Ground realities

Foodgrain production will have to increase by 5 million tonnes every year to meet rising demand

Published: Wednesday 15 March 2000

a paradigm shift from nari (National Agricultural Research Institutes) to nas (National Associated Societies), the integration of various disciplines of scientific research and availability of scientific information to end-users through Information Technology was imperative for development. This was what participants felt at the International Conference on 'Managing Natural Resources for Sustainable Agricultural Production in the 21 st century' held in New Delhi from February 14-18. The conference was organised by the Indian Society of Soil Science in collaboration with eight other associations working in the area of natural resources.

"To meet the demands of the increasing population, India's foodgrain production must be increased from 200 million tonnes in 2000 to 300 million tonnes in 2020.A growth rate of 5 million tonnes per year over the next 20 years is required," said M S Swaminathan, chairperson, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation, Chennai at the inaugural session. Papers that followed the session, however, showed that the present situation was not promising.

Land degradation is an important area since it directly influences the food security scenario of any country and the world as a whole. Forty per cent of the land in Asia is degraded due to human intervention and a major role is played by improper management of soil resources. R Oldeman, director, International Soil Reference and Information Centre, the Netherlands said, "As a follow up of the Convention to Combat Desertification, a draft is being prepared on a Convention of Sustainable use of soils but there is little hope of this convention coming into force." Soil science experts felt that research on soil resources has to be focused at a regional level since the subject is very location specific - global studies can undermine the ground reality.

Forestry combined with agriculture is the key to an 'evergreen' revolution. "Indian scientists specially in the area of agroforestry have failed to attract international funds for research," said P Ekman, member of the International Foundation of Science, an organisation based in Geneva that provides funds for scientific research by young scientists in developing countries. There has been only a solitary Indian recipient of the funds and that was in the 1970s.

Almost all scientists were of the opinion that the stifling bureaucracy in the country has been responsible for this situation. "The funds provided require completion of a part of the project within a year for further renewal of funds. Since the funds are made available to the institution, by the time they are passed on to the scientists the project period lapses," said P K R Nair, who is presently professor at the University of Florida, usa.

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