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Srinagar: A five days training course on “Agriculture and Food Security in J&K: Role of National Food Security Mission” was conducted from 26–30 November, 2018 at IMPA, Main Campus, Srinagar.

It was attended by 33 senior and middle level officers and officials from Anantnag, Kulgam, Shopian, Pulwama, Srinagar, Budgam, Ganderbal, Bandipora and Baramulla from Agriculture Production Department and Department of Forests, Kashmir, Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir.

The course was coordinated by Dr. Bilal A. Bhat, Assistant Professor in the Centre for Social Justice at IMPA, Main Campus.

Screen Shot 2018-12-10 at 12.55.57 PMThe food security situation in India has many worrying aspects, per capita consumption of calories, proteins and most nutrients has been falling steadily over time. In recent years food inflation has reached alarming levels, adding to other sources of food insecurity.

It is in this context that National Food Security Mission was launched in 2007-08 by Government of India to increase the quantity of essential food grains qualitatively and to have sustainable food security and nutrition. To achieve the objectives of such important programmes, role of forests and agricultural landscape is pivotal. Strategies have been framed that include active involvement of farming community and institutional capacity building for setting up of district and block level monitoring units to achieve the targeted results. 

The objectives postulated for the training course were as follows:

  • To sensitize the participants about Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security;
  • To familiarize the  participants about the various food security schemes and intervention programmes of the Government;
  • To divulge upon the role of National Food Security Mission in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in J&K.

The inaugural function of the course started on 26th November, 2018 at 10: 30 a.m. at Conference Hall No. 208, IMPA Main Campus, Srinagar in which the course coordinator besides welcoming the participants gave them the course briefing and trainee participants also introduced themselves and talked about their expectation from the course. 

The following were the main themes of the training program:

The session on “State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World and India and the Global Hunger Index” by Dr Bilal A. Bhat, Course Coordinator generated lot of heat and discussion amongst the participants and was highly appreciated by all the participants. Another Session on ‘National Food Security Mission in Jammu and Kashmir’ was highly informative and was liked by one and all. Dr Bilal Bhat discussed in detail the role of State and Central Government in the Implementation of Food Security Mission. The Course Coordinator delineated that Jammu and Kashmir has been a State of surplus production in rice and in number of other food items in comparison to other States of India who were lacking in production in rice, wheat, maize etc. but now due to diversion of land towards other purposes the production has declined to the extent of 40 % only which is a very worrying factor for the Govt. of Jammu and Kashmir.

All these issues were discussed and the role agricultural department has to play in enhancing the production is very important especially through the implementation of various food security schemes including National Food Security Mission.

The session conducted by Dr Imtiyaz Ahmad, Department of Biochemistry, SKUAST Kashmir, made every participant so much attentive that the session almost lasted for three hours. The queries, questions, comments and observations of all the officers were threadbare discussed by the learned speaker. 

The session on ‘Safeguarding Biodiversity for Sustainable Food Production and Agriculture’ by Dr Shaukat Ara, Faculty, Division for Environmental Studies, SKUAST, Kashmir discussed in detail the role of biodiversity in sustainable food security. Her talk focussed on sustainable food products from forests like Kalari (milk product of sub Himalayan tracts supporting Gujjar/Bakerwal communities economically and a nutrition provider), Gucchi (high value neutraceutical food/mushroom Morels/Ascocarp having billion dollar international market and food industry), Tendu leaves (Diospyros Melanoxylon leaves transforming lives of millions of tribals’ in Central India and pivot of Bidi industry), Agave Americana (bund side plantation on small farms paving way for rope industry, local handicrafts),Value addition viz Seabuckthorn products like Leh berry of Ladakh, Amla products like Amla pickles, Amla juices etc. Different kinds of Capitals including human, natural, physical, social and financial were discussed threadbare specially vulnerability context in achieving sustainable food security and nutrition. 

Arjimand Hussain Talib, Editor Ziraat Times, threw light on some of the fundamental issues the State is facing for sustainable agriculture and food security. He discussed the success stories of different countries at the global level in sustainable food security and nutrition. The Solomon Island in the continent of Australia and Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda in Northern Africa and Zimbabwe and South Africa in the South of Africa in the African Continent and some other countries visited by the resource person have shown phenomenal growth and development in the agricultural sector through sustainable way of developmental approach, were shared by the learned speaker as case studies.

The guest faculty has visited forty one countries as a developmental practitioner and tried his best to enlighten the trainee participants with the developmental experience from China, Indonesia etc. especially in the field of sustainable developmental goals, sustainable agriculture, forests and food security and nutrition. A thread bare discussion on the development of National Food Security Mission and National Saffron Mission was conducted in which almost all the officers shared their point of view especially the challenges being faced by them at the departmental level related to quality seed distribution, awareness generation, village nurseries, new farming technology, subsidies etc. 

Besides the technical sessions, a number of observation and exercise sessions were conducted in which all the trainee participants took active part and identified their position with respect to different challenges related to sustainable food security. The officers discussed the challenges and issues of food security in Jammu and Kashmir and the measures they have taken to overcome these challenges. Some of the suggestions gave by the trainee participants for sustainable food security and nutrition are summarized below.

  1. Best and qualitative seeds and fertilizers should be provided to the farming community and promotion of organic fertilizers.
  2. Conversion of agricultural land to horticulture and for other purposes should be prohibited.
  3. Crop insurance scheme and minimum support price (MSP) must be implemented in J&K as soon as possible as in other parts of India.
  4. Strict and strong laws for food adulteration and emphasis on natural and local nutritious and medicinal value foods.
  5. Use of modern methods of agriculture to increase qualitatively quantity of agricultural produce as are in vogue in developed regions of the world.
  6. Forest land should not be used for any other purpose i.e. tourism, roads etc. and culture of managed forestry should be inculcated amongst masses besides awareness generation in young for the preservation of forests through private forestry and planting trees for better quality of air and water.
  7. Regular sensitization and awareness generation amongst officers and officials of relevant departments for working towards sustainable food security and nutrition and the role forests and agricultural landscape has to play.

The valedictory session was held on 30th Nov., 2018 at 4:30 pm. The Course Coordinator presented the course brief along with the objectives of the programme and how far he was able to achieve these objectives. Later on few participants also presented their views and opinions regarding the course. They requested and advised that the training courses be also conducted at district and block level across Jammu and Kashmir to generate awareness and knowhow about the schemes and policies of government for sustainable agriculture and food security. They also delineated that these courses be organized regularly so that participants learn new things about the food security programmes, which would surely help them in discharging their duties at their respective work places.