Experts bat for developing Sustainable food systems

In a step towards implementation of Sustainable Food Systems Platform for Natural Farming(SusPNF) an inaugural one-day workshop was organised at the University on September 2. Shri Rakesh Kanwar, Secretary Agriculture, Government of Himachal Pradesh was the Chief Guest on the occasion while Padam Shree Nek Ram Sharma was the Guest of Honour. The workshop is part of the participatory collaboration between UHF Nauni, Prakritik Krishi Khushal Yojana(PK3Y) of the Agriculture Department and NABARD which aims at empowering natural farmers and propelling advancements in the agricultural sector.

Speaking at the event, Shri Rakesh Kanwar was of the view that Sustainable food systems are the need of the hour. He said, “The recent natural calamity in the state has brought the question to the forefront of whether we will be able to practice agriculture in the same way as it is being done at present. Climate change has made the concept of food crisis a reality. Though the sustainable solutions to tackle this threat will be local, the efforts will have to be global in order to succeed”.

He added that our next challenge will be to find low-cost cluster-based decentralized technologies for the farmers and urged the FPCs to take this project as a stepping stone towards gaining financial independence and building their capacity to move towards a profit-driven market model.

Millet man of Himachal and Padam Shri awardee Shri Nek Ram Sharma lauded the initiative and urged the farmers and the scientists to increase the cultivation and consumption of millets and several local foods that have been forgotten over the years. He said that food habits have changed what we grow and stressed bringing the focus back on water, forests and land.

University Vice-Chancellor Prof. Rajeshwar Singh Chandel said that it was the first example in the country where the University has been declared as a Producer Organization Promoting Institution (POPI) for handholding of Natural Farmers Producer Companies (N-FPCs). He added that the project will help to establish roadmaps by incorporating the success stories of the farmers practicing natural farming in the country. Prof. Chandel added that the university with the support of other participating organisations will not only provide handholding but develop market linkages and increase the reach of FPCs to financial institutions like the NABARD.

Earlier, Director Agriculture Dr. Raghbir Singh said that the world is now looking to study the Himachal model for natural farming. He said the small land holdings among farmers in the state is a challenge and to overcome this problem FPC is a viable solution that substantially increases the bargaining power. He also called for developing low-cost small-scale storage facilities which can benefit the hill farmers. Dr. Inder Dev, Director of Extension Education said that this initiative is targeting the increase in income of the farmers and the university will be able to give a complete model of a sustainable food system. He added that university students have also been attending this workshop and many will be identified as master’s trainers in the future.

Several technical sessions covered topics like the CETARE system of certification for natural farming during the workshop. Discussions on establishing a robust support ecosystem for natural farmers comprising crucial resources such as post-harvest assistance, mapping aligned with Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and providing various technical support were held among all the stakeholders.  An exhibition of the different innovative products developed by the natural farming-based FPCs was also held during the workshop.

Ashok Chauhan, AGM NABARD, all the statutory officers and HoDs of the university, all the stakeholders associated with this project including the State Project Implementing Unit of PK3Y, the CEOs and Board of Directors of natural farming-based FPCs and the university scientists associated with the project attended the workshop. The university students and scientists from several institutions attending the national training on Natural farming at the university also participated in the workshop.