If you enjoy food, and really, who doesn’t, then you should be concerned about the impact of a changing climate on our food systems. Just about anywhere you look, the wild and unpredictable weather is affecting agriculture. From droughts in Australia to extreme tornadoes in the midwest to floods in Colombia and China, this weird weather is raising food prices and forcing changes in farming.
In India, agriculture is a crucial livelihood and industry. India could eventually lose more than 5 percent of its growing season as a result of climate change, according to a joint report put out by international agricultural research centers. Compounding the impact of climate on farming is the economy. As India experiences economic growth, more people are leaving agriculture behind and migrating to cities for other opportunities. As the number of mouths to feed is increasing, the number of farmers is decreasing. That’s good news if you are a big industrial agriculture corporation, such as Monsanto, bad news if you’re a fan of sustainable farming and livelihoods.
Farming here and the world over has long been affected by industrial agriculture; now communities are increasingly being subjected to what is referred to as “land grabs.” This is when farmland in (usually) poor, developing countries is bought or leased by wealthier governments, corporations and private investors in more food insecure regions to produce crops for export. Much of this has happened in Africa, but Asia is experiencing land grabs as well. It is displacing farmers and negatively affecting poor communities dependent on the land for their livelihoods. This is not a new phenomenon, but in an age of increasing food insecurity, along with poverty and climate change, it is fast becoming an issue we cannot ignore.
Indian farmers face not only foreign investors taking their lands but their own government is doing it too. Taking advantage of an archaic colonial land acquisition law that gives the state broad powers to expropriate land—coupled with neo-liberal investment policies—the government is forcibly acquiring lands in the name of development. Sleek new expressways in Uttar Pradesh, mining concessions in Orissa, and new cities such as Gurgaon, outside of Delhi, displace rural populations and force people off their lands and often into city slums.
In the words of activist and physicist Vandana Shiva, “Land is not about building concrete jungles as proof of growth and development; it is the progenitor of food and water, a basic for human survival.” This is true most every where you look; balancing development and sustainability continues to be a challenge for us all.