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Global Agrifood Systems

GS Paper 3

 Syllabus: Agriculture


Source: TH, FAO

 Context: A recent FAO report (The State of Food and Agriculture 2023) exposes the hidden costs of unsustainable global agrifood systems, exceeding $10 trillion and constituting 11% of GDP in middle-income countries like India.


Major points of the report:

Key Points Description
Economic Impact In middle-income countries like India, these costs of unsustainable agrifood systems manifest as higher poverty, environmental harm, and health-related impacts such as undernourishment and unhealthy dietary patterns, which account for nearly 11% of GDP
Unsustainable Practices The report attributes escalating costs to “unsustainable business-as-usual activities and practices,” urging a transformation in agrifood systems.
Monocropping and Chemical-Intensive Farming Mainstreaming monocropping and chemical-intensive farming practices, as seen in India’s Green Revolution, contributed to environmental harm and compromised nutritional needs.
Privatization and Deregulation The privatization and deregulation of agricultural inputs, along with a focus on rice and wheat procurement, increased indebtedness among farmers in India.
Global Trade Impact Global trade relations historically influenced food production systems in the Global South, impacting farmers’ income and local food security.
Systemic Shift from Local to Global The report emphasizes a systemic shift from local to global value chains, suggesting that local efforts, such as crop diversification, are essential.
Crop Diversification Solutions Diversified multi-cropping systems rooted in agroecology principles as a solution to revitalize degraded land, improve soil health, and enhance biodiversity.
E.g., ‘akkadi saalu’: It involves intercropping with a combination of legumes, pulses, oilseeds, trees, shrubs, and livestock
Economic Modeling Transitioning to diversified farming practices can improve farm incomes in the short and long run.
Systematic Transition The transition from high-input monoculture to diversified cropping should be systematic, allowing farmers to adjust gradually and addressing challenges related to seeds, market access, and farm labour.
Collaboration and Scaling Up Scaling up these practices requires collaboration among institutions, policymakers, and social groups to provide economic incentives for farmers and facilitate the transition.


Previously, in the Status of Women In Agri-food Systems, FAO had suggested:


  • Women need more access to and control over livestock, water, seeds, land, technology, and finance.
  • Eliminating discriminationby engaging with men and boys.


Some best practices from India:

  • In Tamil Nadu, women involved in fishing-related work had wider social networks and a greater adaptive capacity to seasonal stresses.
  • The MGNREG Schemestipulates the provision of crèche facilities for young children for women involved in the schemes.
  • In northern India, participatory village committees addressing water access, health and nutrition issues have facilitated shifts in discriminatory norms, enabling women to speak in front of men and take on public roles.


What is an agrifood system?

An agrifood system encompasses the entire process of producing, processing, distributing, and consuming food. It includes agricultural activities, food production, supply chains, and the socio-economic factors influencing food choices, aiming to ensure sustainable and equitable access to nutritious food for the population.


Need for adopting a sustainable agrifood system:

Need Description
1. Rising Demand for Food The increasing global demand necessitates sustainable systems for consistent food production to meet the needs of a growing population.
2. Environmental Degradation Widespread environmental harm from unsustainable practices underscores the urgency to transition to sustainable methods to mitigate further harm to the environment.
3. Climate Change Challenges Sustainable practices are crucial to adapting to these challenges and reducing the sector’s contribution to climate change.
4. Recognition of Sustainable Practices in India GIAHS-recognized practices in India, like Pokkali rice and Kuttanad Farming, highlight climate-resilient and sustainable agricultural methods, showcasing the importance of adopting such practices globally.

Government Initiatives for sustainable Agrifood system:

  1. Agriculture Infrastructure Fund: Created to build farm gates and agriculture marketing infrastructure in rural areas. It provides interest subsidies and credit guarantees to entrepreneurs, reducing post-harvest losses.
  2. Water Use Efficiency Scheme: Launched to increase water use efficiency at the farm level. Establishes a dedicated micro-irrigation fund for implementing micro-irrigation technologies.
  3. Crop Varieties Development: Developed 262 abiotic stress-tolerant varieties of different crops.
  4. Food-Based Safety Net Programs: Operates the world’s largest food-based safety net programs — Targeted Public Distribution System (TPDS)
  5. International Year of Millets:
  6. Promotion of Millets: The UN recognized India’s proposal to celebrate the year 2023 as the ‘International Year of Millets.’


Insta Links:

Scheme for Women Farmers


Mains Links:

How far is the Integrated Farming System (IFS) helpful in sustaining agricultural production? ( UPSC 2019)

What are the reformative steps taken by the Government to make the food grain distribution system more effective? (UPSC 2019)


Prelims Links

What are the significances of a practical approach to sugarcane production known as the ‘Sustainable Sugarcane Initiative’? (UPSC 2014)

  1. Seed cost is very low in this compared to the conventional method of cultivation.
  2. Drip irrigation can be practised very effectively in this.
  3. There is no application of chemical/inorganic fertilizers at all in this.
  4. The scope for intercropping is more in this compared to the conventional method of cultivation.


Select the correct answer using the code given below:

(a) 1 and 3 only
(b) 1, 2 and 4 only
(c) 2, 3 and 4 only
(d) 1, 2, 3 and 4


Ans: B