Editorial Notes

[Editorial Notes] Role of Agrobiodiversity in nutrition and hunger aspects of India

Agrobiodiversity encompasses the variety and variability of animals, plants and micro-organisms that are necessary for support of, food production and food security.
By IASToppers
December 16, 2019


  • Introduction
  • Need of Agrobiodiversity
  • Significance of Agrobiodiversity
  • Recommendations of the Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law (CEBPOL)
  • Nutrition garden
  • Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)
  • Suggestions
  • Key Facts
  • Conclusion

Role of Agrobiodiversity in nutrition and hunger aspects of India

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India, with a population of over 1.3 billion, has seen tremendous growth in the past two decades. India’s food grain production has increased almost 2 times. However, despite phenomenal industrial and economic growth, India is unable to provide access to food to a large number of people, especially women and children. Agrobiodiversity offers the crucial role for improving in India’s hunger eliminating aspects.

Need of Agrobiodiversity

In India

  • India is ranked 102 in the Global Hunger Index (GHI) out of 117 qualified countries. 

India-is-ranked-102-in-the-Global-Hunger-Index-GHI-1 Role of Agrobiodiversity

  • Nearly 47 million or four out of 10 children in India do not meet their potential because of chronic undernutrition or stunting. This leads to diminished learning capacity, increased chronic diseases, low birth-weight infants from malnourished parents.
  • As per global nutrition report, 614 million women and more than half the women in India aged 15-49 are anemic.

Across World

  • Today, only 30 crops form the basis of the world’s agriculture and just three species of maize, rice and wheat supply more than half the world’s daily calories.
  • Out of 2,50,000 globally identified plant species, about 7,000 have historically been used in human diets.

Significance of Agrobiodiversity


Agrobiodiversity is,

  • Crucial in food security, nutrition, health. It is essential in agricultural landscapes, relating to diversity of crops and varieties.
  • Helps improve the country’s poor ranking in the Global Hunger Index.
  • Helps nutrition-sensitive farming and bio-fortified foods. For instance, moringa (drumstick) has micro nutrients and sweet potato is rich in Vitamin A.
  • Also found place in Zero Hunger (SDG 2) and the Aichi Biodiversity Target (which focuses on countries conserving genetic diversity of plants, farm livestock and wild relatives).

Recommendations of the Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law (CEBPOL)

The Centre for Biodiversity Policy and Law (CEBPOL), a policy advocacy unit of the National Biodiversity Authority, came out with recommendations to increase India’s agrobiodiversity in 2019.

Its recommendations are:

  • Devising comprehensive policy on ‘ecological agriculture’ to enhance native pest and pollinator population by providing ecosystem services for the agricultural landscape.
  • Promotion of the bio-village concept of the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) for ecologically sensitive farming.
  • Conserving crop wild relatives of cereals, millets, oilseeds, fibers, forages, fruits and nuts, vegetables, spices etc. for crop genetic diversity healthier food.
  • Providing incentives for farmers cultivating native landrace varieties and those conserving indigenous breeds of livestock and poultry varieties.
  • Encouraging community seed banks in each agro-climatic zone so that regional biotic properties are saved and used by new generation farmers.
  • Preparing an agrobiodiversity index, documenting traditional practices through People’s Biodiversity Registers and identifying Biodiversity Heritage Sites under provisions of the Biological Diversity Act, 2002.
  • Strengthening Biodiversity Management Committees to conserve agrobiodiversity and traditional knowledge.
  • Developing a national level invasive alien species policy to identify pathways, mapping and eradicating the invasive species and prioritizing problematic species based on risk assessment studies.

Nutrition garden

Nutrition garden

  • Recently, the Ministry of Human Resources Development brought out school ‘nutrition garden’ guidelines encouraging eco-club students to identify fruits and vegetables best suited to topography and climate.
  • The idea behind this is to maintain a garden by schools and grow plants that would supplement the nutritional requirement of the food being served as part of Mid-Day Meal Scheme.
  • These gardens can give students lifelong social, numerical and presentation skills, care for living organisms and team work, besides being used in the noon-meal scheme.

Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS)

  • GIAHS is a programme of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), founded in 2002. It aims to safeguard globally important agricultural heritage systems and their livelihoods around the world.
  • Across the world, 37 sites are designated as Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems (GIAHS), of which three are Indian:
  1. Kashmir (saffron)
  2. Koraput (traditional agriculture)
  3. Kuttanad (below sea-level farming)


  • Genetic diversity of crops, livestock and their wild relatives, are fundamental to improve crop varieties and livestock breeds.
  • Loss of crop genetic resources is mainly a result of adopting new crop varieties without conserving traditional varieties. 
  • The rich genetic pool has potential to diversifies to thousands of crop varieties and animal breeds.
  • Mainstream biodiversity into agricultural policies and projects to achieve India’s food and nutrition security.

Key Facts

  • India is a center of origin of rice, brinjal, citrus, banana, cucumber species.
  • India’s promising genetic resources include rice from-
  • Tamil Nadu (Konamani)
  • Assam (Agni bora)
  • Kerala (Pokkali)
  • Bhalia Wheat and mushroom (Guchhi) from Himachal Pradesh.
  • Hunger is defined by caloric deprivation, protein hunger and hidden hunger by deficiency of micronutrients. 


The consumption pattern and culinary diversity must be enlarged to increase India’s food basket. For that, India have to grow need for the design and development of more efficient integrated systems of food production, processing, preservation and distribution that will feed the changing tastes of the nation.

A holistic approach to eliminating hunger through agrobiodiversity requires ensuring available, accessible and nutritious food to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in India.


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