Hyderabad, Aug 22 (UNI) Correcting the policy bias against dryland agriculture can help solve the current global food crisis and enhance the livelihoods of poor farmers, according to a policy paper on dryland agriculture issued by ICRISAT Director General William Dar.
In a statement, Dr Dar stated less than 10 per cent of public spending in developing countries went to agriculture though this sector commonly accounted for about half of the Gross Domestic Product.
Moreover, less than one per cent of public spending went to agricultural research which was vital for innovation. Only a small proportion was invested in dryland agriculture.
''Dryland agriculture is struggling against a headwind of policies that are biased in favour of the ''favoured lands'' (those with plenty of water).
''They also favour the influential urban populations that are concentrated in coastal mega-cities, and the familiar cereal grains that they consume: rice, wheat and maize,'' Dr Dar said.
By artificially reducing the prices of the major grains, these policies inadvertently hobble poor dryland farmers in their struggle to compete in the local and regional marketplace by growing the drought-hardy grains like sorghum, millet and food legumes, he pointed out.
According to Dr Dar, skyrocketing maize and rice prices caused food shortages and high prices in poor, import-dependent countries.
Over-dependence on a few crops also creates agro-ecological risks, such as vulnerability to climate change and crop disease epidemics.
''We suspect that the world may come to regret its under-investment in dryland grain crops as climate change kicks in, increasing the need for more robust, drought-hardy crops and crop traits for plant breeding,'' he added.
UNI VA GM AK DS1600