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Prescriptions for Food Security

The book offers timely advice for safeguarding the future of agriculture.

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Combating Hunger and Achieving Food Security By MS Swaminathan

PAGES: 167

PRICE: N.A.

Cambridge University Press

The timing of this book, Combating Hunger and Achieving Food Security, could not be better. India is facing its second consecutive monsoon deficit year. The country is in the midst of implementing a law on food security, and the National Democratic Alliance ( NDA) government is making noises about the need to change agricultural practices. Master geneticist M.S. Swaminathan - the architect of the green revolution in the country in the mid sixties - beautifully sets the context in his new book, and calls for according priority to combating hunger. He also outlines ways to do so.

Swaminathan starts off by highlighting the factors that led to the success of the green revolution. He gives credit to the synergy between technology, public policy and farmers' efforts. At that time, incentives through subsidies and minimum support price (MSP) were absolutely essential to make farmers produce more. However, nearly five decades later, most states are desperately trying to get out of the cycle set by Swaminathan, even as the World Trade Organization (WTO) wants India to end the MSP mechanism.

The book brings to life India's journey from the Bengal Famine - which killed roughly three million people between 1942 and 1943 due to hunger-to our present day struggle to become food sufficient. Swaminathan contends that only through homegrown food can this battle be won. For this, India needs to improve farm productivity. At the same time, effective social protection is needed to get small and marginal farmers out of their poverty and hunger traps.

The book's utility stems from the prescriptions that Swaminathan offers to safeguard the stability of agriculture production in India:

  • Ensure the soil's health is not only conserved, but improved continuously.
  • Ensure irrigation, water security, by integrating resources such as rainwater, rivers and other forms of surface water.  
  • Technology and inputs need to be tailored according to the agroecological and socio-economic conditions.
  • Farmers must have access to appropriate credit and insurance support.
  • Assured and remunerative marketing. The MSP mechanism should stay for the sake of improving the lives of smaller farmers.
  • Farmers must get power and economy of scale, and to do so must explore co-operative farming.
  • All in all, it's a must read book for those who are keen to understand the missing links in India's agriculture story.

 

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