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Developing collective solutions for sustainable agriculture in India

On 27-28 August, WBCSD organized a workshop in Delhi on India-based solutions for sustainable agriculture with support of TERI-BCSD, one of WBCSD’s two Global Network partners in India. The workshop gathered 15 sustainability specialists from Indian companies and organizations, including WBCSD members ITC, JainIrrigation, Monsanto, PwC, Syngenta, and UPL. It helped emphasize the urgency of taking action in view of the important challenges faced by the agricultural sector in India. Representing 17.7% of the GDP (including forestry and fishing) and occupying about 54% of the labor force, agriculture is key to economic growth in the country. Rapid industrialization and urbanization have however substantially increased the pressure on water resources. With 90%, agricultural water withdrawal is above the global average of 70%. In addition, it is estimated that around 32% of lands are degraded in India[i], which leads to reduced agricultural yields. On top of these issues, an estimated 40% of the food produced in India gets lost or wasted, which not only represents an economic loss, but also a significant waste of precious natural resources.

With a view to ensure progress towards the Action2020 societal must-have of “sustainably increasing the production and resource efficiency of agriculture systems to secure access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food and sustainable bio-based products”, the WBCSD is working toward catalyzing business action on the ground in key geographies, where companies could join forces to implement projects that can improve resource efficiency of agriculture.

The workshop aimed to provide a networking platform for companies to share best practices whilst examining areas of common interest in piloting action across companies’ combined value chains with a view to:

  • Reduce food loss and waste from field to fork
  • Restore productivity to degraded land
  • Improve nutrient use in agriculture
  • Improve water efficiency in agriculture
  • Implement climate smart agriculture

Workshop participants also intended to explore the possibility for the creation of a WBCSD India Agribusiness Advisory Group.

Main issues discussed during the workshop included the risks associated with agribusiness in India and ways of addressing them, potential opportunities and means for collaboration among members.

Key outputs of the workshop can be summarized as follows:

  • Participants confirmed their interest in sharing their collective knowledge and best practices, in particular with WBCSD global membership, as well as their interest in learning about best practices in other geographies, especially in regions where climatic, soil and social conditions are similar.
  • The group agreed that both pre-harvest productivity issues and post-harvest losses had equal importance in improving the sector’s sustainability. Further work will be undertaken to identify pilot projects on which companies could collaborate to demonstrate effectiveness of their collective knowledge.
  • The group will reach out to WBCSD’s broader membership to ensure the project taps into the knowledge and experience of a large variety of members. It will also involve other organizations working on sustainable agriculture in India, so as to build on their expertise.