World Food Problems
One of the millennium development goals of the United Nations is halving the proportion of people living in extreme poverty by the year 2015. About 1.3 billion of the world population lives in severe poverty. Nearly 800 million people do not get enough food and 500 million people suffer from malnutrition. India accounts for 22 per cent of the total poor people in the world.
Change Caused by Agriculture
Indian agricultural scientists and planners have, over the past 50 years, grappled variously with the problem of making two ends of the burgeoning belly line of the country meet. In most cases, an impatient socio-political system demanded that the scientist/planner hurry through with the solutions, without permitting extensive modeling of resources.
A quick recapitulation shows that agricultural planning in India during the past five decades has three distinct phases or characters. The pre-green revolution period (1950 through 1965) is the first phase characterised by an extensive growth strategy.
Output had a significantly greater dependence on area increases, land reforms and expansion of irrigation. About two-thirds of the growth in output was due to area increases and only a third could be attributable to yield growth.
When the extensive strategy began to stretch the resource limits of the country, particularly in the more productive regions, the new intensive strategy of technology led growth began to emerge.
This is the second phase characterised by the introduction of the Borlaug seed-fertilizer- technology strategy. The post green revolution period upto the end 1980s saw an increasing reliance on high productivity regions as well as on productivity increasing strategies.
Since the early 90s, most thinkers have been showing considerable discomfort with the restricted productivity increasing strategies in practice. Considerations of social as well as inter- generational equity began to bother the scientists and planners, leading to the conclusion that the 90s may mark a new phase in the Indian agricultural planning.
There were some scientists who did emphasize the need for giving careful thought to resource specific problems like soil erosion, salinity, water logging, siltation, falling groundwater levels and deforestation. However, they were not able to make much dent on the primacy of technology led growth strategy.
It was only much later somewhere during the early eighties, when in many areas, intensification of education through large-scale soil depletion well as salinity and deepening of underground water table that the policymakers started showing some concern about these adverse developments and the need for looking at the natural resource endowments in relation to technology.
It is in the context that the initiation of agro-economic regional planning marks a qualitative improvement in plan strategy.
This is because for the first time, natural resources were given explicit recognition and agricultural planning was sought to be designed within the framework of homogenous agro- economic regional planning.
In modern times, countries are burdened with a variety of economic compulsions ranging from feeding large populations to competing with other industrial forces. Specifically, for agriculture, these imply extracting higher production and yields from given land and water resources.
Some of the consequences of this have been deforestation, soil salinity, and water-logging and groundwater depletion, to name only a few.
The following is a list (which is only indicative and certainly not exhaustive) of ecological problems that are definitely attributable to agriculture: