Opinion Piece by Dr ML Jat, Global Research Program Director Resilient Farm and Food Systems, ICRISAT published in the Daily Pioneer
The G20 recognises the global significance of malnutrition and its implications for public health and social well-being.
09 September 2023, New Delhi: Climate change is real and an undeniable threat to our entire civilization. The growing climate crisis, rapidly degenerating soils, drying aquifers, extinction of agro-biodiversity, and highly volatile markets have raised doubts if it is possible to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals when only seven annual harvests remain until 2030.
Anthropogenic climate change has slowed down global agricultural productivity by 21% in the last 50 years. Climate change is driven primarily by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, industrial processes, and agricultural activities. Agriculture is in the midst of numerous global challenges, including food security, environmental sustainability, and climate change mitigation. Agriculture is both vulnerable to and a contributor to climate change. For addressing global agricultural challenges such as meeting the food and nutritional demands of the growing population, climate change, water scarcity, and low agricultural productivity, a shared vision leading to collective action by the global community is crucial. In this respect, the Agricultural Working Group (AWG) of the G20 under India’s presidency has taken some futuristic and innovative initiatives.
The declaration of the Year 2023 as the International Year of Millets is timely and signifies the role of millets in providing solutions to global food and nutritional challenges. Millets which are increasingly being acknowledged as ‘nutri-cereals’ have many health benefits and are also climate-resilient crops that can be grown in low rainfall, low soil fertility conditions, requiring low inputs, and have comparatively low water and carbon footprints compared to many cereals.
In this context, India’s unique G20 initiative – MAHARISHI (Millets and Other Ancient Grains International Research Initiative), will play a crucial role. The MAHARISHI initiative through its Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists (MACS)and Agricultural Working Group will make significant contributions to improving global agriculture by building climate resilience and reducing environmental footprints. The initiative must focus on technological advancements, climate adaptation, inclusive policies, global partnerships, capacity building, and fostering South-South learning. Through such unique initiatives, the G20 can further advance its mission of achieving holistic livelihoods to meet the needs of agriculture in a changing world.
The MAHARISHI initiative and the ‘Shree Anna’ millet campaign aim to promote the cultivation and consumption of millets which are nutrient-dense, drought-tolerant, and resilient. These crops have several advantages in combating malnutrition in terms of nutrient density, diversifying diets, and providing food and nutritional security during times of drought to the local communities, and poor and unreached populations.
The G20’s MAHARISHI initiative aims to strengthen collaborations with international organizations like the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). Their shared commitment is to combat malnutrition through scientific research. This research includes efforts to enhance crop varieties, making them more productive, nutritious, and resilient. Additionally, the initiative focuses on promoting sustainable agricultural practices, advancing digital agriculture, building capacity, and advocating for policy changes. We need to enhance our efforts to support agricultural communities in adapting to changing climate conditions. This includes promoting the use of drought-resistant crops, implementing improved soil and water management techniques, and adopting low-input technologies. Sustainable practices like crop rotation, agroforestry, and organic farming should be encouraged, as they are both environmentally friendly and economically viable. These practices play a crucial role in reducing soil degradation and curbing greenhouse gas emissions.
The G20, as a platform for major economies, recognizes the global significance of malnutrition and its implications for public health, economic development, and social well-being. Collaborating with international organizations like ICRISAT allows the G20 to leverage scientific expertise and innovative solutions to address malnutrition effectively.
ICRISAT, as a renowned international agricultural research institute working on millets and other nutrient-dense crops for over 50 years, has been pivotal in addressing malnutrition and food insecurity through crop improvement, climate resilient agriculture, feed-fodder initiatives, nutrition-sensitive farming practices, integrating biodiversity conservation and ecosystem services. ICRISAT plays a key role in developing climate-resilient crop varieties and advising on adaptive strategies for farmers.
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