MS Swaminathan Lecture – in Commemoration of 31st SAARC Charter Day

Achieving Zero hunger targets in SAARC region- Abstract

— Prof M S Swaminathan


The SAARC region is registering satisfactory economic growth. Nevertheless, hunger and malnutrition particularly among women and children are widespread. This is often referred to as “SAARC enigma”. Agriculture is one of the most important professions in the SAARC countries and rice is the most important food crop. The prevailing hunger in the region is caused by three factors, viz, inadequate consumption of food, protein deficiency and hidden hunger caused by the deficiency of micronutrients like iron, iodine, zinc, vitamin A, vitamin B12 etc. Also, to achieve the zero hunger challenge we will have to give concurrent attention to all the three forms of hunger, particularly under-nutrition leading to calorie deprivation. The zero hunger challenge of the UN Secretary General has five major components, viz, 100% access to adequate food all year round, zero stunted children less than 2 years of age, all food systems are sustainable, 100% increase in smallholder productivity and income and zero loss or waste of food. An economical and effective method of achieving zero hunger is applying agricultural remedies to the prevailing nutritional maladies. For this purpose, SAARC countries can reorient the existing farming systems by including the dimension of nutrition. Such Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) should be supported by Genetic Garden of Biofortified Plants and Community Hunger Fighters, well versed in the causes as well as cures for the high malnutrition burden.

Nutrition is fundamental to provide every human being an opportunity for a productive and healthy life. The SAARC region should show the way by integrating agriculture with nutrition and health.

M S Swaminathan

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