BW Businessworld

Agriculture-Led Growth Is Key To Pro-Poor Growth: Shenggen Fan Of IFPRI

On 11 May, the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research began a two-day international conference in New Delhi on ‘Sustainable Development Goals: India’s Preparedness and Role of Agriculture’

On 11 May, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), the Trust for Advancement of Agricultural Sciences (TAAS) and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) began a two-day international conference in New Delhi on ‘Sustainable Development Goals: India’s Preparedness and Role of Agriculture’, comprising of 150 delegates including government officials, agricultural scientists and development agency experts.

“To accomplish the Sustainable Development Goals, it is imperative that policy makers support transformations in the region’s food system, and some of the greatest changes to India’s food system are coming from rapid urbanization,” said Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI. “Connecting farmers to cities can raise incomes in rural areas and help meet urban food and nutrition demand,” added Fan. “Around 20 per cent of greenhouse emissions come from agriculture,” said Dr PK Joshi of IFPRI, adding that “land degradation and soil health is a problem” in the Indian agriculture ecosystem. “Decline in land holdings and decrease in factor productivity are some of the inherent problems in Indian agriculture,” added Joshi.

“There was a paradigm shift from the top policy makers to double farmer’s income, instead of productivity,” added Joshi, stating that “lots of programs exist, but it is about how to converge these programs to create an enabling environment so all resources are used efficiently”. He added that the conditions for success in agriculture include “efficient technology, enabling policy, capacity to implement policies and infrastructure” and while all SDGs are somehow linked to agriculture, “SDG 1 on no poverty, SDG 2 on no hunger, SDG 13 on climate action and SDG 15 on life on land” are the “most critical” for agriculture to address, a sentiment echoed by Trilochan Mohapatra of DARE and ICAR.

The conference aimed to address questions such as what is the baseline of SDGs (the starting point), what potential technologies and innovations can be used for agricultural transformation, what existing programs address SDGs and how to fine-tune them, and what are the existing best practices in agriculture which have to be emulated in India. The second day of the conference would focus more on policies and how to create transparent, inclusive institutions for agricultural benefit.

Joshi went on to stress the importance of “public-private partnership”, and listed the components of SMART Agriculture on the production side (Strengthening delivery system, Modernising agriculture, Agri-business proposition, Resilient agriculture, Technology) and SMART food on the consumption side (Safe food, Modern food, Affordable food, Resource efficient food, Total food with all required nutrients). “Agriculture cannot be looked in isolation,” said Mohapatra, adding that “in addition to technology, the right kind of policy framework is required to enable technology and innovations towards achieving the SDGs.”

Stressing on the importance of SDG 5 on gender equality, Mohapatra added that “agriculture is one area which concerns gender greatly”, as “50 per cent of the labour force is women, with some crops like rice cultivation have 80 per cent women” and stressed the importance of “enhancing investment in agriculture”. After Mohapatra stating that “one year should be declared as the International Year of Agro-biodiversity”, the Global Food Policy Report of 2017 was unveiled by Fan, which aimed to “reshape agri-food system to achieve multiple SDGs in India”.

“I am a champion of SDG 12.3, which is to reduce food-waste by 50 per cent,” declared Fan at the unveiling of the report, an annual analysis of developments in food policy around the developing world, which focused this year on the impact rapid urbanization is having on health, poverty and development. The report called for the development of new agri-food systems which is “productive and efficient, environmentally sustainable and climate smart, inclusive, nutrition and health-driven, and business-driven”. The report formulated by Fan called on to “invest in agriculture to produce more nutrition with less, encourage policy changes to reshape agriculture, advance frontiers for nutrition driven technologies and support technology that promote diversification of food production”.

“Eliminate subsidies for agriculture which are wasteful, and use the funds for research”, declared Fan, and went on to enlist the challenges posed to South Asia’s food security due to rapid urbanization. He went on to stress the importance of rural-urban linkage, calling to “improve policy coordination between rural and urban areas” and “support of efficient and inclusive rural-urban vale chains” which was echoed by Professor Mahendra Dev of IGIDR. “Agriculture-led growth is key for pro-poor growth,” said Fan, and called for a “promotion of efficient governance of natural resources”. Focusing on urban poverty, Dev added that “significant inequalities exist in urban areas, with respect to food access, water quality, sanitation, etc.” and that there should be a “linkage between rural farmers and urban consumers”.

“Production should be increased efficiently, and in a sustainable manner for which technology is available”, said RS Paroda of TAAS, stating that “for doubling farmer’s income, there should be a focus on profitability, reduction in cost of inputs and providing linkages to the market”, and that

“SDGs cannot be achieved unless you have competent human resources”, urging the audience to “think out of the box”. “There is a need for capital investment, private-public partnership, and innovations to make agriculture more efficient,” added Paroda.

With a focus on the role of technology in meeting development goals, breakout sessions at the conference looked at the broad applications of technology in genetic enhancement, natural resource management and farm mechanization, as well as its role in specific agricultural sectors such as crop production and livestock management. “Access to technology is already beginning to change the landscape of agriculture. Take cell-phones for example. More than half of farmers who provide food to Delhi are using cell-phones to directly negotiate prices for staple crops. Leveraging the power of technology can help connect farmers to markers, optimize agricultural output and ultimately improve livelihoods,” said Fan.

Top themes and market attention on: