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Global hunger index: india

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India has to put its complete attention towards family farming to ensure food security to feed its hundreds of millions of hungry people
AMIR HOSSAIN | Issue Dated: January 26, 2014, New Delhi
Tags : International Food Policy Research Institute |India |Dr Amarjit Singh |Human Resource Development |South Asia |Global Hunger Index |Welt Hunger Hilfe | |
 
The world has faced different problems at different times. Once the world used to face deadly phenomena like famines, but the scenario has improved over time. Norman Borlaug, notably the Father of the Green Revolution, was credibly successful in launching the Green Revolution to save over a billion people from starvation, worldwide. Today, the world is not facing famines on a mass scale anymore, but that doesn’t mean that all is hunky dory. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) 2013, recently published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Welt Hunger Hilfe (WHH), exposed that there are still 870 million people globally who suffer from hunger on a continuing basis.
 
The report also found that it is South Asia, and not sub-Saharan Africa, which has the highest number of starving people; sub-Saharan Africa of course came second. And the report shows the sorry state of India, one of the largest economies in the world, by mentioning that India has witnessed only marginal improvement in addressing this issue; the scenario is clearly disappointing compared to other emerging economies. On the context of the GHI report, Additional Secretary in the Ministry of Human Resource Development Dr Amarjit Singh did express his agony in media, “Unfortunately, the Global Hunger Index [ranking] in India has stagnated even when the gross national income per capita has doubled.”
 
The Global Hunger Index is calculated by IFPRI and related bodies to assess and track hunger across the globe. The GHI majorly considers three equally weighted indicators i.e., undernourishment, child underweight and child mortality to reflect the multidimensional nature of hunger. The GHI comes with a rank of countries every year on a 100-point scale where zero indicates no hunger, and hundred indicates complete hunger. The main objective of this study is to prompt actions to decrease hunger by creating awareness and understanding of regional and country divergence in hunger and starvation. The GHI 2013 highlights that there are 19 countries which fall under the “Extremely alarming” or “Alarming” levels of hunger. Without any surprise, 15 out of the 19 countries are in Africa. Haiti, India, Timor-Leste, and Yemen make up the rest. In the same light, three African nations i.e., Burundi, Comoros, and Eritrea are tagged as having extremely alarming hunger levels.
 
Surprisingly, India has been ranked in the almost same position (around 60s) out of 79 nations based on the GHI score during the last 12 years. The nation has enjoyed a marginal improvement from 22.9 in 2012 to 21.3 in the GHI scores but it still belongs to the category of alarming hunger. To further the shame, as mentioned earlier, India is one amongst only three countries outside sub-Saharan Africa to fall in this category. More so, one of the fastest growing economies continues to trail behind its weak and small neighbours like Nepal, Pakistan and Bangladesh on the index. It is difficult to digest this but the reality is that even war-torn Rwanda fares better than India on GHI. Surprisingly, India’s lack of significant ranking change contradicts the fact that the much touted mid-day meal scheme (claimed to be the world’s largest school-feeding programme) apparently claims to benefit 12 crore children.
 
Clearly, such claims are not being evidenced through ground research by multinational research agencies. According to the report, India continued to maintain the legacy of a record number (almost 40 per cent) of children under five who are underweight. “Social inequality and the low nutritional, educational, and social status of women are major causes of child under-nutrition in this [South Asian] region,” the report says. Even other emerging nations have fared better than India in their efforts to reduce hunger significantly. For instance, while China has been able to improve its ranking by 57.69 per cent between 1990 and 2013, India has witnessed an improvement of only 34 per cent in the same period. Brazil has been recognised as a nation which is doing its best to fight hunger. Even countries like Venezuela, Mexico, Cuba, Ghana, Thailand and Vietnam have been praised, improving their GHI scores by more than 55 per cent.
 
If the Green Revolution was the solution to the food crisis 50 years ago, then family farming may well pull out hundreds of millions of people from hunger. As per the study conducted by Food and Agriculture Organization in 93 countries, family farmers hold over 80 percent of all 500 million family farms worldwide. Eventually, they are the main custodians of global food security. Unfortunately, more than 70 per cent of the world’s food insecure population lives in rural areas in developing countries. Family farming clearly could be a pivotal part of the solution to food security and sustainable development. If you didn’t know this, the United Nations has already announced 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming. Ironically, many in India wouldn’t even understand the meaning of family farming.
 
India should reinforce the essence of family farming to ensure that the hunger millions suffer within the nation, is reversed, and soon. The Indian government must put its attention towards family farmers and should provide support that they deserve to revive the agriculture sector. And for that, we need programmes (both financial and otherwise) to be targeted directly towards family farmers rather than at just agriculturists. The moment to start this is now; we’ve already lost decades post Independence. We shouldn’t lose any more time. 
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Issue Dated: Feb 5, 2017