SDG 2 is Inter-Connected with
Many Other SDGs

A fairer, prosperous, peaceful and sustainable future is envisioned by the Post 2015 Development Agenda, popularly known as the Sustainable Development Goals. In food - the way it is grown, produced, consumed, traded, transported, stored and marketed - lies the fundamental connection between people and the planet and the path to sustainable development. The food link which is focused in Goal 2 of the Sustainable Development Goals is much stronger in case of India.

Care must be taken to simultaneously defeat hunger, increase agricultural productivity and avoid adverse impacts on the natural resource base. If we do not address key interlinkages among goals and targets and reduce tradeoffs, several goals will remain out of reach of the poorest. For example, an increase in agricultural land to help end hunger can lead to biodiversity loss, as well as overuse and/or pollution of water resources and downstream (likely negative) effects on marine resources, which in turn could exacerbate food security concerns. (Claudia Ringler)

Governments in developing countries will move ahead in addressing at least some of the SDGs either way but they can go a lot further if they assess the tradeoffs and synergies across goals and targets supporting the goals. In the same spirit, this article identifies the link of SDG 2 with other SDGs, to explore possible synergies and action points.

1. Social Implications: SDG 2 aims to end hunger, all forms of malnourishment and provide access to safe and nutritious food for all, all year round. These two targets (SDG 2.1 and 2.2) are directly linked with two other SDGs focusing on social development. These are:

a. Eliminating Poverty (SDG1): Food is one of the basic needs that represents one of the dimensions of poverty. Fulfilling food and nutrition needs of all its citizens, India will ensure positive outcomes at poverty levels also. The World Bank in 2011 based on 2005’s PPPs, estimated 23.6% of the Indian population, or about 276 million people, lived below USD 1.25 per day on purchasing power parity. Also India tops the world’s hunger list with 194 million people. (Hindu 2015) The link is apparent. By addressing the malnourishment of 194 million people, India will improve the conditions of poverty in the country.

b. Health and Well-being (SDG3): Dietary intake is a closely associated health indicator of an individual. Female and child mortality, maln-ourishment and various diseases are directly related to nutrition and hygiene levels of an individual, a household and a community. National policies to address mal-nourishment will have positive outcomes on health targets of mortality and diseases.

2. Economic Implications: SDG 2.3 aims to double agriculture productivity and incomes of the small-scale food producers in particular women, indigenous people, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment. This target has direct relation with incidences of poverty, economic growth outcomes of the country and the disparate growth resulting in high income inequalities. This can be elaborated as:

a. Eliminating Poverty (SDG1): About 49% of the rural households show signs of poverty as per Socio Economic Census of India. These rural households are not analogous to the number of farming households in India. However, agriculture is considered to be a mainstay in the rural economy and as many as 570 million Indians, or 47.1% (with only 6.7% in urban areas), depend on the agricultural sector in India. The last 10 years (2001-2011) witnessed one of the largest migrations from rural to urban India, not seen in 90 years. Forced migration to urban centres form a large proportion due to collapse in agriculture and most of the new migrants are forced to live in shanty towns with no basic facilities. (Kumar, 2012) This clearly indicates that the root to eliminate poverty goes via stabilising the agriculture sector in the country, especially in terms of livelihood and income generation of the large population dependent on it.

b. Economic Growth (SDG 8): Agriculture contributes 15% to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), according to 2011 census data, while supporting livelihoods of approximately 60% of the population. Agriculture sector also contributes to other resources like raw materials and forms the base for health of the labour in the country. In this way, a robust agriculture sector contributes much more qualitatively to the economy than the 15% calculated as direct contribution to GDP.

c. Reducing Inequalities (SDG 10): Agriculture sector is grossly unequal, within and in comparison, to other sectors. What a large farmer earns on an average in one month is the same as what a marginal farmer earns in 8 months. There is inequality in access to land (Chaturvedi, 2016) with no more than 4.9% of the farmers controlling 32% of India’s farmland. Four million people, or 56.4% of rural households, own no land. In case of inter-sectoral inequalities, one can explore the trends of different values in the Indian economy. By 2015, the Minimum Support Price (MSP) for wheat had increased a mere 19 times, to INR 1,450 per quintal. However, in the last 35 years, the basic salary (plus dearness allowance) of government employees has increased by as much as 150 times, for college teachers and university professors by as much as 170 times, for school teachers by up to 320 times and for top corporate executives by almost 1,000 times (Sharma, 2016)

Despite income inequalities between agriculture and other sectors, the shift of labour from agriculture to other sectors is less likely in the near future. A study by CRISIL indicates that due to insufficient employment creation in industry and services sectors, more workers will become locked in the least productive and low-wage agricultural sector (CRISIL, 2014).

3. Environmental Implications: SDG 2.5 and 2.6 focuses on sustainable food production systems and resilient agriculture practices, while maintaining the genetic diversity in agriculture. Some of the other goals it is intrinsically linked with are:

a. Water for all (SDG 6) and Energy for all (SDG 7): India has only 4% of the world’s renewable water resources. Agriculture uses more than 80% of the total fresh water available in the country. With 50% of the land un-irrigated, along with over-exploited and degraded water resources in the country and projected water scarcity; the way Indian agriculture sector explores to utilise water in agriculture judiciously and efficiently will determine the water sustainability for access to drinking water and hygiene. The food production and supply chain, at the same time, consumes about 30% of the total energy consumed globally (FAO 2011, Issue Paper: Energy-smart Food for People and Climate). This food-water-energy nexus relates the link between consumption of electricity in direct proportion to the consumption of water. Energy and water conservation in agriculture practices can directly save water and electricity to fulfill SDG 6 and 7 aiming for access to water and electricity for all.

b. Sustainable Production and Consumption (SDG 12): Every year, the world loses or wastes about a third of the food it produces. To feed the world sustainably, producers need to grow more food while reducing negative environmental impacts such as soil, water and nutrient loss, greenhouse gas emissions and degradation of ecosystems. Consumers must be encouraged to shift to nutritious and safe diets with a lower environmental footprint. This is core to the principles of SDG 12. (FAO, 2015)

c. Combat Climate Change (SDG 13): Agriculture has a major role to play in responding to climate change and hence SDG 13. While temperature rise poses a real threat to global food production, investments in all sectors of agriculture can simultaneously support climate change adaptation and mitigation while improving rural people’s livelihoods. In case of India, the need is glaring, as is evident from the high incidence of farmer suicide cases in the country. 50% agriculture under rain-fed conditions in India has high susceptibility to crop failures due to climate change impacts.

Given the constraints in financial resources for achieving SDGs, it is important to do smart planning which prioritises as well as uses the resources to its optimum benefits. The inter-linkages identified can guide policy making in agriculture and related themes to integrate issues and make a comprehensive plan for sustainable development.

Anshul S Bhamra

Chaturvedi, S. (2016, May 4). Land Reforms Fail; 5% of India’s Farmers Control 32% Land. Wire .
CRISIL . (2014). Slowdown compounds India’s job-creation challenge. CRISIL.
Sharma, D. (2016, March 1). Don’t belive in the Budget Hype, Farmers have been short-changed again. The Wire .
Ringler (2015, February) SDGs fail to address interlinkages between goals and targets, CGIAR
Kumar A (2012, February) P. Sainath on "Inequality, livelihood and agrarian crisis" in India,
FAO, 2015, FAO and the 17 SDGs

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