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Food Security and Biodiversity

Mains -GS3- Environment

1. Achieving food security is a major priority of every responsible government and most have attained it in recent decades.

2. The agricultural sector has significantly increased productivity and reduced the number of food-insecure people but with high costs to nature.

3. The intensification of monoculture-based agriculture has led to the transgression of ecological boundaries.

4. Agriculture is one of the major threats to the biosphere integrity, biogeochemical flows, land-system change and freshwater use. It is also a major contributor to climate change.

5. Degraded soils and ecosystems, depleted water sources and reduced biodiversity are a result of agriculture, forestry and other land use.

Managing Land and Nature

1. The land is a finite resource that has to feed nearly a billion people. But climate change also needs to be mitigated by reducing GHG emissions.

2. So, it is imperative to manage nature, increase agricultural yield, while meeting the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 of ‘Zero Hunger’.

3. Consensus on environmental management in the agriculture sector is needed at 2 levels,

a. Governments supported by international partnerships have to develop policy objectives for the adoption of agro-ecological approaches on rural development.

b. On-the-ground partnerships between farmers and conservationists to conserve soil biodiversity.

4. Conservation of soil biodiversity and soil organic carbon (SOC) through sustainable farming practices is essential to improve upon agricultural land health and productivity.

5. Improved soil biodiversity is correlated with an increase in carbon stored in the soil. It sequesters organic carbon, acts as a natural carbon sink and reduces GHG emissions from agriculture.

6. By increasing the production of maize, wheat and rice through economically viable and environmentally sound agronomic practices, the organic carbon in agricultural soils can be increased.

Benefits of Increased Soil Carbon

1. Increase in soil moisture with balancing hydrological cycles. It has the potential to reduce reliance on irrigation, with estimated global savings of $44 billion per year.

2. Enhances soil biodiversity. It could increase resilience for vulnerable farming communities, and reduce exposure to risks associated with climate change such as floods, droughts and storms.

3. Increase in potential productivity differs by region and could be the highest in developing countries.

4. It can help increase food security, reduce the need for inorganic fertilisers and offset the demand for further conversion of natural habitats for agriculture.

5. India that produces almost 16% of its GDP from agriculture would greatly benefit.

Way Forward

1. Sustainable agriculture can transform agriculture into a nature-based solution to the most pressing societal challenges.

2. It can contribute to regulating the climate, enhancing water security and providing habitats to countless species.

3. Future policy needs to guide the farming and conservation community to work together in

a. Feeding the world and

b. Promoting sustainable, viable and applicable agroecological practices towards sequestering carbon and conserving the rich diversity of life.

Source: Down To Earth