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An Interdisciplinary Approach to Global Challenges

Food Security in India

Nutritious food is a basic physical need, and essential for health and survival for all humans, as well as cognitive and physical development for children. In the industrialized world, too many empty calories in over-processed foods result in obesity and related health effects. In the developing world, hundreds of millions do not have access to foods in sufficient quantity and nutritious quality. Food security, as defined by the United Nations’ Committee on World Food Security, is the condition in which all people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life. Over the coming decades, a changing climate, growing global population, rising food prices, and environmental stressors will have significant yet highly uncertain impacts on food security. Agriculture is the single largest employer in the world, providing livelihoods for 40 per cent of today’s global population. It is the largest source of income and jobs for poor rural households. 500 million small farms worldwide provide up to 80 per cent of food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Investing in smallholder women and men is an important way to increase food security and nutrition for the poorest, as well as food production for local and global markets. Since the 1900s, some 75 per cent of crop diversity has been lost from farmers’ fields. Better use of agricultural biodiversity can contribute to more nutritious diets, enhanced livelihoods for farming communities and more resilient and sustainable farming systems. Yet even as hundreds of millions suffer from inadequate food and nutrition, it is estimated that globally, approximately 30-50% of all food produced is wasted. Food wastage is common in affluent regions, but wastage occurs even in poor regions. Rural farmers in developing countries have enough food during harvest season, but go hungry the rest of the year even as the food they have produced spoils because their inability to preserve foods in a cost-effective manner. Such mismatches in the supply and demand of nutritious foods – in both time and space, will be further exacerbated with increasing world population and resource-scarcity (e.g. arable land and water), climate change, and persistent poverty in parts of the world. While the root causes of food and nutritional insecurity are complex, engineering solutions to enhance agricultural productivity, food preservation and nutritional content of foods have the potential for important and global impact. Adaptation strategies and policy responses to global change, including options for handling water allocation, land use patterns, food trade, post-harvest food processing, and food prices and safety are urgently needed. These policy responses will be vital to improve the living conditions of farmers and rural populations across the globe. Additionally, where food quality is not adequate, increasing the nutritional content of foods and enhancing the absorption of available nutrients (e.g. essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals and macronutrients such as proteins) in foods can also help improve nutritional status. Economic growth is only sustainable if all countries have food security. Without country-owned and country-driven food security strategies, there will be obstacles and additional costs to global, regional, and country-level economic growth. Food security needs to encompass women and other vulnerable and disadvantaged groups. Food Security is only possible when the people who produce our food are able to earn a sustainable living wage growing, producing, processing, transporting, retailing, and serving sustainable foods. It is an essential component of sustainable communities as it contributes to the mental and physical health of community members and community resilience by reducing vulnerabilities to exogenous shocks.

Course Coordinator:
Program Officer:
  • Duration: 6 Months
  • Program Fee: Indian: 0 INR
  • + 91-124-4781400/ +91-124-4722900 ext.4228