“Focusing on agriculture and allied sector and supporting micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs), can strengthen local economy and livelihoods. Women farmers are key focus under the Rural Livelihood Mission initiative of MoRD, and custom hiring centres and tool banks are being promoted to create livelihood opportunities” said Mr Nagendra Nath Sinha, Secretary, Ministry of Rural Development, Government of India during his keynote address on Advancing equitable livelihoods at the CII National Dialogue on Agri & Food: Actions towards strengthening Food Systems in India.
In India, Agriculture, with its allied sectors, is the largest source of livelihoods in India with 82 percent of farmers being small and marginal. However, the key issues are around low incomes, high regional disparity in farmer incomes and absence of land ownership.
With policy focus shifting to enhancing farmer incomes Government of India devised the vision of “Doubling farmers Incomes’ which requires farm incomes to grow at 10.4 per cent, at constant base-year prices. Towards attaining the vision one of the focus areas is aggregating farmers into collectives. Regarding the significance of Farmer Producer Organisation Models in India, Mr. P K Swain, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, mentioned ‘Scaling the Farmer producer Organization Model with better access to markets and infrastructure is a key focus area of Government of India towards advancing equitable livelihoods’.
Private sector is also increasingly partnering in value chains development and new partnerships are emerging for market linkages, enhancing exports, technology uptake as well as value addition and infrastructure creation. This is helping the food systems evolve and become self-sufficient. Dr Han Ulaç Demirag, Country Director & Head of South Asia Hub, International Fund for Agriculture Development, India, mentioned during his address that ‘‘Food systems must be self-sustaining to ensure they are able to significantly contribute to the goal of sustainable livelihoods’.
Speaking about advancing equitable livelihoods for India through advancing Food Systems, Mr Bishow Parajuli, Country Director & Representative, World Food Programme India, said ‘Equitable Food systems foster capabilities towards protecting nature, adapting to climate change and improving food and nutrition security in the country’.
Highlighting the global framework being discussed around Advancing equitable livelihoods Mr Karl Deering, Director, Care International mentioned ‘Scaling the skills and capabilities of vulnerable and marginalized people in the food supply chain offers opportunity for generating employment & advancing equitable livelihood’.
Given that rural population of India is by far the largest both in terms of number and in percentage among the major economies of the world, the Government is focussing on sustainable and inclusive growth of rural India through a multipronged strategy for eradication of poverty by increasing livelihoods opportunities, providing social safety net and developing infrastructure for growth. Mr. S Sivakumar, Group Head Agri & IT Businesses, ITC LTD, mentioned said ‘Models such as cooperatives, connected value chains, and leveraging digital technologies can further help us in scaling the process of equitable livelihoods’.
While efforts are being made by both public and private sectors towards advancing equitable livelihoods and moving India towards meeting the SDGs of No Poverty and Zero Hunger, more needs to be done. The session focused on models contributing to promoting full and productive employment and decent work for all actors along the food value chain, enabling entrepreneurship and addressing the inequitable access to resources and distribution of value and deliberate on a future roadmap to ensure that food systems “leave no one behind.”
The Session also saw a vibrant panel discussion, chaired by Mr. Rajeev Ahal, Director, Natural Resource Management, GIZ, which focused on suggestions towards addressing inequitable access to resources and distribution of value towards advancing equitable livelihoods.
The panellists, Mr. Amrendra Mishra, Managing Director, ADM; Mr Sunil Kajaria, CEO, Keventer Agro; Ms Reema Nanavaty, Director, SEWA; Ms Ruchi Jain, CEO, Taru Naturals; and Mr Ganapathy Ajeethan, General Secretary, Tamil Nadu Banana Growers Federation concurred that mapping of agro ecological system for small farmers and women workers across value chains along with better access to technology and investments could be a way forward to scale up the process.
The Session was part of a 2-day National Dialogue organized by CII on Actions towards strengthening Food Systems in India, aligned with the UN Food Systems Summit 2021.
The multistakeholder National Dialogue focused on scaling actions towards feeding the most populous nation on this planet by 2030 in a sustainable manner.