A vigilant civil society and a proactive media have the potential to trigger a political response to issues of hunger and poverty, according to speakers at a forum here on Sunday.

Chairing the Society Forum at the international conference on “Elimination of Hunger and Poverty: Priorities in Global Agricultural Research and Development Agenda in an era of Climate Change and Rising Food Prices”, Rodney Cooke, Director, Technical advisory Division, International Fund for Agricultural Development, said the role of society was important in terms of the interaction between society and politicians and the interaction between farmers and society.

The media, in particular, has an important role in holding the political class to some form of accountability. Without pressure from the media it would be easy for politicians to ignore issues of deprivation, he said.

Cary Fowler, Executive Director, Global Crop Diversity Trust, Rome, the factors that propelled agriculture production in the past---land, energy, water and climate---were not going to do so in future. Developing resilient crop varieties and creating a kind of insurance cover for half a million samples at gene banks were some of the measures undertaken by the Trust, he said.

“If crops don't adapt to climate change, neither will agriculture…and if agriculture does not adapt to it neither are we going to do so,” he said.

N. Ram, Editor-in-Chief of TheHindu said the media in India had overall underperformed in the area of flagging issues of mass deprivations. Journalism schools and training programmes had to take the initiative of orienting young journalists with reporting on deprivation in order to develop new thinking and sensitivity on the issue.

P. Sainath, Rural Affairs Editor of The Hindu, advocated a radical departure in policies and overhaul of existing structures and systems of inequity to put an end to the “extortionist profiteering from hunger and thirst”.

Terming as the “Oliver Twist approach” to food security the Centre's plan for partial universalisation covering 150 districts instead of targeted intervention, Mr. Sainath said adopting partial universalisation amounted to weakening the Directive Principles of State policy. Anil Prakash Joshi, environmental scientist, Himalayan Environmental Studies and Conservation Organisation, said farming was the only sector where prices were not determined by the producer and middlemen made all profits. Farmers surveyed by the organisation had suggested a public collection system to avoid middlemen and also sought a single window facility to access loans, seeds and public services, he said.

P. L. Gautam, chairman, National Biodiversity Authority, was co-chair. MSSRF scientist N. Anil Kumar was convenor for the session.

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