Climate change and concerns of food security in India


Nothing in the universe is permanent, change is inevitable as long as nature exists.  Stagnancy is against the law of nature. Even the overwhelming climate change cannot escape from the clutches of this dynamic state. Perhaps this vigorous change in climate might be natural or anthropogenic. But the anthropogenic actions are highly perilous and more efficacious than the natural phenomenon of occurrence. The menace of climate change is the most dreadful environmental issue in the 21st century and its effect can be observed even in food production and sustainability. As a result, climate change has become one of the core topics of scientific and political debates recently. “Unlike the past, it brought a uniform consensus among scientists,  politicians, policy-makers, administrators, and the common people alike that the climate has changed and that it is still changing” (IPCC[1], 2007). Its drastic impact can be seen in every nook and corner of the world irrespective of rich and poor or north and south. “Furthermore, scientists are confident about the truth that the increase in greenhouse gases will lead to superfluous enhance in global climate change” (Haughton et al 1996). Keeping this in mind, many of the countries across the world are concerned about the social and economic consequences of climate change in the agriculture sector (Watson et al, 1996). It was noted that most of the studies were only focusing on developed countries rather than developing or underdeveloped countries. Unlike the developed countries, they are facing food insecurity, which is the unavailability and non-accessibility of food. “security exists when all people at all times have physical or economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for active and healthy life” (FAO, 1996). It is very difficult to explain food security as it is very complex and multidimensional which cannot be restricted to specific areas. The paper aims to solve the problems of food security concerning climate change in an Indian context. We will see the problems existing in the country and the relevant adaptation methods to mitigate the effect under different stakeholders.  Then we will see some case studies across the globe and the possible methods to tackle the problem of food security during climate change. Finally, we will incorporate those methods in India and try to analyze how it works. Also, we will look at the limitations of such methods and try to solve them. This review is important in this scenario because we are on the verge of a climate catastrophe that can create food scarcity in the whole world.

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Majority of the Indian population mainly depends upon climate sensitive sectors such as forestry, agriculture and fishing. Due to this reason, climate change is an important concern of India. The impact of climate change is more and more visible day by day. If it is not addressed in proper time, then it can destroy the harmonious life in India, thereby breaking its equilibrium state. “It will become more difficult to ensure food security under the changing climate for countries like India where more than one-third of the population is estimated to be poor and one-half of all children are malnourished in one way or another” (Dev and Sharma, 2010). Since the impact of climate change on the agrarian sector of India is a very complex phenomenon, it is difficult to observe directly.. For the detailed discussion about the impact of climate change on food security we have taken the four components of it and discussed the impact of climate change on these components in an Indian context.

The negative impact of climate change on agriculture has serious implications for developing countries like India because more than half of the Indian population mainly depends on agriculture to eradicate poverty and hunger.  Analyzing it in depth, we can understand that climate change will collapse the food production and increase its demand in the economy.  India, being one the most populous and powerful countries in the world, researches and their solid evidence supports that there is a negative correlation between the productivity in agricultural sectors in India and the increase in extreme and frequent drought and floods. The world Bank 2010 noticed that ‘‘domestic food prices have tracked the upsurge in global food prices, exacerbated by droughts’’ (p. 28).  An attempt made by Nelson et al. (2009)  to analyze and assess the impacts of climate change on global production have found that crop production in India is likely to be severely affected by climate change. “Researchers estimated that 10% and 15% of Indian crops are likely to harm due to global rise in temperature in between the year 2020 and 2030 respectively” (World Bank, 2013).  According to an economic discussion paper 2013, Kumar and Sharma suggest that climate change in India will severely affect the food security in four dimensions; food availability, food accessibility, food utilization and food system stability. “By 2080, the expected output we get from agriculture in India may decline by 20 percentage but may only decrease 6 percentage in the industrial countries” (Masters et al., 2010). These observations tell us the hidden terrific problem in an Indian context, about 70 percent of people and their families who live by agriculture, aquaculture and fishing will suffer a lot by decrease in their GDP level.

This is the time to discuss the relationship between climate change and its struggle with food security. “Food security is directly related to climate change because any variability in climatic factors can directly affect a country’s ability to feed its people” (Ahmad et al., 2011). Since detecting how climate change affects the components of food security, the negative effects contributed by climate change in soil fertility, crop yields, and diseases can cause a decline in the food production, which can directly affect the availability of food.  As a result it will impact on economic growth, agricultural demand and income distribution and thereby the stability and food supplies will be collapsed. The other component which affects climate change is the food accessibility, in which we can obtain food through production, stocks, purchases, and even by borrowing. Extreme climate change can affect these factors of accessibility which can destroy the economic capacity to afford the food needed for the survival of the population. Edame argued that “Climate change may also negatively affect the economic capacity of the population to access the food due to any increment in food prices” (Greg et al., 2011).  Similarly, food stability is the periodic availability of food on a regular basis in the domestic market, climate change reduces the regular supply, and nutrient security. Researches argued that “Stability of food, crop yields, and food supplied is negatively affected due to any variation in climatic variables” (Greg et al., 2011). The utilization of food may be adversely affected by climate variation which could make quality less, toxic food and reduction in nutrition of food which may cause serious health hazards. The argument of this problem here is that “Utilization of food also may be adversely affects by climate variation, it reduces real nutrition contents of food; and it may increase the several health problems” (Greg et al., 2011). The overall impact of climate change could lead to a major decline in agricultural production and employment of the population, posing a serious threat like famine, insecurity of food, poverty and malnutrition.

The main problem of the Indian agricultural sector is the low productivity. In order to meet India’s growing food demand during climate catastrophes, to feed its people, we need to increase production in all sectors of agriculture. In view of the climate change in the Indian agriculture, agro-related practices need to be reorganized to provide a better climate rehabilitation institution. In the context of this paper, we will look into the existing models of adaptation techniques for food security in India organized by both the private and public sectors. India has been aiming at self-sufficiency in food grains since Independence. The green revolution in the early 70’s has avoided famine even during adverse weather conditions. The availability of food grains at the country level has further been ensured with a carefully designed food security system by the government. The system has a buffer stock and public distribution system as two components. The introduction of Public Distribution System in India dates back to the 1940’s against the backdrop of the Bengal famine. The public sector including the government are administering programs for poverty alleviation.  During the last few years, the Government has initiated many programs like Sampoorna Gramin Rozgar Yojana, Annapoorna Yojana, Antyodaya Anna Yojana, and Universal Noon-meal program for School children” (Swaminathan 2001). Therefore, the launch of a National Food Guarantee Scheme will help to ensure that all those who are hungry today due to catastrophes like climate change or other restrictions can eat for a productive and a healthy life. India started to mitigate the effects of food security from a base level, scientists use to produce a variety of seeds to solve this issue. In a research paper written by Malancha Chakrabarty argues that, “India needs to step up public investment in development and dissemination of crop varieties which are more tolerant of temperature and precipitation fluctuations and are more water- and nutrient-efficient” (Chakrabarty 2016).

Co-operatives play an important role in food security. Especially in the southern and western parts of the country. Co-operatives set up shops to sell goods to the poor at low prices. For example, ninety four per cent of the fair price shops operating in Tamil Nadu are run by co-operatives. “Mother Dairy is making progress in providing milk and vegetables to the consumers at the controlled rates fixed by the Delhi Government. Amul is another success story of milk and dairy co- operatives from Gujarat. It brought about a white revolution in the country. The Academy of Grain Bank program is recognized as a successful and innovative food security intervention” (Ncert 2019). However, less efforts are made towards addressing the long term relief measures in the event of natural disasters on agricultural and productivity.  In Chakrabarty’s ORF issue brief article, he argues that a recent report by NITI Aayog suggests that “The Government should transfer a minimum specified sum of cash to affected farmers and landless workers as an instant relief. On top of this relief, the report recommends a commercially viable crop insurance program for the affected farmers who want insurance” (Chakrabarty 2016).   The climate-smart agricultural services which have the ability to reduce environmental degradation and increase the crop yield are not yet introduced into the mainstream mitigation and adaptation strategies. “Developing cost-effective technology or supporting businesses that invest in environment-friendly urban development has not taken off. This has prevented well-conceived strategies for mitigation from becoming self-sustaining” (J. Ahmad, 2013; Dutta et al., 2013; Ray, 2011; E. Somanathan et al., 2009). The recent Neo-Liberal policy aims to secure food security in a changing climate. “The neoliberal food regime which is also referred to as, food from nowhere regime or corporate food regime”, as reported by (McMichael, 2009) is actually the result of neoliberalism that had taken an important role in shaping the global economy over a range of last thirty years.

Since agriculture is the most weather dependent and climate sensitive sector, it will be affected by most of the climate phenomenon manifest due to climate change. There is a need for adaptation and mitigation policies so as to address and check the problem. The government should take a leading role along with civil society and non-state actors. Climate change adaptation strategies are now a matter of urgency, especially for the most vulnerable communities, which are even now being disproportionately affected. Integrated strategies involving adaptation, mitigation priorities and short and long-term approaches are required to generate significant benefits for food security, and climate change adaptation and mitigation. However, agriculture needs a strong presence in climate change negotiations. There are constraints which include lack of sufficient data, monitoring and policy as well as institutional frameworks. Innovative policy options already exist and new strategies are being developed continuously and are expected to provide necessary mechanisms to promote more resilient adaptation and mitigation practices without compromising food security. The computable general equilibrium model in the Global trade policy analysis project conducted an analysis to estimate the consequences of climate- crop yield induced changes on an international scale. They observed that “South Asian countries like India are likely to be negatively impacted with respect to their trade and economic efficiency” (Hertel et al. (2010).  Another project on Climate change combined with demand for alternative energy possibly from biofuels produced from food crops is capable of reducing the availability of land, and water for food production. Bioenergy can contribute to rural income, supply rural households with electricity and heat, and mitigate climate change by substituting fossil fuels. However, if biofuels are produced unsustainably, their contribution to mitigate climate change will be negative. It is the challenge of how best to respond to the new opportunities, while making sure people can continue to grow or buy adequate food.

Though the Government of India had planned several schemes and services to reduce the impact of climate change in agriculture, they are not working properly because of political, cultural and regional diversity across the country. An observation and study made by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, argued that due to the possible climate shifts across the Indo-Gangetic plains of South Asia, there are regions extended about 12 million hectares from Pakistan across the neighboring countries such as India and Bangladesh which grows 15% of the worlds wheat. According to the study, by 2050 more than half of its area may become heat-stressed for wheat, with a significantly shorter season for the crop. Similarly, a critical case analysis and study called “Tackling Regional Climate Change Impacts and Food Security Issues”, introduces some models, policies and new and innovative techniques to reduce the effects of climate change in the agriculture and food security impacts adopting tools taken by other countries to solve the same issues. They used policy planning and method analysis to bring security in the food system. They utilized local aspects to understand and evaluate climate change in ASEAN[2], PIF[3] and SAARC,[4] which includes Proper planning, Implementation, Cooperation, legal obligation and international contribution. ASEAN faced the problem of higher prices in food, storing perishable goods as well as competition within agricultural industries. The ASEAN Sustainable Agro-food Systems 2014 report noted that “the market interventions often result in winners and losers; the need to help protect consumers and assist agricultural producers has led to the AIFS [5]and SPA-FS [6]frameworks” (Saidul et al., 2020). The key components of ASEAN integrated food security systems are food security emergency procurement relief, sustainable food trade development with periodic driven food markets and trade, integrated security information systems, and agricultural innovations to encourage greater investment in food. They identify and address emerging issues related to agro-based industries and food security. The final component is the nutritional development of agricultural growth, which uses nutritional information to support food security and agricultural policies based on evidence. Identify “nutrition-enhancing agricultural development policies, institutional and administrative systems in ASEAN member states, develop and strengthen nutrient-enhancing food, agriculture and forestry policies, and enhance their capacity to implement, monitor and evaluate the crisis” (Saidul et al., 2020).

SAARC is taking significant steps to mitigate climate change and address local food insecurity locally through various food declarations, statements and commissions.  The Cereal Systems Initiatives for South Asia, a partner of the commission claims that “increase the adoption of various resource-conserving and climate-resilient technologies, and improve farmers’ access to market information and enterprise development” and “works in synergy with regional and national efforts, collaborating with myriad public, civil society, and private-sector partners” (CSISA).  They also support women farmers to get exposure and to improve modern and innovative technologies, to gain knowledge and entrepreneurial skills. The main financial aid to establish such a sector is from multinational company partners who have developed ways to enhance food security internally and as a regional organization have yet to take on an active role in regulating or enhancing regional cooperation. Similarly another organization working on regional initiatives is the PIF who committed to involve various stakeholders with an aim of improving knowledge and capacity building to tackle the food crisis during climate catastrophes. They conducted programs such as “Coping with Climate Change in the Pacific Island Region,” involving various partners, “Climate Change”; and “Vegetation and Land Cover Mapping” and “Food Security for Building Resilience to a Changing Climate in Pacific Island Communities”. Due to the various involvement of partners from different multinational companies across the globe, the PIF runs smoothly.

Similarly, another model is the ‘Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project’ (AGIMP), which is a framework that connects the crop and economy with the climate. They generally analyze the field to regional scales, as well as the replications with guided climate sensitivity tests and climate conditions and the results were later used by IPCC. The protocols in this model helped to understand the reasons for the difference in modeling results, reduced the uncertainties, and climate change forecasts affecting the safety with food. Consider an example, “Nelson compared ten characteristics of the world’s leading global economic models; for selected specific climatic impacts, all models report high prices for almost all goods in all regions, yield decreases, area increases and the consumption decreases” (von Lampe et al. 2014). But the relative size of the settings varies considerably depending on the model. These differences depend on the model structure and the parameter choice. One of the other models is the Climate-smart agriculture (CSA), which is a recent concept proposed by the FAO in 2010 with the Hague conference on Agriculture, food security and climate change to address the need for a strategy to control agriculture and food systems under climate change.

“The main aim of CSA is to identify and implement changes in practices, policies and institutions towards the three main objectives. (i) Sustainably increasing agricultural productivity to support equitable increases in incomes, food security and development; (ii) adapting and building resilience to climate change from the farm to national levels; and (iii) developing opportunities to reduce GHG emissions from agriculture compared with past trends”(Cassandra De Young).

It requires an appropriate evidence-base as well as the inclusive engagement of all concerned stakeholders. The CSA does not define a priori as to which methods are climate smart, depending on the context. There is already a great deal of information on the agro-economic practices and more broadly agro-food networks that contribute to the three goals of CSA. Participants need to be provided with a competent environment and encouragement to accept change.

The cases and the components mentioned above are really working very well which can contribute a major part for the development of the country. Considering the Indian situation now, “5% of the 1.3 billion people are living in extreme poverty” (World Poverty Clock, Nigeria), who are struggling to meet their daily needs. When a climate catastrophe occurs, then they won’t have any investments to store and use food accordingly. Most of them depend on agriculture either as a rent or as a worker to earn a living. Suicides among the farmer families were common when such catastrophes wiped out their hope of living. There are a lot of policies implemented by the government to support them. However, corruption has become a challenge in achieving their goal. Private sector only focuses on profits so that the poorer sections cannot depend upon them.

“There is a great deal of uncertainty regarding climate change, but there are some certainties. The prospects of Indian food 363 International Journal of Development security under the upcoming climate change will depend on a number of immediate measures reduce the vulnerability of the food system to climate change and other global environmental changes, which has started looming large the very existence of human kind. A multifaceted approach of adoption in terms of increasing food production, improving food distribution and increasing economic access to food as well as different mitigation options for reduction of greenhouse gases needs to be adopted. Adaptation to climate change impacts should not be approached as separate activity, isolated from other environmental and socio-economic concerns that also impact on the development opportunity of poor people” (OECD, 2003).

From the above paper we come to a conclusion that climate change is a common factor which already started affecting the food security and nutrition of India. Climate change seriously affects the agro-ecosystems will ultimately affect the consumers and price fluctuations makes the agro industry under stress. A large impact on food security and nutrition as a result of climate change fundamentally destroys the food systems that can be described as the ‘Cascading effects’ as mentioned in‘The Great Derangement: Climate Change and the Unthinkable’ by Amithav Gosh. The consequences of these impacts from climate to biophysical, economic, social and food security has shown a tremendous increase in their effects at each stage. This leads to some conclusions that the people who depend on the agriculture and agro-based industries are more vulnerable to this risk. The primary implications for the food security and nutrition will be experienced by the most vulnerable through lack of accessibility and stability. From an agricultural point of view, favorable conditions for crops and other organisms will change geographically. The unfavorable conditions which are unpredictable, these non-routine events need non-routine measures to tackle. For example we can say that when agriculture products are in excess, it will be much helpful if we store them scientifically. So that it can be utilized even in the unpredictable conditions like when the stock is low.

These case studies and research papers that I read for the awareness of my topic helped to get some new insights on the way one perceives the impact of natural hazards on agriculture. It is an urgent need of the hour to take some proper precautions on climate change since it has the potential to threaten the whole world. Massive actions are more dominant since it is a global challenge. However, the major impact of this risk is mainly faced by countries like India, with limited resources and infrastructure. This is the reason for choosing the topic “Climate Change and Concerns of Food Security and Adaptations in India”. Climate change has shaken the baseline of food security like food availability, accessibility, utilization and stabilization. Thanks to organizations like SAARC and PIF to initialize programs and policies regarding food security to mitigate the effects of Climate change. It will be much beneficial if countries like India adopts such policies by molding the women workers in exploring these areas.  The alarming rate of climate changes jeopardizes the livelihoods of people including agriculture. Since the climate is still changing, it is important to take preventable measures before the occurrence of extreme conditions.

[1] IPCC is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It is a United Nations body, which evaluates climate change science (The guardian article).

[2] ASEAN is the Association of South East Asian Nations. It was established on 8th August 1967 in Thailand. The main of this association is to accelerate the economic growth, Cultural development and social progress and to promote peace and stability. (Wikipedia)

[3]PIF is the Payee Information, a request for a vendor’s taxpayer number and applicable tax classification. (Wikipedia).


[4]SAARC is South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation who seeks to promote the welfare of the peoples of South Asia, strengthen collective self-reliance, promote active collaboration and mutual assistance in various fields, and cooperate with international and regional organizations. (Wikipedia).


[5]AIFS is the ‘Alternative Investment Fund’ means any fund established or incorporated in India which is a privately pooled investment vehicle which collects funds from sophisticated investors, whether Indian or foreign, for investing it in accordance with a defined investment policy for the benefit of its investors (Wikipedia)

[6]SPA-FS – The AIFS Framework provides Goal, Objectives, Definition of Terminology, Guiding Reference and Principles, and Components, which are supported by a Strategic Plan of Action on Food Security in the ASEAN Region. (Wikipedia)


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