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PUNJAB, India – A declining Indian economy and growing food insecurity has policy and environmental experts calling for a Second Green Revolution since one of the best solutions would be heightened research and investments in the agricultural sector to increase the production and yields of small farmers.

This new Revolution would focus on the next generation of agricultural modernization since the original movement in the 1960s. “Food security became a major cause for concern in the 1960s,” says The National, “when it caught the imagination of India’s policymakers and spawned the green revolution, an ambitious plan to transform the country’s agricultural land via high-yielding crops, increased use of fertilizers and a raft of land reforms.” That is to say, as a result of population growth, political upheaval and massive socio-economic shifts throughout the world, the world endeavored to overhaul the current agro-environmental systems.

The main goal of the first Green Revolution was to supply enough food for the growing populations as cost efficiently as possible. “Fearing global upheaval, the developed nations initiated a deliberate strategy to supply cheap, abundant food to prevent political unrest,” states Kenny Ausubel, author of Restoring the Earth.  However, the plant seeds used to develop and economize food production were expensive, and the equipment needed to produce the seeds were costly as well. “While initially the “miracle high-yielding” seeds did produce bigger crops,” Ausubel notes, “this gain proved to be at the expense of the environment and small farmers.”

Moreover, the first Revolution privileged corporations and big agribusiness, leaving small, rural and hometown farmers in the dust. Experts from agriculture, economics and policy agree that a Second Green Revolution is needed “to improve the yield of crops grown in infertile soils by farmers with little access to fertilizer, who represent the majority of third-world farmers.” Small farmers are the key to food production in many countries around the world – not just India – and must be protected from being bought out by large agricultural corporations.

As such, research and development initiatives need to be undergone in order to generate more cost-effective and easily accessible resources for small farmers. Advancements in plant biology seem to be promising, as genetic modifications within crops could significantly yield larger harvests. As J.P. Lynch from the college of Agricultural Sciences states, “population growth, ongoing soil degradation and increasing costs of chemical fertilizer will make the Second Green Revolution a priority for plant biology in the 21st century.”

Food security is a necessary factor to global economic and development systems. Despite the advances made in the initial agricultural movement, more action is necessary in order to modernize and economize production for the world’s thousands of small farmers. “While the first Green Revolution was aimed at undertaking mass production,” declares Dr. N.G. Hedge of BAIF Development Research Foundation, “the second Green Revolution should be to promote production by the masses.

Mallory Thayer

Sources: BAIF, The National, Penn State, Urban Habitat
Photo: Tree Hugger

As development agencies, international research institutions, non-profit organizations, and funding and donor communities continue to search for ways to eradicate global poverty and hunger, many now believe that the answer may lie in family farming. Of the 1.2 billion people living in extreme poverty, an estimated 800 million work in the agricultural sector, and the vast majority own very small plots of land. The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has a High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), and the panel has concluded that 96% of all agricultural holdings in Africa measure less than ten hectares. In China and India alone, there are 189 million and 112 million smallholder farmers respectively with plots measuring less than two hectares.

These smallholder family farms play a vital role in securing food for their communities. According to a World Bank report, an increase in one percent in agricultural GDP reduces poverty by four times as much as the same percentage increase in non-agricultural GDP. These families, however, are also some of those most at risk of hunger and poverty, and there must be a concerted effort to support their farms and the agricultural industry at large.

Over the next two years, The Food Think Tank and the FAO will work together to highlight the important role of family famers, and encourage other organizations to help family famers improve their working conditions by enhancing soil health, protecting water supplies, improving nutrition and increasing incomes. Here are five ways, presented by Food Thank and FAO, that NGOs and other organizations can help family famers alleviate global poverty.

1. Promote sustainable agriculture methods.
In order to increase yields, new farming methods can be employed, such as agroecology or ecological intensification. According to an analysis of 40 projects and programs, African smallholder farmers have experienced increased yields due to sustainable techniques, such as agroforestry and soil conservation.

2. Assist family famers in adapting to climate change and short-term climate variability.
As climate change continues to affect the agricultural industry, family farmers also bare the weight of environmental impacts. According to the IFAD, In Africa alone 75 million to 250 million more people will experience increased water stress by 2020 because of climate change. By supporting programs that teach sustainable practices in land and water management, organizations can help minimize the effects of year-to-year climate variability in the form of drought or flooding.

3. Promote policies to provide smallholders with legal titles to their land.
Over 1 billion poor people lack secure rights to land; by obtaining legal rights, farmers can increase productivity, investment in land and family income.

4. Increase access to local markets.
Since family famers produce on a small scale, they need chains of appropriate scale. Organizations such as Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) can provide platforms from which family farmers are able to sell their products directly to consumers.

5. Close the gender gap.
Currently, women do not have equal access to credit, land, inputs, and extension services when compared to their male counterparts. By closing the gender gap, 100 million to 150 million people could be lifted out of hunger.

– Chloe Isacke

Sources: Huffington Post, FAO
Photo: The Guardian