MSSRF Inaugural Press release

Prioritizing policy and practices aiming to improve the Agriculture and Environment must be given top priority to tackle food and nutrition insecurity challenges in India’s post-pandemic.

This was the call made by the Chief minister of Tamil Nadu, Thiru M K Stalin during inaugural of the virtual International Consultation “Ensuring Food and Nutrition Security in the Context of Climate Change and the COVID-19 Pandemic”, organized by the M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) in Chennai. National Policy-makers, Scientists, and the Global experts on Climate Change, Agriculture, Food and Nutrition will attend the high-level three-day virtual event.

The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected food security and threatened livelihood opportunities for millions of people. Its impact is stalling the global efforts to meet the “Zero Hunger” challenge and crushing livelihood opportunities.

The high-level virtual consultation is intended to refocus the global narrative around food and nutrition security concerns in the time of climate change, which had been sidelined by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Experts discuss on dietary diversity including the scope for improved production of underutilized and neglected crops such as millets, as well as the role of animal protein in enhancing nutrition among low income households.

The Honourable Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Thiru M K Stalin underscores the concern of small and marginal farmers’ income in the time of climate change. It increased farmers’ vulnerability.

“A separate budget for agriculture with special focus on natural farming will be announced in upcoming budget. At the same time reviving of local and village markets to ensure farmers to get fair price for their produce” says Thiru M K Stalin.

He also emphasized on maintaining of ground water as well as control of flood in Chennai city. He urged all the environmental scientists of Tamil Nadu to come up with innovative suggestions to resolve the climate crisis in the state.

“Climate change is a life-threatening issue. Its impact is increasing day-by-day as there is rise in incidents of heat-waves, drought, and floods. He urges scientists of our State to come up with some innovative solution to tackle it and this will be openheartedly accepted” says Chief Minister.

Delivering the keynote address, Prof M S Swaminathan, emphasized on use of science and technology in agriculture and showed his gratitude to one of the first leader of Tamil Nadu who initiated science-based agriculture.

“I recall with gratitude that our great leader Kalaignar M Karunanidhi, former Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu who felt science and technology are building blocks for modern agriculture and initiated very early, which strengthen State’s Agriculture Institutions and farmers community” says Prof M S Swaminathan.

He further emphasized over need of technical as well as assured and remunerative market support for rural women, tribal and farmers.

“In rural areas, most of the work was done by women and men in agriculture, where they need greater technical support and assured and remunerative market facilities. I urge our Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu to continue their support to small and marginal farmers, rural women and tribal farmers. They are jewels of agriculture” says Professor M S Swaminathan.

He further urged political leaders, farmers and scientists to work in better coherence to contribute to well-being of the Country.

Earlier, Dr Madhura Swaminathan, Chairperson, MSSRF, welcomed the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu Thiru M K Stalin, and Minister for Health and Family Welfare, through. Ma Subramanian.

“Like every year, policy recommendations from these deliberations will be shared with the State and the Union Governments” says Dr Madhura Swaminathan.

The inaugural session attended by Mr N Ram, Chairman of the Hindu Group and Former Trustee, Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, WHO, current MSSRF’s trustees Mr V Namasivayam, Dr Kezevino Aram, Mr S Mahalingam, Ms Mariam Ram, and Dr Nitya Rao.

The virtual international consultation will have over 1200 participants from 13 countries and 40 experts from countries of Asia and Africa, as well as from the FAO and other United Nations organizations and the CGIAR, deliberating in 9 sessions over three days.

Dr K S Murali, Executive Director, MSSRF, presented Foundation’s work and achievements made in past one year in restoring mangrove forests in Coastal areas, helped thousands of fisher folks through technological interventions, promoting traditional varieties of crops and trees in tribal areas and helped farmers in controlling pest and diseases and mitigating droughts in Tamil Nadu.

According to Annual Report 2021, Foundation restored nearly 240 ha of mangrove forests in Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh. It helped farmers to get better remuneration in Odisha, Kolli Hills and Wayanad through promoting traditional varieties, integrated tree farming and other vocations. It also helped farmers who faced loss in productivity due to pest, disease and droughts in two districts of Tamil Nadu.

Foundation’s introduction of Fisher Friend Mobile Application – an android application that acts as a decision support system to fishers – helped over 80,000 Fisher folks get good fish catch and add to their safety in seas.

This innovative technology, with support of Qualcomm, was introduced after destructive effect of the Tsunami along the Indian coastal states in 2004. The application provides information to the fishermen in their vernacular language on the wave height, wind speed, direction, sea current, sea surface temperature, potential fishing zone, GPS for safe navigation, marking risks zones, dragging fish net area, emergency contact and government schemes.

Mr N Ram, Chairman of the Hindu Group, vividly recalled the evolution of idea of MSSRF which is linked to the best of science and development with focus on social and gender equity.

“One of the key challenges India and world faces is ensuring food security to 100 of million people in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising concern of climate change” said Ram.He appreciated the new government led by the Chief Minister Thiru M K Stalin to handle pandemic as well as ensure food and nutrition insecurity and provide a measure of livelihood relief.

Dr Soumya Swaminathan, Chief Scientist, WHO, Pandemic affected more vulnerable group especially women and children and also livelihood. We have to think building up again healthier and economic resilient society.Dr Soumya appreciated new program started by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu.

She said the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu launched a programme where Government is taking health services to door-steps of the people which is in the direction of universal health care. The pandemic has not only killed people but its side effect was also disrupted essential health services like routine immunization programme, anti-natal care, care for non-communicable diseases etc.

Mr Gernot Laganda, Chief of Climate Disaster Risk Reduction Program, United Nations-World Food Program Bangkok attended the event virtually and emphasised “Global Hunger have risen and the development being made in the past decades against hunger started lost with faster rate. Between 800-900 million peoples across the globe suffering from acute hunger or chronic hunger while 155 million of people in 55 countries are in state of food crisis.”

Dr Jacqueline d’Arros Hughes, Director-General, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics, attended the event virtually and highlighted about “Prof M S Swaminathan has been guiding force behind establishment of ICRISAT. The vision of MSSRF and ICRISAT is deeply intertwined. The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the vulnerabilities of current food system and its greatest impact on marginalized communities. ICRISAT and MSSRF have catalytic role in addressing the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic in partnership with government and non-government organization building an inclusive and resilient food system”.

Background

The COVID-19 Pandemic has affected food security and threatened livelihood opportunities for millions of people. The government-imposed lockdown to stop the spreading of the COVID-19 Pandemic disrupted the food system at its core and triggered an economic slowdown. Its impact is stalling the global efforts to meet the “Zero Hunger” challenge and crushing livelihood opportunities.

At the same time, vulnerabilities on account of Global warming and other aspects of climate change are intensifying floods and droughts, in turn affecting food production and livelihoods. The temperature rise created a significant impact on food production and nutrition security.

The high-level virtual consultation is intended to refocus the global narrative around food and nutrition security concerns in the time of climate change, which had been sidelined by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Experts dwell on ways to tackle the COVID-19 Pandemic induced Food and Nutrition crisis.

Now, there is a twin challenge from the COVID-19 Pandemic, which goes beyond the health toll and crushing livelihood opportunities, and hunger. The pandemic raises the risk of changes in funding priority affecting longer-term sustainability in the food system due to climate change. There is an immediate need to address policy and practices aiming to improve human health and ecosystem health.

In this context, the MSSRF organizing a three-day consultation to understand the impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the time of climate change and to find solutions to food and nutrition insecurity concerns while addressing issues of livelihoods.

The three-day virtual consultation will see limited physical attendees (due to COVID-19 Pandemic) and a high number of virtual attendees. There will be seven high octane virtual sessions dealing with different aspects of food and nutrition security, including a special lecture by this year World Food Prize Laureate 2021, Dr Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, on Food Security of Coastal Communities by sustainably managing Ecology of Coastal Areas.

About MSSRF

M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) established in 1988 is a not-for-profit trust. MSSRF was envisioned and founded by Professor M S Swaminathan, agriculture scientist with proceeds from the First World Food Prize that he received in 1987. The Foundation aims to accelerate use of modern science for sustainable agricultural and rural development. MSSRF focuses specifically on tribal and rural communities with a pro-poor, pro-women and pro-nature approach. The Foundation applies appropriate science and technology options to address practical problems faced by rural populations in agriculture, food and nutrition.

Live Stream Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kf5rvy6C08&list=PLzBW9IguAXpb8aPexxyl5k...

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