Agri Business

‘Feed 20% of the megacities from food produced within’

Chennai | Updated on August 07, 2020 Published on August 07, 2020

Professor Rattan Lal

Indian American soil scientist Rattan Lal stresses the need for urban agriculture

Indian-American soil scientist and 2020 World Food Prize Laureate Professor Rattan Lal on Friday said that the rapid urbanisation in India should be considered while planning for the country’s food security. He emphasised that urban agriculture is needed to meet the rapidly growing demand of the population.

Delivering a special lecture, ‘Soil-Centric Approach to Realize India’s Ever-Green Revolution’ at the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation’s conference titled, Science for resilient food, nutrition and livelihoods: Contemporary challenges, the professor said on a global average, it takes 40,000 hectares to provide accommodation and infrastructure to one million people and with India’s population increasing by about 11.5 million every year, it requires 0.5 million hectares of land for urban expansion and industrialisation.

“By 2025, India will have seven cities with more than 10 million population and a city of 10 million people requires 6,000 tonnes of food per day,” said Lal, a Distinguished University Professor of Soil Science and Director of the Carbon Management and Sequestration Center, The Ohio State University, Ohio.

“All human and animal waste must be recycled to produce food and build soil carbon stock, and feed 20 per cent of the megacities from food produced within them,” the professor said, adding, “therefore urban agriculture requires a considerable emphasis for the future.” He also highlighted that brick making, a factor associated with massive urbanisation, is not only having a tremendous impact not just on the soil but also on the environment.

‘The Swaminathan effect’

Lauding professor MS Swaminathan for thinking about these ideas way back in 1960-70s, Lal said Swaminathan’s concept of ‘Evergreen Revolution’ refers to productivity improvement in perpetuity without ecological and social harm. The evergreen revolution involves the integration of ecological principles in technology development and dissemination.

He also noted that while the population in India has grown from 330 million in 1947 to 1.38 billion in 2020, food grain production has grown from 50 million to 300 million tonnes during this period. “This dramatic increase in food production, I would call it appropriately ‘The Swaminathan effect’ Lal said adding that it was his vision, leadership and crop varieties developed by him, Norman Borlaug and other distinguished plant readers that led India to not only become food self-sufficient but also an exporter.

The Food Prize Laureate said the country can ensure food and nutrition security to feed its people by 2050 by reducing food waste, increasing access to food by addressing poverty, inequality, civil strife and political instability, improving distribution, and increasing use of pulses and plant-based diet.

“When I read that India’s animal-based diet is increasing at the rate of 10-15 per cent per year with an increase in income, that’s a matter of concern,” Lal said, adding, “because we should focus on plant-based diet and use pulses as a source of protein rather than animal-based protein.”

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Published on August 07, 2020
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