Echoing the common objective to achieve the twin challenges of food security and integration of supply chain with global food markets in light of the burgeoning open international markets, leading experts, policy-makers and CEO’s in the area of agribusiness and the allied supply chain in developed and emerging economies came together to explore the challenges in the development and harnessing opportunities to optimise inclusive agribusiness to achieve sustainable transformation that changes rural demographics, migration, merging globalisation of agriculture markets to mitigate food security and adapt to climate change impacts.
Organised by the TERI School of Advanced Studies (TERI SAS), the two-day International Conference was in collaboration with Whitman School of Management, the South Asia Centre at Syracuse University (USA) and Journal of Agribusiness in Developing and Emerging Economies (JADEE).
The conference had a mix of researchers, practitioners, policy-makers and other stakeholders from around the world who presented and shared their original research and expertise on agribusiness in the developing and emerging economies. The conference covered a broad spectrum of relevant themes, methodologies, and research approaches including empirical, conceptual, review and case studies. Over 230 participants from India, Bangladesh, United Kingdom, Nepal, Nigeria, Mexico, United States of America, Uganda, Indonesia, Malaysia, and Iran attended the conference. The conference provided a platform to showcase work in the field of agribusiness.
In his presidential address, Ashok Chawla, Chancellor, TERI School of Advanced Studies said that almost all issues related to agribusiness were being covered in the conference agenda. He hoped that the deliberations of the conference would bring out important policy and research implications for both policy makers and researchers.
Highlighting about the conference, Dr. Leena Srivastava, Vice Chancellor, TERI SAS informed that over 120 papers were presented under 12 themes which were totally in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) suggested by the United Nations. “As the world faces challenges such as global malnutrition, climate change and agricultural productivity, food security, conservation and use of resources, developing sustainable agricultural systems and livelihoods among others, augmenting agribusiness will open new vistas for growth and development that will show a visible improvement in the rural and agrarian economy of India.”
Dr. Sapna A. Narula, Head, Department of Business and Sustainability, TERI SAS in her address said that “This conference aims at creating a platform to bring together global and national scholars, academicians, policymakers and representatives from the industry for deliberating on ways for improvement of growth and productivity of agribusiness in India, especially looking at food and nutritional security, sustainable practices to combat climate change, rural development and livelihoods, agribusiness development through restoration of degraded mined out areas in coal mining sector, development of eco-parks and eco-tourism among other related areas, that can be major contributor towards strengthening the overall socio-economic fabric of India which has approximately 56.6% of the population dependent on agriculture and allied activities.”
Dr. SP Raj, Professor at Syracuse University, New York, while speaking on the marketing, distribution and retailing in Agribusiness emphasised that “The companies in the agribusiness sector have a big role to play in the achieving the SDGs through emerging strategic corporate social responsibility in agribusiness and addressing best practices for sustainability in agribusiness supply chain by adopting business models through which they can promote a sustainable environment, peoples livelihoods while earning profit.”
At the conference a booklet on ‘Eco Restoration and Sustainable Livelihoods’ compendium of success stories on a project in Muridiah area of Dhanbad (Jharkhand) namely “Sustainable Livelihood Activities on Reclaimed Open Cast Coal Mines: A Technology Enabled Integrated Approach was unveiled. The project is a joint initiative of TERI SAS with support from Bharat Coking Coal Ltd. (BCCL), a subsidiary of Coal India Limited along with Central Mine Planning & Design Institute Limited (CMPDI), Ranchi where local communities were relocated after restoration of degraded landscapes and open cast coal mines, and further developing entrepreneurial and vocational skills amongst members of local self-help groups (SHGs) for community, with a focus on women, empowerment through access to new economic opportunities.
The conference was kept in lines with the SDGs where keynote speakers from around the world chaired various sessions. The following were a few key sessions held at the conference:
A session on Climate Change and Agribusiness on SDG 13 discussed the impact of environment on agribusiness with issues like crop insurance scheme, measuring climate variability impact on cash crops farming discussed.
The session on SDG 12 on Sustainable Consumption and Production emphasised on how to move towards organic farming and utilising hygienic sewage, sustainable dyeing processes in the textile sector, ways to establish models for Indian companies to convert Agri-Waste to fuel.
A session on Rural Development and Sustainable Livelihoods by Bharat Coking Coal Ltd., discussed the scenario of coal mining in India and its challenges. Issues related to livelihood generation through ecological restoration to the local communities, agribusiness development through restoration of degraded mined out areas in coal mining sector, development of eco-parks and eco-tourism, ways to subsidence and mine fires in coalfields, ecological restoration of degraded mined out areas and ecological restoration and biodiversity of flora and fauna were discussed at length.
The major take away from the session was the possibility of development of methodology for transformation of degraded mined out lands and other wastelands into natural forest and silviculture/ agroforestry/ agribusiness, improvement in the methods of the ecological restoration, better native species selection for restoration, scope for development of eco-restoration sites as potential terrestrial carbon sinks, better understanding in improving the livelihood scope for locals through ecological restoration, development of approach to attract fauna to the ecological restoration sites and transformation of degraded mined out land into other useful forms like socio-eco parks and promotion of eco-tourism came out.
The session on Responsible Agribusiness (CEOs Round Table) by UN Global Compact aimed at fostering the partnerships between multi-stakeholders through emerging strategic corporate social responsibility in agribusiness and addressing best practices for sustainability in agribusiness supply chain.
The session on Climate change and agribusiness: Lessons learned in the Hindu Kush Himalayas highlighted the issues prevailing in the Himalayan region through two case studies on Resilience building (cardamom value chain) and climate mitigation (shade coffee plantation). The major takeaway points of the session were that climate adaptation and mitigation measures should both be addressed in mountain agriculture, institutional arrangements for agribusiness coordination need to be enhanced in value chains for building resilience to climate-induced disasters and private sector should adopt business models through which they can promote a sustainable environment while earning profit.
A session on Food Processing by Amul Dairy on total rural sanitation talked about hygiene to achieve the target of providing 100 percent toilet facilities in all villages where Amul has a milk society. The mission is not just about bringing a cultural change by imbibing good habits among milk producers but also targeted towards encouraging hygienic practices in the milk supply chain.
A session on Food and Nutritional Security discussed the efforts and innovation needed urgently in order to sustainably increase agricultural production, improve the global supply chain, decrease food losses and waste, and ensure that all who are suffering from hunger and malnutrition have access to nutritious food.
Other session such as Supply Chain in Agribusiness by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), New Delhi; Agribusiness Education by Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), New Delhi; Peer Mentoring Workshop on Research Paper Writing by Dr. K. Siva Kumar, Professor of Marketing, Lehigh University, Pennsylvania discussed the the inter linkages among supporting sustainable agriculture, empowering small farmers, promoting gender equality, ending rural poverty, ensuring healthy lifestyles, tackling climate change, and other issues addressed within the set of 17 Sustainable Development Goals in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
The conference was inaugurated by Dr Suresh Pal, Director, ICAR-National Institute of Agricultural Economies and Policy Research; Kamal Singh, Executive Director, UN Global Compact along with Ravi Shankar, Chief Operating Officer, Amul Dairy; Ashok Chawla; Dr. Leena Srivastava; Dr. Sapna A. Narula and Dr. SP Raj.