Editor’s Note: This month, that is June 2020, FII’s #MoodOfTheMonth is Feminism And Environment, where we invite various articles about the diverse range of experiences which we often confront while interacting with our natural as well as social surroundings. If you’d like to share your article, email us at email@example.com.
India is one of the largest producers of food. India is also one of the hungriest nations in the world. Irony seems to assume the role of truth in the land of the Indus. India shares a quarter of the global hunger burden despite the doubled increase in its food grain production. The Global Hunger Index (2018) ranks India at 103 out of 119 countries, while it is said to be one of the top 4 countries in the agricultural sector.
Further, 194.4 million people are reported to be undernourished although the food-waste amounts to 65 million tonne per annum. To combat these issues, the government has introduced important measures over the last 20 years. Some instances would be providing mid-day meals at schools, anganwadi systems to provide rations to pregnant and lactating mothers and subsidised grain for the BPL through a public distribution system. Nonetheless, Bharat Mata seems to be switching between the roles of Annapurna and The (unwilling) Hunger Artist.
When tracing the causes and the tugging the correlates, ‘climate change’ stands out due to its global influence. A UN report warns about the dire possibility of food crisis developing in several continents, simultaneously, due to climate change. According to the report, desertification and soil erosion, in human-inhabited spaces, is on the rise. Climate change is expected to lead to extreme weather conditions like floods, droughts, storms, heatwaves, wildfires etc. These conditions, says the report, threaten to disrupt, and over time shrink, the global food supply. The nutritional value of the crops is altered due to the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide. Prices of crops are predicted to leap, adversely affecting the developing countries. Especially India.
A Cyclical View
Vandana Shiva is a world-renowned ecofeminist who intuits the intertwined equation of hunger, food, and the environment. A volunteer in the Chipko Movement of the 70s, she abandoned her dreams of becoming a physicist, for what she calls her life mission – protection of biodiversity. Despite the debates surrounding her controversial pronouncements, Shiva has a strong fan following. Affluent in her rhetoric, Shiva dabbles with analogies and etymologies, coining poetic terms that charm the audience.
In a TedTalk, she condemns the ‘mechanistic’ way of thinking, as it fails to realise that all the issues like child malnutrition, climate change and land degradation are interconnected. Promoting a cyclical view of the ecological ethos, she highlights the interdependent matrix which people ignore. She further strongly opines that the “monocultural” system is ecocidal, as it ignores the diversity, further imposing the “empire of man over nature.”
Shiva argues that hunger is a socio-environmental problem. She claims that, “…different dimensions of the food and agriculture crisis linked to promotion of an ecologically, economically and socially non sustainable model of food production and distribution referred to by various names, such as the Green Revolution, Industrial Agriculture, Chemical Farming.” Negative productivity is rampant with low output and high input chemical industries where food is treated as a mere commodity. The agricultural sector prioritises the ‘yield’ over the need to actual feed people. And in this process, the resources are exploited and poisoned with harmful chemicals like “fertilisers”, which Shiva calls a “weapon of war”. Although the government has banned fertilisers, the farmers still have access to it, brainwashed into thinking that this is the only way.
Due to the possibility of drastic climatic changes in the future, scientists hope to genetically modify organisms to withstand the changes. Yet, Shiva stands against this, calling it a violation. Speaking out against global conglomerates that try to modify and patent seeds, she has established her very own NGO – Navdanya – where she has own seed bank. With her anti-globalisation stance, she opposes any paradigm of growth that exploits and destroys the invaluable resources of the world.
Crunch or Inefficient Distribution?
The conundrum arises when contemplating the statistic that nearly one-third of the food produced in the world every year gets lost or wasted despite 1.3 billion hungry mouths to feed. Besides the food loss that occurs during harvest or its handling, a significant amount is attributed to the inefficient supply chain management. While headlines announce ‘resource crunch’ that weighs down the Indian government desperate to feed a starving nation, statistics and numbers tell a different story. 10 months ago the Food Corporation of India had saturated its storage options, due to the ‘excess’ stock of food grain.
This has apparently been the case since the last 3 years. Food stocks were hoarded due to the government’s unwillingness to expand the scheme of public distribution mentioned above. And in this process, a massive amount of 71.8 lakh tonnes grain is, reportedly, unusable. This is heartbreaking considering how the pandemic has affected the starved. Even in the midst of this crisis, people are not receiving the additional or free grain they were supposed to. This leads one to question the efficiency of the resource distribution channels. Such loss indirectly impacts the environment too, as all the fertilisers used to grow the crops go in vain while damaging the soil. The amount of water used to irrigate the crops also goes the waste.
Also read: Earth Day In A Covid-19 Hit World
The food-security and anti-poverty schemes of the government seem to have critical gaps. Women and children are even more disadvantaged. Environmental breakdowns are leading to a shortage of food. All these issues need to be urgently addressed and worked upon. People are dying and so is the Earth. Despite fertile, diverse, and lush habitats, India seems to be creating a surplus of hungry despite a surplus of food.
Acknowledgements: Sanjivani Karki – Thank you for all the facts, stats, and supportive cheers. You’re an Earth Angel!
Featured Image Source: Feminism In India