Food security means the easy availability and access of food at all times in sufficient quantity in a safe and nutritious form to meet the dietary requirements and food preferences for an active, healthy and productive life.
In fact, food security is the imperative prerequisite for the economic and social stability of any nation. Again sustainable food security requires a stable supply of good and properly functioning agricultural markets.
To encourage the food security, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations celebrates World Food Day every year on 16th October, the day on which the Organization was founded in 1945. "World Food Security and the challenges of climate change and bio-energy" was the theme for the World Food Day for the year 2008. The theme is quite relevant at this hour when changes in agriculture production and cultivation pattern is being observed in different parts of the world due to drastic changes in the climatic pattern. Increase in demand for fuel, food, diversion of good crops to fuel, inflationary peak particularly observed in food items can have a detrimental effect on the gap between demand and supply of food products and food security of the nations as a whole. The worst affected, under such circumstances will undoubtedly be the people residing in the developing and the underdeveloped nations of the world.
Poor people of these countries are largely dependant on agriculture which is most vulnerable to climate change. Increase in the instances of crop failures and livestock deaths have already resulted in huge economic losses undermining food security in parts of Sub-Saharan Africa. global warming and increase in the green house gas emission, deforestation for urbanization and injudicious use of natural resources are the major causes for climate change and they will directly or indirectly hamper agriculture production and productivity. This will in turn result in food insecurity and finally result in riots and unrest in different parts of the world. Thus, at present, the world is not even on track to achieve the 1996 World Food Summit target of reducing the number of hungry people from 800 million to 400 million by 2015. Moreover, the world prices have risen 45 percent in the last nine months.
Although India had long back achieved self-sufficiency in food, the Government of India has launched the new National Food Security Mission 2007 with the basic objective of grappling with the persistent yield storage in the country. The mission will increase the production of rice by 10 million tones, wheat by 8 million tones and pulses by 2 million tones in five years by the end of 11th Five Year Plan (2011-2012)
The desired target does not look difficult. The primary reason of this optimism is that there happens to be a substantial gap between the current average yields and the potential yields which can be bridged with the help of available technologies. The basic objectives can be achieved by bridging this current yield-potential yield gap or even by narrowing it appreciably. However, for this purpose, the newly launched mission will have to successfully deal with the factors which have kept the output static for the past many years. It is in recognizing and grappling with these factors that the real challenges lies. Another significant task is boosting the productivity of pulses where even the potential yields are not to high.
In mot areas, even in the agriculturally progressive ones, the production and productivity of rice and wheat have shown the tendency to stagnate primarily because of the fatigue nature of the soil. The intensive farming practiced in these areas without adequate use of organic manures has led to the deterioration of soil health. Also lack of replenishment of depleted plant nutrients, especially the vital micronutrients, has impaired the fertility of the agricultural land. Therefore, to bring about an increase in the yields, high doses of some costly imputes will have to be brought in. However, the farmers are frequently denied remunerative returns on their produces, hence they usually find it difficult to afford those costly inputs.
The fund-starved farmers have not been replacing the old seeds with fresh ones of superior varieties. Besides, the agriculture extension machinery responsible for known-how and technology transfer has remained idle in most States for a long time. Consequently even simple measures like timely seed planting, critical for a crop like wheat, have not been communicated to the farmers effectively.
The new Mission, therefore, aims at addressing all these issues with a view to be able to tackle yield stagnation and working in those areas which have so far remained laggards in agricultural production. Thus, it has scope for productivity improvement.
The Mission has taken up largely those districts in the selected 16 States where the crop productivity is lower than the state or the national average. It also seems to have taken care to some other areas of concern by including units plan aspects like integrated nutrient and pest management, timely imputes supply and promotion of new technologies.
On the whole, the Mission plans to operate in 305 districts of 16 states with a total 11th Five Year Plan outlay of Rs. 4882.5 crore. Of these, 133 districts in 12 States have been selected for enhancing rice yields, 138 districts in nine States for wheat and 168 districts in 14 States for pulses. The participating States include Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Haryana, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, Orissa, Punjab, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Jharkhand and Rajasthan.
What sets this mission apart from many of the other existing technology missions is that it proposes to function through designated state agencies and dispenses with the usual treasury route for the transfer of funds, opting, instead, for direct fund transfer. Besides it has evolved a three-tier co-ordination structure for facilitating convergence of interventions from various departments and schemes concerning rural development, fertilizers, water resources and Panchayati Raj bodies.
The Mission, in all regards, appears to be a noteworthy step in the direction of minimizing the current yield-potential yield gap.