Establishing integrated agriculture-nutrition programmes to diversify household food and diets in rural India
Vijaya Bhaskar, A.V.
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Agriculture is the predominant livelihood for 70 % of the population living in rural India, and food expenses occupy a major proportion of their household budget. Rural household diets suggest that agricultural growth has contributed to increasing calorie intake with very minimal effect on the intake of protein and micronutrients. This in turn causes weak positive impact of agriculture on household dietary diversity and nutrient adequacy. Given the prevalence of high levels of under-nutrition and a large population dependent on agriculture, recent thinking globally on leveraging agriculture for nutrition security has encouraged the agricultural sector to realign its focus not only to increase food production, but also to address under-nutrition. Against this background, an exploratory study was conducted in resource poor villages of Wardha and Koraput districts in the states of Maharashtra and Odisha in India, to investigate how location-specific Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) interventions can potentially improve the diversity of household diets and nutrition outcomes. A detailed baseline study was undertaken to identify the existing disconnect between agriculture-nutrition linkages. In the study locations, the proportion of all forms of under-nutrition, vitamin A deficiency and iron-deficiency anaemia among children <5-years of age appeared unacceptably high. A high prevalence rate of chronic energy deficient (CED) women and anaemic pregnant women was also observed. A higher risk of under-nutrition and micronutrient deficiency among household members was associated with substandard living conditions of the surveyed households. Cropping systems in Wardha were primarily dominated by rain-fed commercial cash crops while rain-fed subsistence farming predominated in Koraput. Households in both study locations were found to have cereal-dominated diets with average daily consumption of pulses, fruits and vegetables, and milk and milk products well below the recommended daily intake level, indicating low dietary diversity. In both Wardha and Koraput, CED in adults (>18 years) significantly increased as the dietary diversity score (DDS) decreased from high to low. In Koraput, the prevalence rate of anaemia in adolescent girls and women significantly increased, as the DDS decreased. We conclude that food and diets lacking diversity and without nutrition-sensitive farming systems (either commercial- or subsistence-based) may not be appropriate to improve household nutrition and health status. Our findings provide a basis for structuring integrated agriculture-nutrition programmes or a FSN approach to diversifying household food and diets, for improving nutrition and health in India.
CitationVijaya Bhaskar, A.V., Nithya, D.J., Raju, S. and Bhavani, R.V. (2017) Establishing integrated agriculture-nutrition programmes to diversify household food and diets in rural India, Food Security, October 2017, Volume 9, Issue 5, pp 981–999
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