World Environment Day: With dwindling food production, how India can tackle the problem
Climate change isn't just an environmental issue.
A lot has been spoken about climate change over the years. It is one of the major challenges planet earth faces currently amongst various other issues. Even the much talked about COP21 discussions held in Paris last year ended without any tangible and immediate steps to curb the alarming issue of climate change. With global greenhouse gas emissions reaching unprecedented levels despite multiple efforts, the UN’s weather agency recently said, “Temperatures in the first two months of the year 2016 soared to new highs, following a year that broke all previous records by a wide margin”. It is high time that all key stakeholders including the businesses take initiatives for achieving the common objective of a greener planet.
Climate change isn't just an environmental issue. It is far more than that and impacts each one of us in more than one ways. As per the 'Biennial Update Report' (BUR) submitted to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, India’s energy sector comprising of electricity, manufacturing and transportation etc. accounts for 71 percent and agriculture for 18 percent of Green House Gas (GHG) emissions. With the world’s population expected to increase by a third by the year 2050, agriculture production will have to increase by over 60 percent to meet the future demand for food. This, however, is easier said than done. A significant issue farmers across the world are facing is unpredictable weather patterns. Directly linked to climate change, these vagaries are resulting in a major potential threat to agriculture production and food security.
Like numerous other effects of climate change, reduced food production will hit the world's most vulnerable people the hardest, with third world countries suffering increasingly more than developed nations. Developing countries where agriculture represents a key component of the nation’s economy and is also a driver of development - still possess limited capacity to monitor and report GHG emissions/removals. It’s, therefore, imperative that to tackle challenges from climate change, there is a need for collective efforts at a global scale.
Carbon neutral crop production
It is high time that the agriculture sector encourages carbon neutral crop production and focuses on climate-smart agriculture techniques targeting crop production management chain. This can be achieved by utilizing innovations in the area of product development and agronomic approaches such as breeding, plant biotechnology, crop protection, conservation tillage and cover cropping etc. combined with expertise in data science and extensive modeling. Likewise, new drought and saline tolerant crop technologies have potential to make a positive impact on the lives of farmers globally. Similarly, encouraging crops like corn and soybeans to be grown such that absorption of greenhouse gases is equal to or greater than the total amount emitted from growing these crops – reinforcing agriculture’s unique role in climate change mitigation. Crop protection is another area where focused efforts can help reduce carbon footprints.
Sustainable agriculture is the way forward
In addition to developing technologies and solutions that enable sustainable agriculture, a systematic approach towards delivering innovative agricultural solutions and educational efforts at farmers’ level will address the biggest challenges of climate change and resource conservation. With India’s growing population, conservation systems should be put in place to cater to the growing needs. This will enable us achieve the ultimate goal of sustainable agriculture.
With enabling government policy support, there is much that the private sector can do to partner public sector research institutions. This will ensure our farm economy gets greater injection of science and a knowledge-based approach to increasing farmers’ incomes and productivity sustain-ably. Reducing our carbon footprint will not be a herculean task if the seeds of change are sown one field at a time.
(The author leads Corporate Affairs for Monsanto India and Technology Development & Agronomy for Monsanto in South Asia.)
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