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M.S. Swaminathan and K.N.N.S. Nair*

1. Global setting

Our world has experienced tremendous strides in all spheres of human endeavor during the second half of this century. In addition to significant developments in science and technology, there are major advances in economic opportunities and human development. Population and levels of economic activity have increased more rapidly in the last four decades than at any time in human history [1]. Although there has been a considerable narrowing of the gap with developed countries, in the basic human survival capabilities such as basic education, life expectancy, infant mortality, in the developing countries [2] the disparity in economic opportunities and consumption is considerable [3] [4]. The period also saw the widening globally and nationally, of the disparity between the rich and the poor in economic well-being and in its pace of growth [5] [6] [7]. The gap is also widening in areas of building human capital -- the potential for development -- such as higher education, technology, informatics and labour productivity [8]. 

The pattern of economic activity evolved during this period has led to an unequal, energy-intensive consumption pattern which demands a considerable amount of the world's resources to support it [9]. The pressures which this level of economic activity exerts on the global resource base are reflected in the loss of forests, both in flora and fauna, and the pollution of water bodies of all kinds, the accumulation of greenhouse gases and the depletion of life-preserving ozone. The sustainability of such resource-demanding economic activity is increasingly being called into question.

2. Poverty, environment and sustainability of development

 The two decades between the Conference on Human Environment in 1972 (Stockholm) and the Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) in 1992 (Rio de Janeiro), have been a period of unprecedented environmental sensitivity and of sustained, often path-breaking, activity in the fields of development research and action. These have brought into center- stage the sustainability concerns of development. The World Commission on Environment and Development (1987) defined `Sustainable development as development that fulfills the needs of the present without limiting the potential for meeting the needs of future generations'. The compulsions and imperatives arising from these concerns were the prime movers for the convening of the Rio summit.

Global poverty is one of the greatest threats to the sustainability of the physical environment and of human life. One-fifth of the world population lives in poverty [10]. The downward spin of poverty and environmental degradation put in jeopardy sustainable human and economic development now and in the future. The poorest are the worst sufferers of environmental hazards and health risks caused by pollution, insufficient housing, poor sanitation, polluted water and lack of other survival amenities. Most inhabit the ecologically vulnerable areas with low carrying capacity [11]. The incessant addition to population aggravates the poverty situation by putting additional strains on the fragile resource base [12]. Ecological injury to basic life support systems and economic injury to one-fifth of the population living in poverty are threatening peace and social stability and spreading a culture of violence both to nature and fellow human beings. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Barbara Ward had articulated the links between poverty and environmental quality at the Stockholm Conference in 1972. The UNCED eloquently recognized this concern in relation to sustainability in its preamble to Agenda 21 which states:

`While managing resources sustainably an environmental policy that focuses mainly on the conservation and protection of resources must take due account of those who depend on the resources for their livelihoods. Otherwise it could have an adverse impact both on poverty and on chances for long term success in resource and environmental conservation. Equally, a development policy that focuses mainly on increasing the production of goods without addressing the sustainability of the resources on which production is based will sooner or later run into declining productivity, which could also have an adverse impact on poverty'.

3. Hunger persists amidst plenty

World food production and calorie supply not only kept pace with, but even outstripped, population growth in the past two decades [13]. A substantial proportion of the cereal produced was diverted to provide livestock products, mostly in the developed countries [14]. The distribution of food availability was unequal [15]. Substantial proportion of the population in the developing countries remained food-insecure even though their numbers are declining [16], [17].

4. Medium term scenario: Food security of cautious optimism

 Demands for food expand with the increase in population and in incomes. Demand projections for any given period vary with the assumptions underlying the estimations. One recent projection by Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations shows that the cereal production in the world would have to be increased by three quarters in 2010 to maintain the present levels of per caput availability (325 kg per annum), for a population which would have increased then by two-fifths. World over the production is expected to meet the demand; but the developing countries would have to meet over one tenth of the demand for cereals from imports [17].

 The FAO study is optimistic about the ability of the world agricultural resource system to generate commodities enough to meet consumption needs in 2010 at the present level (in terms of per caput), but also to have improved nutrition status in most developing regions. However South Asia will face some difficulties and sub-Saharan Africa may not realize any significant advancement [18]. To the extent that the effective demand permits neither resource nor technology constraints at the global level is insurmountable. Opportunities exist for bringing more land under cultivation, for expanding irrigation, and further use of existing land more intensively through multiple cropping. Other factors for optimism are the scope for increasing yields and much of the potential remains untapped in many agroecological zones; low levels of fertilizer use with potential for increased use; and untapped technology potential are some of the factors [19].

The production possibilities notwithstanding, some of the indicators emerging even during this medium term perspective should cause concern. Many countries and population groups within these countries may not benefit from the growth in per caput food production. The maintenance of the present per caput consumption level would put pressure on the agricultural, forestry and fisheries resources. Pressures on the resources emanate more from the persistence of rural poverty rather than the need for producing food for the growing population. The vicious circle of poverty and resource degradation can be broken only through a combination of faster, poverty reducing, development and public policy, both national and international which would enable improve access to food by the poor and eliminate chronic under nutrition.

5. Long term scenario: Food security engenders concern

 A longer term food demand projection for 2030 indicates that the global grain consumption will be 97 percent higher than the current levels, and 97 percent also from the developing countries for a population which would have increased by two thirds [20]. A quarter of the consumption demand would have to be met from new agricultural lands, and the rest from increased productivity of existing lands.

Against the back ground of double squeeze on crop lands that of halting expansion and declining fertility, overstocking of grasslands, overcutting of forests, overfishing and technology choices, the prospects of meeting food consumption needs in the longer term, even globally, are in jeopardy [21]. Demand for crops and products of grasslands, forests and fisheries are exceeding the sustainable yield of these systems. Already signs of deceleration are setting in [22]. Extensive depletion and pollution of water bodies imposes grave restraints on food production. Continued receding of natural forests destabilizes climate, dries up water supplies and destroys the biodiversity, the basic food production supporting systems [23]. All these lead to limiting the capacity of earth's resources for generating additional food. It is also a manifestation of the blunting of growth forces and of the impact of the degradation of the resource base [24]. The long term food production capabilities are being undermined, apart from soil erosion and depletion of aquifers, by other forms of environmental degradation which increasingly manifest themselves such as air pollution and ozone depletion, the depletion of aquifers, loss of genetic diversity of various crops, and hotter summers set in motion by the industrial society [25]. Most dramatic is the change induced by carbon dioxide emission on crop yields, world food supply and regions vulnerable to food deficits [26].

If population and economies are allowed to grow unbridled, the natural resource base may not be able to sustain them. World economy grew five-fold, and the population doubled from 2.6 billion to 5.5 billion between 1950-90. These have begun exerting pressure on the carrying capacity of biological support systems and the ability of natural systems to absorb waste without being damaged. The impending impasse of surpassing the planet's carrying capacity by the population size, consumption patterns and technology choices is found recognition in the warning signals made by learned bodies such as the Royal Society of London and the US National Science Academy. They warn: `If current predictions of population growth prove accurate and patterns of human activity on the planet remain unchanged, science and technology may not be able to prevent either irreversible degradation of the environment or continued poverty for much of the world.'

6. Inequity and environment degradation

Inequity is the cause of environment decline, and population expansion aggravates it. The rich, through over consumption (energy and raw materials) and the poor, through overuse to subsist overstretches the resource base. Population adds pressure to the carrying capacity. The prognosis made on the future agricultural development leads us to conclude that a substantial proportion of the population will remain food-insecure with inadequate consumption levels and persistence of under-nutrition. The slowing down of the agricultural growth aggravates the situation. The steady decline in the proportion of agriculture in GNP, experienced in the developing countries, on the one hand and continued dependence of the population,

7. Food-insecure people and lands

 Poverty is the primary cause of hunger and of chronic food insecurity. Its origins lie in the interaction of many factors: socio cultural values, the apportionment of productive assets, particularly land and human capital, national development strategies, institutional development and international markets for trade and finance. The landless agricultural workers and small farmers with large families, limited human resources and little access to credit, are the majority of the poor in the rural developing world. Poverty is more prevalent among females than males and among ethnic and minority groups. Chronic hunger which remains widespread among the resource-poor, wage-dependent households is caused by inadequate purchasing power.

Globally, four food-insecurity `hot spots' are identified. They are sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, Near East/North Africa and Latin America/Caribbean. The nature and magnitude of the food security problems vary between these regions. In Sub-Saharan Africa land resources are abundant in relation to human population density. Hence apparently land availability should not be a limitation for food production. Yet sub-Saharan Africa has turned out to be a chronically food insecure region in the world. Reasons are many. Rainfed systems predominate. Hence vulnerable to aberrations in climate. Moisture stress rather than low fertility of soil is more critical. The region is poorly endowed with water resources. Technology support (both generation and delivery) is poor.

In South Asia population density is high. Land is scarce. Rainfed areas with medium-low rainfall is substantial. Soils are exhausted. Region is moderately endowed with water resources and irrigable land. Technology back-up is strong. Intensive land use and shifting population to non-land based activities are the strategies for ensuring food security.

Near East/North Africa region suffers from shortage of arable land compounded by acute shortage of water. Rainfall in the region is low and crop production is possible only with irrigation support. High intensity irrigated farming is practiced in the region. Most of the countries have poor water resources. With the advent of power driven devices for lifting water, depletion of ground water has assumed a major resource degradation problem. Region has good technology back-up especially in water use and management. Opportunities lie in for high value horticulture crops (fruits,vegetables, medicinal plants etc.) fully to utilize the limited water resources because the proximity to the European market. Income levels high being richly endowed in oil resources. Migration and earnings from remittances can support food import. Resource degradation is severe. Overgrazing is a problem. There might be need for progressive tenurial arrangements for managing communal lands.

Latin America/Caribbean region is land abundant but modestly endowed with water resources. Acute land concentration and plantation system distorts the system, which have led to poverty and food insecurity in rural areas, and migration to urban centers and environmentally sensitive areas (Amazon basin). Poverty and food-insecurity have greater dimensions in the urban areas than the rural counterparts. The region is environmentally sensitive with global implications. Technology back-up is good.

8. Challenge of the next decade and beyond : Towards a new paradigm of development

 Given continuing population expansion (until the population in the developing nations stabilizes, which is not expected earlier than the first quarter of the next century) and the consequent increase in demand for food, the developing countries face two basic food-security challenges. First, maintaining the availability of food through production from within the regions (a necessary condition for continued economic development), which is constrained in the immediate future due to conditions of diminishing land and fresh water resources, expanding biotic and abiotic stresses, inadequate investment in rural techno-infrastructure and an inequitable trade environment; and in the long run due to deceleration in production setting in as a result of ecological factors, such as depleted soil, exhaustion and pollution of ground water and surface water resources, genetic erosion, the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere and the ozone layer. Second, expanding the economic access to food, thereby ensuring food-security for all at the household level, under conditions of insufficient growth in household income arising from slow growth in diversification of gainful employment opportunities. Overcoming these challenges calls for the promotion of a new paradigm of agricultural and rural development. Process of development is more than merely the growth of incomes. Development must refer to enhancing the opportunities for individuals to develop their full potential as human beings. If development is to widen the range of people's choices which it should, it must do so not only for the current generation but also for future ones. It must be sustainable. The goals of human and economic development are not conflicting. Hence, they must not be counterpoised, but integrated in our thinking and practice, as a single process of sustainable development. Development strategies need to be reoriented in a manner that the quality of human life is improved, while living within the carrying capacity of supporting ecosystems. Integrated application of the principles of ecological sustainability, economic viability and social equity is the basic desideratum of the new paradigm of sustainable agriculture and rural development proposed for ensuring food-and-nutrition- security, physical and economic access to balanced diet and safe drinking water, at the level of the individual households, in the developing countries.

9. Pathways of sustainable advances

 To achieve sustainable advances in quality of human life, while living within the carrying capacity of the supporting ecosystems, the following should be the aim:

Conserve and enrich the ecological foundations essential for sustainable advances in the productivity of terrestrial and aquatic farming systems, and mobilize renewable energy resources;

Ensure and strengthen nutrition security, i.e. economic and physical access to balanced diets and safe drinking water, at the household level.

10. Approach

The concurrent attack on the twin determinants of the food-security challenge, viz. availability and access to food, requires a comprehensive approach to the sustainable agricultural and rural development. The essential elements of such an approach include:

Systems perspective and integrated use in resource management

 Ecological and economic sustainability are enhanced when available land, water, energy and human resources are used in a mutually reinforcing manner. A systems approach involving integrated attention to crop and livestock farming, and to agroforestry and aquaculture, will be helpful in generating more jobs and income, and in protecting the resource-health. Rural families put together a living through multifarious activities. The urban concept of employment will have little meaning under such conditions. Every effort has to be made to optimize this strength of diversity of sources of occupation and income in daily life. The aim is not maximizing returns from specific income and employment in a sustainable manner from the total resources, both physical and human, at their command or to which they have access.

Better use of underutilized land, increase in cropping- intensity, and breeding and development of higher-yielding and more resistant varieties are some of the means used in achieving the food production needs during the past two decades in the developing countries. The biotic and abiotic stresses emerging from measures to increase food production to meet the needs of the present have resulted in adverse implications for the resource-base of agricultural production. To sustain agricultural production, and thereby ensure food security, the interventions chosen should ensure ecological compatibility, economic viability and social equity. Some of the sustainable interventions identified are listed below.


Determine land uses by classifying land on the basis of both biological potential and diversity, into areas suitable for:

Conservation: Lands rich in biodiversity. They are to be protected in their pristine state.

Restoration: Lands diminished in biological potentials such as waste or degraded lands. Such lands could be improved by applying the principles of restoration technology.

Intensification for sustainable use: Manage such lands on the basis of soil health. Deficiencies of minor and micro plant nutrients are appearing in intensive land use areas. Introduction of legislative measures accompanied by a system of incentives and disincentives to prevent such lands from being used for other purposes is crucial for maintaining the stock of land potential for the future.


Some of the measures needed to sustain the availability of water resources are: effectiveness in saving water, equity in water sharing, efficiency in water delivery and use, integrated policy for the conjunctive and appropriate use of rain, river and sea water as well as ground water, and the recycling of sewage water and industrial effluent.

Integrated nutrient supply

Inputs are needed to produce output. Soils in many developing countries are often not only 'thirsty', but also 'hungry'. Much soil-hunger is met from increased use of energy-intensive chemical fertilizers, which is affect adversely the cost effectiveness of agricultural production and cause water pollution. The nutrients taken away through increased crop production have to be replenished. Conversion to integrated nutrient supply system suitable for easy adoption involving crop rotations, biological fixation of nitrogen, green manures (stem modulating legumes) and biofertilizers, supplemented by balanced mineral fertilizers, would help reduce the use of purchased chemical inputs and create biologically dynamic systems that make significant use of compost and humus to help improve soil structure and fertility.


Integrated systems of energy management, involving the use of renewable and nonrenewable sources of energy in appropriate blends, can reduce the cost and external dependence.

Location specific integrated pest management

Most of the developing countries fall in the tropics and sub-tropics. Hence, the damage to crops caused by pests is serious, and without plant protection crop losses will be high. Control of weeds, insect pests and pathogens is one of the most challenging jobs in tropical and subtropical agriculture. Dependence on chemicals for controlling the pests is on the increase. Apart from the inherent health hazards, the insecticide resistance built up demand for increased application of chemicals, which in turn enhances the cost of production. The need for chemicals can be minimized by developing and adopting location-specific, integrated pest management (IPM) systems. Essential ingredients of the system include need-based application of chemicals, use of biopesticides, conservation of natural enemies of pests and use of multiple resistance varieties. The success achieved in Indonesia in ipm in rice through a combination of public policy and appropriate technology need to be replicated in the developing countries.

Resource-based in contrast to commodity-based development 

Agricultural development planning pursued in hitherto in the countries of the region, by and large, has been focused on enhancing the production and availability of specific commodities, such as rice, wheat, milk, fish etc. In the process, development, including research and investment, bypassed commodities: such as minor millets, pulses, etc. which have less market less value, but are of critical value in providing nutrition- security, especially in times of environmental stress; areas which are not endowed with resources for the specified commodities (e.g. mountain regions which are substantial in the food-insecure areas of the world, but do not have the potential for green revolution cereals such as wheat and rice); and by default, the people who inhabit these areas e.g. tribal people, fisher folk living by artisanal fishing in the coastal regions. etc. Incidentally, these groups are the most poor and constitute the but the poor in the region. In contrast, resource based planning would lead to the sustainable optimization of the use of specific resource endowments sustainably, and help develop the people who subsist on them. These include mountain systems, high rainfall tropical areas, the coastal systems, the tribal communities and traditional fisher folk. Such an approach would ensure pro-poor, pro-women and pro-nature bias to the design of development projects. Location-specific and systems R & D

By far, in the developing countries, small farms predominate. As land has a market and is inheritable, numbers multiply as generations pass by. The resource-base of the small farms are heterogeneous. Farmers need location specific advice. Specificity refers not only to biophysical endowments, but also to socioeconomic conditions. Because farmers put their limited resources to multiple uses and production activities to maximize income and employment, they need research in addition to investment support for the system rather than for specific activities. Farm research and technology development have to pursue a systems rather than activity approach, tailored to specific biophysical and human resources endowments.

Genetic diversity

 Genetic homogeneity, characteristic of modern agricultural systems, leads to greater vulnerability of crops to biotic and abiotic stresses. Diversity of crops and varieties will enhance stability of yield. Genetic diversity and location-adapted varieties are essential to achieve sustain4able advances in productivity. Conservation and wise use of genetic diversity are essential for breeding strains that can resist multiple biotic and abiotic stresses. Traditional farming systems depended heavily on it situ conservation of genetic variability in the form of numerous local cultivars. Establishment of genetic gardens for sustainable agriculture could help in assembling gene pools, which can be used in research-designed substitution of farm-grown biological inputs for market-purchased chemical inputs.

Blending of traditional and frontier technologies

Traditional technologies are environment specific, less risky, eco-friendly and sustainable under low levels of production with respect to time-and resource-use. Production-by- masses-technology-packages to be developed for different resource endowments should be a blend of traditional and frontier technologies, which integrate the ecological and social strengths of the former with the production potential, cost effectiveness and consumer appeal of the latter, thereby mutually reinforcing the livelihood security of the rural families with the ecological security of the rural areas. Frontier technologies which are suitable candidates for such blending include biotechnology, space technology, informatics, micro-electronics and management. Some of the these technologies lend themselves to decentralized adoption, and if supported by a few centralized services, including training and appropriate public policies, can transform the face of rural Asia.

Participatory research and training

Participatory research and training is a fundamental requirement for resource-based, the people-focused development. New patterns of research organization, with scientists and farm families becoming partners in the development and dissemination of new technologies are to be evolved and the existing systems reoriented.

Pro-woman bias in development

In ensuring household food security, women play a pivotal role by participating in production, generating income through marketing of farm produce, engaging in off-farm activities and hiring out their labor, and in sharing the food. Women played a key role in household conservation of genetic heterogeneity in staple crops. Among the poor households they carry the double burden of earning income to ensure household food security and shouldering the household chores. In times of food shortage they are the most affected. A pro-woman bias in development, when translated into action would mean that development efforts should strengthen their income-earning capabilities, ensure that the increased income is available to them for disposal and ease their burden in carrying out the household chores (fetching water and gathering fuel), traditionally assigned by rural societies.

Social mobilization and organization

When there are small and fragmented holdings, the adoption of eco-friendly and other technologies which ensure sustainability of production, will be possible only if all the farming families in a village, watershed or command area of an irrigation project, cooperate. Integrated pest management, efficient water management etc. are examples. Social mobilization and organization is as important as technological innovation for achieving continuous improvements in biological productivity on an ecologically sustainable basis.

Promotion of rural employment and income diversification

Food-security challenge at the household level is becoming increasingly one of ability to buy food, apart from mere physical availability. Commodity production alone will not meet this challenge. Increasing income through diversification of opportunities, and creation of skilled jobs for rural youth and value adding jobs involving a certain flexibility in time, place and duration of work for rural women, is a major food-security issue at the household level. Generation of new opportunities for skilled jobs, especially for the educated rural youth, is a formidable challenge for the developing countries with young populations such as China, India, Bangladesh, etc. It is becoming urgent to defuse the gathering social tensions in the urban areas arising from unplanned rural migration, and to attract and retain the educated youth in the villages for rural development. Programmes to promote rural employment and diversification of agriculture and agro-based industries are to be fostered. Innovative ideas of generating income and employment in rural areas through support to various types of agribusiness are to be promoted. Farm enterprises yield not only more food, but also more productive jobs and higher income in rural areas.

A pro-developing nation international trade regime for farm commodities

Developing nations are on the threshold of economic reforms leading to an era of trade liberalization and market access. Many nations are undergoing the pains of the process of structural adjustment, on their own initiation or prompted by the international financial institutions, and by the imperatives of the final outcome of the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations. The reforms in agricultural trade have significant implications for food-security. Most of the developing nations are low income countries, but with potential to ensure food availability to their population. There are few countries which have chronic food deficit. The policies and programs in farm production and trade finally negotiated should in the long run help shift the production base from the developed nations to the developing nations, and in the short run should help alleviate the pains of transition, through appropriate risk buffers and compensatory mechanisms.

Food security is critical during the transition period to a significant proportion of the population in the developing countries. The price rise and speculative bubbles following trade liberalization can make the transition painful, and if unbearable, can threaten the sustainability of the reforms. There is need to achieve relative price stability in food staples, as these account for a major proportion of the consumption basket of the poor. Mechanisms which helped to provide access to food, such as public distribution systems, open market operations by the government in the domestic market, cannot be dismantled over night. Food aid could be used as a buffer in a transition period, but it should be prevented from being legitimized into an export subsidy and a means to dispose of food surpluses. Nor should it be allowed to dampen the enthusiasm of the producers by denying them the price incentives, and to inhibit the governments from taking appropriate policy and investment measures for increasing agricultural production. PL 480 food aid in the 50s and the 60s, was crucial in staving off famine, but its continued and indiscriminate use inhibited production within the country in countries such as India. Fears have been expressed that the aid of EEC surpluses in diary products can adversely affect the growth of the livestock sector, which is the mainstay in ensuring food-security for a significant proportion of the resources poor in rural India. Treated as short-term measure to alleviate the harshness of possible food price increases to the poor, carefully targeted to the bona fide poor (countries and people within countries), invested in public works to build productive assets, supported more by cash rather than by kind contributions, food aid can be a potent buffer to tide over the perils of transition in developing countries, many of which are strapped with financial and political risks.

Most of the developing countries have the capacity to produce food. But, the problem of food insecurity is largely a problem of only by improving the access to food through increased incomes. As majority of the food insecure are resource poor, they have to look for non-farm but rural based avenues such as dairying, production and processing of fruits and vegetables, various rural industries including handicrafts, cotton and silk weaving, etc., in order to reach out to some income to buy food. Being labor intensive, trade liberalization can help developing countries in competing with the developed countries in these commodities. Reducing market insulation, at least in these commodities, by removing tariff and non-tariff barriers, and through rules that provide more certainty, transparency and stability in international trade (loopholes in sanitary and phytosanitary measures are often used to discriminate against exports of horticultural and floricultural products from developing countries), the developed countries can help increase the opportunities for income and employment in the rural areas.

11. Agenda for action

Within the overall frame-work of approaches outlined above, a set of strategies and a programme of action based on them are proposed to meet the challenges of food security in the Asia-Pacific region. The proposal revolve around two key strategies : first, imparting an income and employment orientation to rural enterprises ; and second, paying concurrent attention to the technological, training, trade and public policy requirements needed to make the program achieve a self- replicating and self-propelling momentum. They could form the basis of a social and scientific agenda and action plans to alleviate hunger by 2000 AD, and eliminate it from this region by the end of the subsequent decade.

Identification of potential areas for intervention consistent with resources endowments

Extend the green revolution to more crops and farming systems through increasing yield per unit of land and time. Ensure that productivity improvement is not only economically viable, but also ecologically sustainable. Identify areas of potential to meet specific needs on the basis of currently available technology and marketing opportunities by major resource- endowment areas, such as mountain regions, high rainfall tropics, uplands and irrigated plains. A check list could include food crops and oil seeds for protecting the national food security system ; cotton and jute for processing and earning foreign exchange ; sugarcane in tapping solar energy most efficiently ; wide range of fruits, rural employment ; diary and poultry for generating incomes for the resource poor; medicinal plants and spices to provide vital raw material for the human and veterinary pharmaceutical industries ; coastal and inland aquaculture, marine and inland fisheries for income, employment, food and exports ; and agro-forestry on wastelands for fodder, fuel and industrial raw materials.

Technological empowerment of the resource poor

Access to production resources, land and water is a major determinant in the incidence of poverty and food-security. Distribution of production assets is a necessary, though not a sufficient condition for agricultural growth. Success in efforts towards this direction has been limited in many countries. The other alternative is the distribution of knowledge and skills through technological empowerment of the resource-poor. Apart from helping in increasing income through improved skills, this would also provide survival alternatives, thereby increase the holding power of the resource poor. New technology should strengthen the livelihood-security of rural families. Although much of the yield-increasing technologies, which have led to green revolution is size-neutral, they are not resources-neutral and benefit primarily those who posses resources. (Use of seed and fertilizer bring benefits to those who have land). Technological-empowerment of the resource-poor, is an integrated process, which involve identification of technologies appropriate to the resource-poor (skill development), adaptation to the socioeconomic conditions; internationalization through training and incorporation into the daily routine, translation into production activity by securing access to capital, support for infrastructure, marketing and risk aversion, and organization for group action.

Empowerment of women

Value added jobs through skill-development and income- earning opportunities are the means to empower women in the rural areas. Programs and projects that focus on skill development provide greater opportunities for skilled jobs, facilitating a certain flexibility in time, place and duration of work, and support income-earning activities, should help in increasing the income of women. Even illiterate women can be trained in highly skilled activity, such as hybrid seed production (hybrid cotton seed production in India, for instance). Women saving groups and channeling credit through Grameen Banks (Rural banks) in Bangladesh is a successful experience in generating income and employment for women. Integration of agricultural production programs with programs for improving access to fuel wood, safe drinking water, and sanitation can relieve women of much of the burden of maintaining the household.

Integration of production with processing and marketing

Productivity increases per se may not increase employment opportunities in the rural areas. Agricultural growth in synergy with opportunities for off-farm employment only can help reduce rural poverty. Opportunities for employment and retaining a greater portion of the income, rest in value-addition through processing and production conversion and marketing. Linking production with processing and marketing into an integrated system by groups of farmer producers should be fostered to secure larger gains from production. China's experience through its 'Spark' program leading to the growth of township enterprises, show that millions of jobs can be created through a mixture of enterprises.

Investment in post harvest systems

Neither producers nor consumers will benefit from production advance if there is a mismatch between production and post-harvest technologies. Whole plant utilization methods and preparation of value-added products from the available biomass are important for enhancing income and for ensuring good nutritional and consumer acceptance properties. Drying, storage and marketing techniques should be such that not only do they not make much demand on nonrenewable sources of energy, but also prevent qualitative damage to food grains or other agricultural commodities. Qualitative aspects of food storage and distribution are urgently needed, but more investment in research and training is needed.

Fostering group action

Access to credit, investment capital, infrastructure and marketing support are the major constraints for diversifying income generating activities by the resource-poor in the rural areas. Group action can help secure access to credit and capital, share infrastructure facilities and reduce marketing costs. Cooperatives and parastatal corporations have not succeeded in meeting the needs of the resources-poor. Often such organizations have become impersonal and non-responsive to the needs of the participants, as they become large monolithic structures. One alternative is to forge solidarity and action through autonomous groups joining hands for specific purposes. Group action is largely for securing credit, sharing facilities and marketing. Production activities are undertaken independently. Such organizations by virtue of their small size and ownership, vest with the success of group action by the resource poor through Grameen Banks in securing credit and investment capital is worthy of emulation in the developing countries.

Establishment of integrated producers' organization

Large-scale corporate operations have not only the advantage of scale, but also access to state-of-the-art technology, capital, infrastructure and marketing. The same can be achieved through agribusiness consortia, which combine production, processing and marketing functions and close linkages between primary producers and private industry in the form of joint sector operations and owned and managed by farmers themselves. The role of diary cooperatives in India in strengthening the power of the producers and bringing benefit to the consumers, is illustrative.

Access to common property resources (CPR) by the resource-poor

Common property resources such as wastelands, grazing lands, woodlot, open inland water bodies, estuarine waters are the relatively underutilized land and water resources remaining in many developing countries. Facilitating the participation in the development of, and giving access to, usufruct of the CPR, can improve the income and asset-base of the resource-poor. Such opportunities exist in the development of wastelands for community forestry, grazing lots, and fuel wood plantations, conservation of soil, water harvesting; water bodies such as tanks and lakes for fresh water aquaculture ; estuarine waters for brackish water aquaculture.

Direct interventions for employment generation

Income and employment-generation through agricultural growth and production is the sustainable means to make a dent in poverty enduring in many developing countries. Eradication of poverty and ensuring food-security through this route will take a longer time to realize. In the interregnum, the harshness of poverty can be mitigated only through direct interventions, such as rural public works. Carefully designed and implemented programs of this kind have succeeded not only in mitigating poverty, but also has helped in creating community assets, building infrastructure and improving the environment. The massive rural employment program in India, and the food for development program implemented in several developing countries the World Food Programme are illustrative of the capabilities of rural development works in poverty mitigation. Such programs are critical in mitigating transient or seasonal, food- insecurity to vulnerable groups such as marginal farmers, landless and rural artisans.

Targeted interventions

Appropriately targeted safety nets such as public distribution system, and interventions in food and nutrition, such as the noon meal program in schools, feeding programs for children and nursing mother have key impact in alleviating food- insecurity among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. These instruments should be sharpened in their application to targeted groups, and continue to be in the arsenal of weapons in fighting food insecurity.

* Chairman and Fellow respectively, M.S. Swaminathan Research

Foundation, Madras, India - 600 113.

** Unless otherwise specified the definition and countries

identified as developing countries and developed countries

by the United Nations and various UN agencies are followed.

[1] World's population has grown since 1950 from 2.5 billion to 5.3 billion 1994. Developing countries with 77% of the world's people accounted for much of that growth. World population is expected to reach 6.25 billion by the end of this century, 7.2 billion in 2020 and 8.9 billion in 2030.

[2] Between the years 1970 and 1990 adult literacy in the developing countries increased from 46% to 64% narrowing literacy gap with developed countries from 54% to 36%. Similarly, between 1960 and 1990 average life expectancy in the developing countries went up from 46 to 63 years as against 69 to 75 years in the developed countries, reducing the gap from 27% to 8%; infant mortality decreased by one half from 150 to 74 against 37 to 13 per thousand live birth, widening the gap from three to five times; increased nutritional level (daily calorie supply) from 90 to 109 per cent of the requirement against 124 to 134 per cent narrowing the gap from 27% to 19%; and drinking water from 40 to 68 per cent of the population against 100 per cent in the developing countries, reducing the gap from 60% to 32%.

[3] In 1989 the top one fifth of population of the richest countries shared 82.7% of the GNP, 81.2% of the world trade, 94.6% of the commercial lending, 80.6% of the domestic savings and 80.5% of the domestic investment. In contrast corresponding figures for the bottom one fifth of the poorest countries are 1.4%, 1.0%, 0.2% ,1.0% and 1.3% respectively.

[4] With about one-fourth of the world's population, the countries of the North consume 46% of world's cereal, 70% of its energy, 75% of its metals, 85% of its wood and 60% of its food.

[5] Countries with the richest one-fifth of world population increased their share of global GNP from 70.2% to 82.7% between 1960 and 1989, while the share of the countries with the poorest one-fifth of world population fell from 2.3% to 1.4%. The income inequalities exacerbated during this period with the top one-fifth receiving 60 times more than the bottom one-fifth in 1989, against 30 times only in 1960.

[6] The richest one fifth of the world's people get at least 150 times more than the poorest one-fifth due to maldistribution of income and wealth within the countries. Between 1960 and 1989, the absolute difference in per capita income between the top one- fifth and the bottom one fifth of world population, expressed in 1989 US dollars, increased from $ 1864 to $ 15149

[7] The GNP of the countries with the richest one-fifth of world population grew 2.7 times faster than the bottom one-fifth between 1960 and 1989.

[8] Countries of the North have, on a per capita basis, nine times the availability of scientists and technical personnel, five times the tertiary enrollment ratio and 24 times the investment in technological research over the nations of the South. With 18 times as many telephone connections per capita, six times as many radios and eight times as many newspapers, the countries of the North are far ahead of those of the South in communication infrastructure, which is very vital for economic development.

[9] World's resource base is being used to meet resource needs of 23% of the world's people living in industrialized countries of the North, earning 85% of the world's income.

[10] Of the world's 5.3 billion (1990) people, 1.4 billion are estimated to live in poverty, of which 1.2 billion inhabit the developing countries. If those living at the subsistence margin with only minimal necessities are included, the figure rises to nearly 2 billion.

[11] Of the poor, 80% in Latin America, 60% in Asia and 50% in Africa, live on marginal lands of low productivity, highly susceptible to environmental degradation - including arid lands, soils with low fertility, steep slopes and urban slums and squatter settlements. In 1984, an estimated 135 million people lived in areas affected by desertification, as against 57 million in 1977.

[12] Between 1950-90 the average addition per year has been 70 million, and during the years ahead the accretion is expected to be 90 million annually. Developing countries would account for 98% of the increase adding each year an extra 38 million people to the labor force, of which more than 700 million are today unemployed or underemployed.

[13] World population during the two decades between 1970 and 1990 grew at the rate of 1.8-1.9% per annum while agricultural production increased at 2.3% per annum. World production of cereals increased from 1129 million tones in 1969/71 to 1698 million tones in 1989/90. During the same period, the per caput cereal production rose from 305 kg to 327 kg and the per caput food supplies from 2120 cals/day to 2470 cals/day.

[14] Some 640 million tons of cereals (38%) of world's cereal production is diverted towards the production of livestock products: one-third of which, if used for human consumption, could raise the food availability to 3000 calories. In developed countries, only 23% cereals was used for direct consumption, while 61% was used for feed, in contrast to 71% and 17% respectively in the developing countries.

[15] Food availability per caput varied considerably from 3600 calories in North America and 3500 in Europe to 2200 calories in South Asia and 2100 in Sub-Saharan Africa. Population of the developed countries accounting for only 24% of the world population consumed 46% of food produced. Food production was at the rate of 635 kg of cereals per caput.

[16] The proportion of chronically undernourished in the developing countries declined from 36% in 1969/71 to 20% in 1988/90 and their numbers from 941 million to 781 million. Some 330 million people constituting 8.5 percent of the population in the developing countries could receive only less than 2100 calories of food supply in 1988/90. But this group accounted for 80 percent numbering 1.7 billion thirty years ago.

[17] FAO study `Agriculture: Towards 2010' projects the world demand for cereals is expected to expand by 36% from 1 721 million tons in 1989 to 2 342 million tons in 2010 and the production also is estimated to have a matching increase of 38% from 1 698 million tons to 2342 million tons. However, production of cereals in the developing countries is expected to reach only 1 314 million tons in 2010 (55% increase) against the estimated demand for 1 476 million tons (58% increase), which would necessitate the import of 162 million tons of cereals. These countries imported 90 million tons of cereals in 1988/90 as the production was only 847 million tons against the demand for 931 million tons. Import is expected to increase both in proportion from 10 to 11 percent and in quantity from 90 to 162 million tons. In the developed countries the demand for cereals is expected to increase by 9% from 791 million tons to 866 million tons while the production by 21% from 850 million tons to 1028 million tons during the same time span.

[18] By 2010, globally the per caput calorie availability is expected to have improved from the present level of 2500 calories to 2700 calories. Near East/North Africa, East Asia (including China) and Latin America/Caribbean regions will have per caput calories around 3000. South Asia will still have 200 million people undernourished, and in sub-Saharan Africa 300 million people (32 percent of the population) will be under widespread malnutrition.

[19] Only 800 million ha are put under crops, out of the 2500 million hectares of potential arable land, of which 80% lie in the land abundant regions of sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America. Additional production needs only 90 million hectares of land. Increase in non-agricultural uses estimated is only 20 million hectares. Cropping intensity of existing cropped land is only 55%, as out of the some 760 million hectares only 600 million hectares is harvested. Lands under similar conditions in South Asia have a cropping intensity of 110 percent. Additional irrigated area required is 23 million, over and above the expansion needed to overcome the loss of existing area due to salinity and alkalinity. Fertilizer use is very low in many agroecological zones as it ranges widely from 11 kg (nutrients) per hectares in sub-Saharan Africa to 90 kg/hectares in the Near East/North Africa with the average of 62 kg/hectares, which is only one half of the developed countries.

[20] A World Bank study (Resources and Global Food Prospects: World Bank Technical Paper No. 184) based on the United Nations' population projections (from 5.1 billion in 1988 to 8.9 billion in 2030), estimated the world demand for all grains at 3.30 billion tons against 1988-89 level of 1.69 billion tons. The increase in demand for grains estimated in the developing countries is 169 percent from 0.87 billion tons to 2.35 billion tons while for the developed countries it is only 18 percent from 0.80 billion tons to 0.95 million tons.

[21] Even as early as 2010, the two major sources of protein will be adversely affected as a consequence of the decline, which is likely to set in (per caput availability of rangeland by 22 percent and fish catch by 10 per cent), if the present trend in resource use and population expansion continue. Similarly, a drop of 12 percent in per caput irrigated land which account for a third of world's harvest can be expected. The shrinkage in per caput cropland and forestland are estimated at 21 and 30 percent respectively. During the two decades the world traveled from Stockholm to Rio, 1.6 billion mouths were added to feed, while the farm lands lost 500 billion tons of top soil and concentration of green house gases increased by 9 percent.

[22] Signs of fatigue in the slow growth of food output. From 1950 to 1984, grain production increased at the rate of 3%, peaking at 344 kg per caput but between 1984-1992, the growth was less than 1% while the rate of population growth was twice. Similarly soybean production at 5.1 percent per annum between 1950-80, declined to 2.2 percent during 1980-92. Meat production followed the same trend, with annual rate growth of 4.0 percent during 1950-86, which dropped to 2.0 percent during 1986-92. More dramatic was the trend in fish production. Fish catch increased from 22 to 99 million tons at the rate of 4.0 percent per annum during 1950-88, but turned negative with -0.8 during 1988-92 and the per caput availability by 7 percent. Out of the 17 oceanic fisheries, 4 major ones are overfished. Decline in per caput availability will continue, if a catch of 100 million tons can not be sustained.

[23] The negative balance resulting from tree cutting and forest clearing over natural regeneration is a loss of 17 million hectares of tropical forests. The world is losing 60 million hectares of cropland, almost equal to China's cropland, through the loss of 24 billion tons of top soil. Loss in crops and livestock outputs resulting from the worldwide degradation of irrigated land, rainfed cropland and rangeland is estimated at $42 billion a year, equivalent to US grain harvest.

[24] Expansion of grainland area is coming to a halt. During 1951-81, grain harvested area increased by 24 percent, growing annually at the rate of 0.7; but between 1981-92, declined slightly. Newly added area balanced out with the loss of land due to erosion. Irrigated area expanded at the rate of 2.8 percent per annum until 1978, increasing per caput by one-third, but since then, growth rate declined to 1.2 percent, shrinking per caput irrigated area by 6 percent. 1950-1978 expanded 2.8% per year, enlarging the area per person by early one third. Between 1950-1984, fertilizer consumption growth averaged nearly 7%, but 1984-1992 increased less than 1% annually.

[25] Farmers in the United State would have to bear the cost of stress and drought resulting from a doubling of the green house gases in the atmosphere in 2025; this is reckoned a distinct possibility, estimated at $60 billion equivalent to 1 percent of the 1990 GNP, including $18 billion towards crop loss, $11 billion increased electricity for air conditioning, sea level rise $7 billion. Air pollution causes yield losses estimated at $3.5-7.0 billion out of annual harvest valued at $70 billion.

[26] A study commissioned by Oxford University on `Climate Change and World Food Supply' estimated that the impact of a possible increase in temperature (4 degree Celsius) induced by the green house effect, resulting from the increased emission of carbon dioxide on the world food supply system. By 2060, given the continuation of the current trends in economic growth rates (3% per year during 1990-2000 and 1.1% per year during 2000- 60), partial trade liberalization (50%) and medium population growth (10.2 billion), the net effect of climate change is to reduce the global cereal production (3286 million tones without climate change, against 1795 in 1990) by up to 5%; increase disparities in cereal production between the developed and developing nations, the former gaining and the latter losing; cereal production decreases and increase in population at risk of hunger ( 640 million or about 6%, against 530 million or 10% of the 1990 population) due to increase in price resulting from reduction in outputs. To minimize the adverse effects, the way forward is to encourage the agriculture sector to continue to develop crop breeding and management programmes for heat and drought conditions in combination with measures to slow the growth of human population. especially in the rural areas, on agriculture for income and employment compounds the situation. Although agricultural growth registered in the developing countries was able to cope with population growth, the share of agriculture in the GDP has declined significantly over the last three decades (an otherwise desirable indicator of economic development) [27]. Even if the developing nations are able to meet the future demand for food arising from increases in population and income, given the growing prospects in technology, and constraints in resources and institutional capabilities, chronic hunger and food insecurity for many households may still persist in many of these countries in a substantial way as the resources at their command are insufficient to have access to food. Improvement in food security is dependent upon the manner in which agriculture is made productive in the developing countries.

[27] Share of agriculture in GDP of the low income countries where most of world's food-insecure inhabit, declined from 42 percent in 1965 to 30 percent in 1991. When the population and GNP per capita increased annually at the rate of 2.2 percent and 3.0 percent respectively, the share of agriculture in GDP declined at the rate of 1.2 percent. Non-agricultural sector is rudimentary as to cushion off the impact of population pressure for income and employment. Agriculture is the engine of growth, not only for food, but for employment also. Even though land resource is abundant in relation to the needs for food production, it is under pressure when total demand for land to meet the requirements of the human population inhabiting the region is considered. Livestock production based on extensive grazing is an important economic activity. It is the primary form of asset and also a significant source of cash income for the rural households. As land ownership is communal and land has no market, livestock is almost the sole source of wealth and security. The socioeconomic urge is to possess more livestock by the households. The tendency is to increase stock numbers. Population is growing and the rate of growth is high. The demand for food is increasing. There is compulsion to increase the production of both food and livestock. Hence the competition for land between livestock production and food production is keen. Land degradation is high due to over grazing. Communal land ownership aggravates the problem. Therefore, despite the apparent abundance (in relation to food production) land becomes a scarce resource in relation to the needs of livestock population. Since livestock production is inextricably linked to the socioeconomic life of the rural population, balancing the use of land for food and livestock production is critical to ensuring sustainable food security in most of the countries in sub-Saharan Africa.


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