Nature and Environment
Researches have estimated that, food production uses one-third of ice-free land and contributes to 70% of freshwater withdrawals, as well as 19-29% of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions globally.
At present some 11 percent (1.5 billion ha) of the globe's land surface (13.4 billion ha) is used in crop production (arable land and land under permanent crops). This area represents slightly over a third (36 percent) of the land estimated to be to some degree suitable for crop production. This implies agriculture alone is the largest use of land on this planet. Yet, roughly one-third of the food (1.3 billion tonnes) produced globally gets wasted or lost. Food losses and waste amounts to roughly US$ 680 billion in industrialized countries and US$ 310 billion in developing countries.
The situation becomes even more grim when we consider the rates of malnutrition globally. About 815 million people globally, regularly go to bed hungry. Children under five years of age face multiple burdens: 150.8 million are stunted (India accounts for one-third of the world's cases of child stunting), 50.5 million are wasted and 38.3 million are overweight. Many of these children would never reach their full physical and cognitive potential.
What we are doing to the forests of the world is but a mirror reflection of what we are doing to ourselves and to one another.
If we talk about India, the country is home to almost one-fifth of the global population, and has high rates of undernutrition as well as growing rates of obesity and non-communicable diseases (NCDs). Moreover, India is the 4th highest contributor to global GHG emissions, after China, the US, and the EU and agricultural irrigation accounts for 90% of freshwater use despite depleting groundwater reserves in some regions. Thus, the country is facing critical environmental and climate pressures on its ability to produce food. Sustainable food production and responsible food consumption therefore become central to the risks related to human health as well as environmental sustainability. In fact, goal # 12 of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development aims to ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns.
A sustainable food systems promote local and seasonal foods, prevent food loss and food waste, conserve water in food value chains, reduce use of chemicals in food production and presentation and use of safe and sustainable packaging. Typically, environment, economy and society form the three-pillars of sustainability.
The type of food and drink consumption pattern defines the food production resource utilization pattern in a community and marginal changes in diet patterns could significantly impact the ecological footprint and could make sustainable diet more achievable. For example, the environmental impact of producing beef and veal generates a footprint figure of 0.0157 global ha /kg (when consumed at home) as compared to fresh potatoes which has a footprint of 0.0003 gha/kg. This is because the production of beef and veal is more energy and resource intensive and requires larger areas of land. Thus, sustainable food consumption also becomes an important part of food ecology.
To achieve resilient food production systems, it would be required to merge the ecological and sociological approaches across multiple stakeholders from the farm to the global scale. This may start at farm gate with farmers making right choice of crop varieties in response to changing climatic conditions and diversification in livestock. At global scale, it would require coordinated implementation of adaptive strategies across farms, scientific and technical knowledge exchange to and among farmers.
We at Food Future Foundation, aim to help various stake holders along the food value chain to take decisions which is good both for the people and the planet. We wish to promote production and consumption of local and seasonal foods that are grown organically with biological solutions that not only help in reducing greenhouse gases but also encourages regional trade practices. Moreover, we aim to bring change in the community-level practices that could reduce wastage and promote recycling and reuse of food and food related products. Read our Vision 2050 to know more.