The SDGs and Indian Agriculture
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In September 2015, members of the UN adopted the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) for 2030. These goals are a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals, which ended on 2015. Sustainable development is defined as meeting the needs of the present generation without harming the capacity of future generation to meet their needs. It focuses on developing an inclusive, sustainable and resilient future not only for humans but for the planet as a whole. SDG has 17 goals, 169 targets to be achieved over period of 15 years.  All SDG’s are linked to agriculture in one way or the other and also interconnected. Most of the least developed and developing countries including India are predominantly agricultural economies, where these goals assume even greater significance. We can witness interlinkages of the 17 SDGs in the context of agriculture and food security and understanding this will be crucial in developing strategies for realizing the SDGs.

Achieving Eradication of extreme Poverty (Goal 1), Zero Hunger (Goal 2) with Good health and well-being (Goal 3), Quality Education (Goal 4) and Gender equality (Goal 5) were part of Millennium Development Goals, the predecessor of the SDGs. India has achieved the first goal by reducing extreme poverty level by more than half in last two and half decades. India is also set to achieve a reduction in hunger by half.  This substantial achievement was done through improvement in agriculture in terms of increasing productivity and production, better marketing facilities and better price policies ensuring availability, affordability and access to food. As agriculture is the major occupation and income source in a majority of the rural households, improvement in agriculture also expected to trickle down to betterment in education. In countries where gender inequalities are socially embedded such as India, feminisation of agriculture as a result of migration can improve gender equality if coupled with suitably-informed interventions by Governments and other actors.

Clean water (Goal 6) and agriculture are not mutually exclusive as practices such as fertiliser and pesticide application have implications on water quality. Eutrophication of water bodies and nitrogen contamination are evidence of such effects. Economic as well as environmentally sustainable agricultural production also needs affordable and clean energy (Goal 7).

According the most recent NSSO data, 58 percent of rural households are dependent on agriculture. In this regard, value addition in agriculture has untapped potential for achieving inclusive growth, reducing inequalities (Goal 10) and creating decent work (Goal 8). This could be materialized by focusing on support for Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure (Goal 9) linked to agriculture. Growing population pressure in urban areas could be reduced by providing equivalent livelihood opportunities in rural areas for sustainable cities and communities (Goal 11). Here also, agriculture has an important role to play. Plenty of avenues are emerging in the field of value addition and supply chain management in agriculture which can generate substantial employment along with ensuring Responsible consumption and production (Goal 12).

Agriculture is a cause as well as a victim of climate change; it contributes 17.6 percent of greenhouse gas emission in India and yields are negatively impacted by climate change, across a wide range of crops and regions. This emphasizes the need for climate-smart actions (Goal 13) in agriculture as it effects all ecosystems on which livelihood and food security depends.  In India, fisheries can be an important source of animal protein contributing to food security (Goal 14).

Despite these interconnections, there are many hurdles, which need to be addressed if we are to realize the goals. Agriculture and food security should be focused to meet SDGs. A recent document by the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation discusses ways by which agriculture can play a vital role in achieving SDGs. Various efforts such as developing bio-fortified varieties, abiotic tolerant varieties, climate smart agriculture policies through multi-disciplinary approaches linking various institutes will need to be strengthened for achieving Sustainable Development Goals.

By: K.S Aditya., Scientist, ICAR-IARI (Collaborator with IFPRI) and S.P. Subash, NAARM

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