Strengthening a Nutrition Sensitive Approach in Agriculture in India
Strengthening a Nutrition Sensitive Approach in Agriculture in India
Urban and rural population in India still face nutrition related health issues due to unbalanced diet. Let’s see how various public-private initiatives have contributed to addressing nutritional challenges.
MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) leads the ‘Annadata ‘care garden model in the Kundra Block of the tribal-dominated Koratpur district, Odisha State. This district is one of sixty-nine districts identified as disadvantaged in terms of poverty, hunger, infant mortality, immunization, literacy, education and gender disparity.
Once covered in dense forests, this mineral-rich district has faced rapid deforestation as well as the wrath of climate change, which has profoundly impacted the traditional farming methods of tribal farmers. The decline in crop yields in paddy, which requires a lot of water for cultivation, is also a consequence of these evolving critical phenomena in this pluvial district.
The MSSRF model aims to build the capacity of women farmers through self-help groups (SHGs) to grow fruits and vegetables in their backyards on a pilot scale. It is a structured garden with multiple cultures to improve the food and nutritional security of the family. Crops range from leafy vegetables to organically grown fruits and spices.
the Annadata model sustained interventions, notably through participatory communication, have led to a positive change in consumption patterns. The daily diet is now balanced in terms of vegetables, fruits and in addition to legumes, which are rich in a wide range of nutrients, including minerals and vitamins. Most importantly, this approach ensured the nutritional security of families throughout the year.
According to the National Family Health Survey-4 (NFHS-4), about 35.6% of our children under five are underweight (too thin for their age), 38.4% are overweight growth (too small for their age), 21% are wasted (too thin for their size, their age). In addition, around 8% suffer from acute malnutrition (hidden hunger occurring due to deficiencies in micronutrients such as vitamins or minerals). The data also indicates that almost half of the population is anemic and at the same time 20% and 18% of the population are overweight and obese (excess macro-nutrient-calories in particular) respectively.
The country’s national nutrition strategy includes programs such as Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS) that focus on children and nursing mothers. The Indian government also operates the Midday Meal Program (MDM) to provide fresh ready meals in schools. In addition, there is the provision of affordable nutritious food as a legal right for the most vulnerable and poor.
The treatment of acute malnutrition is also supplemented by rehabilitation centers managed within the framework of the National Rural Health Mission (NRHM). There are also food safety regulations and programs to make bio-fortified crops such as iron rich ones available. bajra, high protein corn and high zinc wheat.
The report of the Committee on Doubling farmers’ income (DFI), 2017 observes that the urban and rural population in India still face nutrition-related health problems (for example, due to an unbalanced diet) despite the fact that the country produces large amounts of high-quality food. nutritional value such as grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables, milk, meat and eggs.
The plate, he adds, has an impact on the demand for inputs on farms. The report therefore recommends that last mile interventions be designed to recover demand for crops that create value not only for the return of farmers, but also for families’ access to nutrition, health and welfare. to be.
For example, experts claim that millets (Jowar, Ragi, Bajra etc.) are three to five times more nutritious than wheat and rice in terms of protein, minerals and vitamins. They need very little water for production (only require about 25% of the rainfall regime demanded by crops such as sugar cane and bananas).
More importantly, they can be grown in large arid areas using farmyard manure, reducing reliance on synthetic fertilizers. Thus, the expansion of a robust millet cultivation system and its promotion in the country provides multiple guarantees, including nutrition, keeping in mind the impact of climate change.
Experts further claim that a key factor hindering a family’s access to nutritious food is its inequitable allocation for women and young children. Rural women, especially as farmers, have a vital role to play in sowing, weeding and harvesting agricultural crops. Empowering women can therefore have a direct impact on agricultural productivity and make nutrition “inclusive” at home in the truest sense.
Hence the push by governments in favor of investments, such as the establishment of the Agri Infrastructure Fund (AIF), which promotes the financing of collectives of women farmers such as self-help groups and their federations. The program to promote 10,000 agricultural producer organizations (OPF) also aims to ensure their effective participation as shareholder members of these entities.
In fact, agricultural extension also has a very critical role to play. Nonprofit communications organizations such as’Digital green” complemented the efforts of National Rural Livelihoods Missions (NRLMs), Last Mile, by developing and promoting a nutrition-sensitive agriculture program through community-led videos.
Typically, these participatory videos empower women farmers on topics such as seasonal changes that affect nutrition and solving crop production issues through buying and selling.
India’s agriculture and food security policies are therefore now going beyond the caloric adequacy approach to ensuring access to a nutritionally balanced and diverse diet. One of the main drivers of this change is the expansion of the modern food retail industry valued at $ 380 billion over the past decade.
Therefore, changing consumption patterns have allowed modern agrifood systems to evolve in the organized sector. At the same time, as climate change threatens crop production, the government is evolving and propagating technologies for drought, heat and flood-resistant non-commodities (pulses, fruits and vegetables) by plus staple grains. This is to alleviate the vulnerability of the poorest against malnutrition, particularly in the states of Assam, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttarakhand.
The efforts underlying public-private initiatives such as that of the Swaminathan Research Foundation and Digital green, addressing the local and regional nutritional challenges of the poorest are commendable. We absolutely need to re-energize a nutrition-sensitive approach in agriculture by strengthening the capacities of our last mile governance institutions such as Krishi Vikas Kendras (KVK), common service centers (CSC) and Gram Panchayats, too.
(The author is an additional secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Farmer Welfare, Government of India. Opinions expressed are personal)