

IFAD was founded in 1977 with the goal of eradicating poverty, hunger, and malnutrition among poor rural populations in developing countries. It is a United Nations specialised agency that was formed as a result of the 1974 World Food Conference.

International Initiatives

1. In 2008, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon created the High-Level Task Force on Global Food and Nutrition Security (HLTF). Its goal is to encourage the international community to respond in a systematic and coordinated manner to the challenge of achieving global food and nutrition security.

2. During the Rio+20 World Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, the United Nations Secretary-General initiated the Zero Hunger Challenge. The Zero Hunger Challenge was created to spark a global movement aimed at making the planet hunger-free within a decade. It calls for:

  • Zero stunted children (under the age of two)
  • 100% access to adequate food all year round
  • Sustainable food systems 
  • Increase in smallholder productivity and income by 100%
  • Zero loss or wastage of food

3. SDG Goal 2. End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture

Solutions: Way Forward

  • The government policy needs to adopt an integrated policy framework to facilitate agriculture productivity.
  • Apart from providing the farmers with improved technology for cultivation and improved inputs including irrigation facilities, availability of better quality seeds, fertilisers, and credits at lower interest rates, the steps should primarily focus on justification distribution of cultivable land, improving the size of the farms, and providing protection to the tenant cultivators.
  • Plants can be cultivated without soil in aeroponics and hydroponics systems. Plants grown in this manner rapidly absorb water and nutrients. These techniques can be applied to areas with low soil quality and erosion.
  • Adoption of water-saving crops and techniques, such as the System of Rice Intensification (SRI) method of rice production, helps to increase resilience by allowing for equivalent or better yields with less water uptake.
  • Crop diversification: Higher profitability and output stability illustrate the value of crop diversification, such as legumes as a rice and wheat substitute. Non-cereal crop production, such as oilseeds, fruits, and vegetables, should be encouraged.
  • Strategies for better food storage should be adopted.
  • The Blue Revolution: Food and nutrition can be obtained from the sea, lakes, and rivers. Fish are a great source of protein and don't need much in the way of soil.
  • Biotechnology and appropriate technology: Plants and animals may be selectively bred or genetically modified (GM) to develop unique traits and adaptations. Selective breeding has been used on dairy cows to raise milk yields, for example. Wheat has been genetically modified to grow disease-resistant crops.
  • Existing direct nutrition programmes should be updated to allow for management by women's Self Help Groups (SHGs) and/or local bodies, as well as community health workers, Panchayati Raj Institution (PRI) representatives, other opinion leaders, caregivers, and other stakeholders.
  • Efforts should be made by the relevant health departments and authorities to initiate and oversee the efficient operation of nutrition-related schemes.
  • Program results may be assessed in a variety of ways, including annual surveys and fast assessments surveys.
  • The focus should be transferred to the informal sector employees, who need to be paid decently and have safe working conditions.
  • Local community education on important family health and wellness activities will be beneficial, as will participatory and anticipated communication methodologies.
  • Enhancing and diversifying rural employment opportunities, especially for women and youth, enabling the poor to better manage risks through social protection, and leveraging remittances for investments in the rural sector as a viable means of improving livelihoods are all important steps toward ensuring food security.

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