Improved productivity in developing countries key to ensuring food security, nutrition and meeting SDG commitments: Additional Secretary, MoA&FW, GoI

New Delhi: Dr Alka Bhargava, Additional Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture & Farmers’ Welfare, Government of India today said that 90 per cent of the global food production increase required by 2050 is projected to take place in developing countries. “Land being finite, improved productivity in developing countries will be the key to ensuring food security and nutrition. All this becomes even more important as we get close to our SDG commitments,” she said.

Addressing the 2nd Edition of the ‘National Summit on Investing in future through sustainable water use and management in agriculture’, organized by FICCI, Dr Bhargava said that it is now time for us to get into the cross sectoral synergy and take the issue of increasing water use efficiency forward. “Increase in demand and productivity needs to be done within the consideration of sustainable use of natural resources, most important among which is water. This scenario becomes more complex as 86 per cent of our farmers are small and marginal. There needs to be a focus on the targeted approach of increasing efficiency through micro irrigation and change of cropping patterns in regard to agro climatic conditions,” she said.

She emphasised on the focus of efficient use of water in areas under canal irrigation that will not only increase crop productivity but will also increase its availability over large areas of land. “We are talking with the Department of Jal Shakti as to how micro irrigation can give the last mile connectivity to canal area development. We need to develop a working model for efficient irrigation by using groundwater,” she added.

Further, Dr Bhargava spoke about building farmers’ database that has been taken up by the ministry. “PM Kisan database is being linked with digital land records. We are also making efforts at state level to give real-time advisories to farmers that will help them be better prepared in dealing with exigencies,” she said.

Mr Nand Kishor, Director Horticulture cum Mission Director, State Horticulture Mission, Govt of Bihar stated that Government of Bihar has initiated innovative steps to enhance the sustainability of water use in agriculture, taking into consideration both drought and flood effected areas, viz., drip irrigation, ‘Har khet ko pani’, ‘Jal Jeevan Hariyali Abhiyan’ in Bihar, etc. He further elaborated that the need of the hour is to focus on convergence of such initiatives to maximize effectiveness and results. He also emphasized on encouraging the adoption of such initiatives by the beneficiaries through modes of technology demonstrations, trainings, sensitization on the benefits, awareness programmes and easing the adoption process as well.

Mr PVS Surya Kumar, Deputy Managing Director, NABARD said that while all of us know that water is the elixir of life, there is still a need to put focused actions on how sustainable water use management practices be maximized in Indian agriculture. We need to think and act together towards this, he added.

Mr TR Kesavan, Chair, FICCI National Agriculture Committee and Group President, TAFE Ltd emphasized that there is an absolute need for integrated water policy at the national level that is backed up by the state-level in the context of agricultural water use. “It is also important to create awareness about newer technologies available for the farmers and change their mindsets regarding saving water. We need to measure productivity per litre of water,” he said.

Dr Ajai Kumar, Head of Government and Industry Affairs, South Asia, Corteva Agriscience said, “Water stewardship is at the very core of Sustainability of agriculture. Sustainability will be the license to operate in global economy. This will only be possible when all stakeholders i.e. agriculture industry, policy-makers and regulators align while keeping farmers at its centre in making agriculture Climate Positive.”

Mr Ashok Varma, Partner & Head, Social sector Advisory Practice, PwC and knowledge partner to the initiative said, “Water use efficiency in Agriculture is imminent as it utilises maximum proportion of underground water. A strategic crop diversification plan backed up by precision technology through community participation would be a way ahead.”

Mr Kaushal Jaiswal, Managing Director, Rivulis Irrigation India said, water is a critical input for agricultural production. Incentivising farmers to improve water use, devising easier financing options for small and marginal farmers and bringing coherence in Government schemes is a matter of prime consideration.

Mr RG Agarwal, Chairman, Dhanuka Group also put forth his views on sustainable water use and management in agriculture and mentioned that farmers need to be empowered with knowledge on water smart technologies. This will make them more competitive, he said.

Mr Dilip Chenoy, Secretary General, FICCI said that the summit reflects FICCI’s high priority to water conservation and sustainable use and management in agriculture. “It is also an opportunity to focus on efficiency improvements of overall water usage. We aim to bring to light many of the innovative and impactful projects undertaken by the agri-business industries for water use management, particularly in high water intensive crops. Mr Chenoy further added that sustainable water management has a huge role to play in doubling farmers’ income.

The FICCI Compendium on Good practices: Sustainable management of Water in Agriculture was released at the inaugural session today. The compendium is FICCI’s efforts to disseminate noteworthy information about the commendable projects undertaken by the corporate and other institutions in the field of water smart technology. The case studies highlight how interventions of respective companies have made a far-reaching impact in optimising water usage for increase productivity of the farmers.

The FICCI-PwC Knowledge Report: Creating an ecosystem for increasing water use efficiency in Agriculture was also released at the event. The report focuses on creating an ecosystem for increasing water use efficiency in agriculture.