IAS Gyan

Daily News Analysis

The road to zero hunger by 2030

16th October, 2020 Editorial

Context: Resilient food systems will have to be built back as the world is not on track to achieve global targets.


  • Food is the essence of life and the bedrock of our cultures and communities.
  • It is a powerful means to bring people together to grow, nourish and sustain the planet.
  • COVID-19 compounds the threats to food security and agricultural livelihoods already faced by 690 million people around the world.
  • The Sustainable Development Goal 2 aims to end hunger, eradicate food insecurity.

Much to be done

  • We can be proud of the progress we have made in agricultural productivity but still more than two billion people globally still lack access to sufficient, nutritious and safe food.
  • Projections show that the world is not on track to achieve zero hunger by 2030, or to meet global nutrition targets.

India’s food growth story

  • India has gone from being a net importer to a net exporter of food grains.
  • Through the pandemic, Central and State governments were able to distribute around 23 million tonnes from India’s large domestic food grain reserves in three months (April to June) through the Public Distribution System.
  • The government successfully mobilised food rations for 820 million people and 90 million schoolchildren.
  • Throughout the national lockdown efforts were made to remove bottlenecks in the food supply chain due to restrictions on movements, and to ensure that agricultural activities weren’t disrupted.
  • Agriculture grew at 3.4% during the first quarter this financial year and the area cultivated this kharif exceeded 110 million hectares. This is a major achievement.

Malnutrition, anaemia

  • Focus on food during the COVID-19 containment measures has also brought out the multi-dimensionality of India’s food challenges, which is malnutrition and climate change.
  • Comprehensive National Nutrition Survey 2016-18 revealed that over 40 million children are chronically malnourished, and more than half of Indian women aged 15-49 years are anaemic.
  • Initiatives such as the Integrated Child Development Services, which provides cooked meals and take-home rations to 100 million children under the age of six, as well as to pregnant and lactating mothers and the mid-day meal programme, are examples of government working to fix these challenges.

Climate change and malnutrition

  • Climate change is a real and potent threat to agrobiodiversity, it impact productivity to livelihoods across food and farm systems.
  • India is dealing innovatively with climate change through
    • the development of drought and flood tolerant seed varieties,
    • weather-based agricultural advisories,
    • promotion of millets, and
    • small-scale irrigation .
  • Climate-related shocks made it difficult for farmers to deal with pest and locust attacks, as well as floods and cyclones.
  • Intensified food production systems with excessive use of chemicals and unsustainable farming practices cause soil degradation, fast depletion of groundwater table and rapid loss of agro-biodiversity.
  • These challenges multiply with an increase in fragmentation of landholdings.
  • In India, more than 86% farmers have less than two hectares of land contributing around 60% of the total food grain production and over half the country’s fruits and vegetables.

What need to be done?

  • The way we produce food must change through agroecology and sustainable production practices in agriculture and allied sectors; and
  • We must stop the food wastage — one-third of the food we produce is wasted.
  • UN, and three agencies — the FAO (The Food and Agriculture Organisation), IFAD (International Fund for Agricultural Development) and WFP (The World Food Programme) — are committed to working with government, civil society, farmers’ organisations and the private sector to build sustainable food systems.

Supporting India

  • During the COVID-19-precipitated lockdown, the FAO, IFAD and the WFP worked in close coordination to support the Government of India’s Empowered Group 5 on facilitating supply chain and logistics management.
  • Prompted swift action are needed to resolve bottlenecks and ensured progress on addressing red flag issues.

What is a food system?

  • It is a framework that includes every aspect of feeding and nourishing people: from growing, harvesting and processing to packaging, transporting, marketing and consuming food.
  • To be sustainable, a food system must provide enough nutritious food for all without compromising feeding future generations.
  • As countries begin to develop and implement COVID-19 recovery plans, it is also an opportunity to adopt innovative solutions based on scientific evidence so they can build back better and make food systems more resilient and sustainable.