Hunger risk from climate threat

GS Paper 3, Nutrition, Indian Agriculture, Food Security.


  • According to research on climate change and food systems by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), climate change might reduce India’s food output by 16% and increase the number of people at risk of hunger by 23% by 2030.
  • These forecasts are a component of IMPACT model used to assess the impact of climate change on aggregate food production, food consumption (kilocalories per person per day), net trade of key food commodity groupings, and the population at risk of becoming hungry.
  • The number of Indians at danger of hunger in 2030 is estimated to be 73.9 million, with the consequences of climate change increasing the figure to 90.6 million.
  • In the context of climate change, baseline forecasts imply that global food production will increase by around 60% over 2010 levels by 2050.
  • Because of predicted population and economic development, emerging nations’ production and demand are expected to expand more rapidly.

Food Security:

  • “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, secure, and nutritious food that fits their dietary needs and food choices for an active and healthy life,” stated the World Food Summit in 1996.

Food security has three major characteristics, according to this definition:

  • Food availability,
  • Food access, and
  • Food absorption.

As a result, enough food production is not enough to ensure a country’s food security.

Food Security and Climate Change:

  • One of the primary problems related with climate change is food security.  Climate change has a complicated impact on food security. It has an influence on agriculture, cattle, forests, fisheries, and aquaculture, and can have serious social and economic implications such as lost revenue, damaged livelihoods, trade disruption, and negative health effects. It is crucial to remember, however, that the net impact of climate change is determined not only by the magnitude of the climatic shock, but also by the underlying vulnerabilities.
  • According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (2016), the net impact of climate change on food security is determined by both biophysical and societal vulnerabilities.

Inter-relationship between Food Security and Climate Change:

  • Food security is strongly related to climate predictability and healthy ecosystems.
  • Climate change and its related severe weather, droughts, fires, pests, and illnesses are already endangering global food supply. Unless we take urgent action, these issues will grow, the poorest and most vulnerable will suffer disproportionately, and instability will rise.
  • Climate change is the unifying thread, causing or exacerbating these heinous circumstances and wreaking havoc on food supply, livelihoods, and human health. As the globe continues to suffer more severe climatic impacts on agricultural productivity, many of our food systems are being strained. In summary, climate change threatens food production.
  • Yield growth for wheat, maize, and other crops has been dropping in many nations as a result of high heat, severe weather, and droughts, according to a UN report.
  • According to some projections, in the absence of successful adaptation, worldwide yields might fall by up to 30% by 2050.
  • Countries already dealing with violence, pollution, deforestation, and other issues are likely to bear the brunt of these consequences. The 2 billion people who currently lack adequate food, particularly smallholder farmers and other individuals living in poverty, will be struck the hardest.

Measures that can be taken:

To prevent the most severe effects of climate change and accomplish the Paris Agreement’s Goals, we must drastically overhaul our agricultural systems. A variety of sustainable techniques provide major climate mitigation options, with some also assisting farmers in building resilience against future environmental and economic shocks:

  • Reducing food waste and loss, which account for 8% of global greenhouse gas emissions, is low-hanging fruit for lowering heat-trapping emissions. Adopting more sustainable diets, particularly avoiding meat intake, while challenging for social and cultural reasons, might result in an 80 percent decrease in greenhouse gas emissions from agriculture.
  • Agroforestry (the cultivation and protection of trees in croplands or pastures) can reduce emissions by adding “carbon sinks” on farms.
  • Improved farm soil management, such as less tillage, can keep carbon in the soil while improving yield. Higher per hectare yields might, in turn, help lessen the demand for additional deforestation, preventing emissions from land use change, as well as biodiversity and ecosystem loss. Farmers’ earnings can be increased by sustainable agricultural techniques that maintain soil health, providing an essential buffer against climatic shocks for rural populations.
  • Degraded and abandoned farmlands also provide climatic potential. Restoring damaged farmlands cuts emissions while also reducing the danger of soil erosion and landslides and restoring the supply of clean water and other key ecosystem services.

Working to increase soil fertility and productivity while reducing greenhouse gas emissions might greatly reduce agriculture’s impact to climate change while also assisting in the development of more sustainable and resilient communities.

Way Forward for India:

  • Adoption of environmentally friendly agriculture techniques- The primary issue with Indian agriculture is low production. To fulfil India’s expanding food demand, agricultural production must be increased across the board.
  • However, given Indian agriculture’s sensitivity to climate change, farm methods must be reoriented to provide improved climate resilience. India must increase public investment in the creation and spread of crop types that are more resistant to temperature and precipitation changes and use less water and nutrients.
  • Agricultural policy should prioritise crop yield and the development of safety nets to mitigate the dangers of climate change.
  • Better water resource management must be a crucial component of sustainable agriculture. Water supply management solutions such as expanded storage and water harvesting are critical, particularly in water-stressed areas of north western India.
  • Water efficiency in agriculture must be improved. The irrigation system in India has to be updated, with a special focus on north western India, the country’s agricultural basket, which is prone to climate-induced droughts. Despite its advantages, drip irrigation is still widely used for high-value horticultural crops.

To increase the area covered by micro and drip irrigation, the government could shift the subsidy on energy for drawing water for irrigation purposes, which has been a major contributor to diminishing groundwater levels, to drip irrigation systems.

For the water industry, a four-pronged strategy is recommended:

  • Boost irrigation efficiency
  • Encourage micro irrigation in water-stressed areas
  • Better infrastructure planning for water resources
  • Water body restoration in rural regions
  • Increased emphasis on public health- India has a long history of poor public health. As the issues of climate change grow, politicians in the country have given little attention to the effects on health.

    Despite the fact that the illness burden from vector-borne and diarrhoeal diseases is quite high in India’s urban slums and tribal communities, this area was ignored when the initial National Action Plan for Climate Change (NAPCC) was developed.

    The Ministry of Health is now developing a National Mission for Health under the auspices of the NAPCC, but considering the direct link between climate change, infectious illnesses, and food absorption, public health spending must be significantly increased.
  • Improve livelihood security- In the context of climate change, achieving food security necessitates an improvement in the livelihoods of the poor and food-insecure in order to not only assist them escape poverty and hunger, but also to endure, recover from, and adapt to the climatic threats to which they are exposed.

    The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (NREGA) of India in 2005 was a watershed moment in the history of poverty reduction. NREGA has had various beneficial outcomes, including increased rural incomes, reduced gender wage disparities, improved access to food, and reduced distress migration from rural regions. NREGA has also made a significant impact to child well-being by reducing hunger and improving health and education.
    Furthermore, the initiative helps with ecological restoration and natural resource regeneration in arid areas. Water conservation accounted for about half of all NREGA-supported projects from 2006 to 2008, with 850,000 completed works.

    Despite certain shortcomings in implementation, the NREGA system provides several advantages to the rural poor, notably marginalised groups, women, scheduled castes, and scheduled tribes. As a result, funding for NREGA should be maintained, and efforts should be made to more efficiently streamline monies in order to plug current leakages.

Given the degree of urban poverty, undernutrition, and a lack of remunerative employment, there is a strong justification for implementing NREGA-style guaranteed employment in urban areas as well. A plan like this should be designed not only to give livelihood stability to the urban poor, but also to build climate-resilient urban infrastructure in Indian cities. Additional efforts are needed to protect vulnerable communities living in environmentally sensitive coastal and forest regions.

  • A greater focus on urban food insecurity- Urban India is not only a significant contributor to global greenhouse gas emissions, but it is also a sufferer of climate change due to the majority of its population being impoverished. As previously stated, climate change will have a significant influence on urban food insecurity. As a result, urban food insecurity demands significant consideration. The strategy for addressing urban food insecurity must consider both the access and absorption elements of food insufficiency. Effective public distribution networks are required to promote access to healthful food. Living conditions in urban informal settlements must be improved to promote food absorption. The Swachh Bharat Mission, which intends to build 10.4 million individual toilets and 0.5 million public toilets as well as implement scientific solid waste management in 4,041 municipalities, might be considered a step in the right direction.
  • Disaster management in Indian cities is notoriously inadequate. As a result, government investment in climate-resilient infrastructure should be increased. Flood control initiatives, sanitary facilities, and monitoring activities in India are ineffective. Better urban infrastructure will reduce illness risks caused by floods.
  • Long-term relief efforts in the aftermath of natural disasters- The majority of India’s disaster-management methods are weak, short-lived, and poorly designed. Furthermore, significant focus is placed on giving immediate help to afflicted households rather than creating long-term adaptation solutions. Little attention is paid to the long-term effects of natural catastrophes on agricultural output and undernutrition. According to a recent NITI Aayog study, “the government should distribute a minimum stipulated quantity of cash to impacted farmers and landless labourers as an immediate remedy.” The paper advises a second economically feasible crop insurance scheme for wealthy farmers who may desire insurance in addition to this help. Furthermore, because natural disasters have a negative influence on child nutrition, long-term undernutrition prevention programmes must be undertaken in disaster-affected areas.
  • Additional efforts must be made to reduce risk in agriculture. Such programmes should be geared specifically toward small farmers.


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