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Contributions for From economic growth to food security and better nutrition

Tim Williams University of Georgia, United States of America
Tim Williams

I think that we need to consider the full opportunity that social protection even in modest scales can achieve if done in an appropriate manner.

The Peanut CRSP in collaboration with the Society for Sustainable Operational Strategy, and Beacon Foundation in Guyana has over the past 10 years fostered what we believe is a great example of achieving development, social protection, economic growth, nutrition, empowerment of women in a very remote region.

At he start of the project the Rupununi Region (20K people living in 20K sq.miles, 6 hours drive from the coast) schools were provided milk and biscuits transported from the coast for children but there was little use of this resource due to lactose intolerance. The region produced about 15 t of groundnut,  and women had very little prospect of employment.  The country imported 500  tonnes of peanut.

By improving production, persuading the Ministry of Education to replace the unused milk/biscuits feeding program with a locally provisioned peanut butter/cassava bread/fruit juice snack we now have improved nutrition, greater school attendance, a significant employment for women making peanut butter for the schools and local market. Farmers have a local market and are more competitive with imported groundnuts on the coast.

Mr. Adetunji Olajide Falana Federal Ministry of Health, Nigeria
Adetunji Olajide

Dear Moderator

Thank you for the wonderful work. This new topic is actually long awaited and I sincerely appreciate the initiators.

To address the first question, I want to believe that experiences abound in most developed countries where social protection or security have enhanced better food security based on a sound Government policies. Social protection can be viewed from creating a functional market for local produces by government and thereby create unrestricted demand. This definitely leads to local growth of the economic that will boost food security and better nutrition. Secondly, the provision of social security as it is being implemented in some countries, where monthly allowance are given for sustenance have direct impact on food security at household level and could influence better nutrition. Another way that social security can be viewed from is price control and regulation. When there is little variability in the price of essential household commodities, then, food security and better nutrition can be guaranteed.

However, in contrast, most developing countries where social security or protection in form of functional market and price control of essential household commodities are virtually absent, then, the promotion of Sustainable Livelihood model should be encouraged and extensively promoted. This should be backed with micro-finance support which should be in agreement with household asset analysis. Also, the need for monitoring should be encouraged. If these can be put in place, the bases for economic growth would have been established which would invariably have direct bearing on better nutrition.    

It has been noted in most developing countries that agriculture policies are only explicit on food security and little or nothing is know about nutrition component and how food security and surplus will be integrated to have direct impact on nutrition security. However, presently in Nigeria, effort is being gearing towards integrating most agriculture policies with nutrition programmes so that, food security will actually have direct bearing on nutrition security.         

Putting nutrition on political priorities  continues to be an important national and international debate. But sincerely, I looked at this issues as much ado about nothing. Why? There are enough data and evidence that good nutrition is very important from conception utill death if dignity of humanity is to be preserved. But looking at most under-developed and developing countries where the buck of malnourished children are concentrated, the leaders are also malnourished intellectually.

A lot of advocacy had gone down the drain without significant improvement in the health and nutrition status. Several methodologies have been used to advocate, sensitize and create awareness on the significant of nutrition to national development, but these have yielded little result.

The overall solution is to empower the populace rather than the political class on the WHY nutrition should be treated as a developmental agenda by any government in power and making sure that appropriately LAW, regulation, policies and guidelines developed are followed and implemented by such government. Voting right people in the position of authority is also very key.  
Falana, Adetunji Olajide
Nutrition Division
Dept of Family Health,10th Floor
Federal Ministry of Health
Federal secretariat Complex
Phase III

Shambhu Ghatak Planning Commission, India

Dear friends,

In order to check how social protection impacts nutrition and food security, I would like to quote here some portions of the report entitled: Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guaranty Act (MGNREGA) and Empowerment of Women in Rural Areas by Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women (2011-12), Fourteenth Report, Lok Sabha Secretariat, May, 2012,

NREGS and Women Empowerment

•           Percentage share of employment availed by women under MGNREGS was 40% during 2006-07, 43% in 2007-08, 48% in 2008-09, 48% in 2009-10 and 48% in 2010-11. Hence, the percentage of women beneficiary under MGNREGA has been much higher than provided under the Act (i.e. 33% of total employment).

•           Out of total 26.69 crore registered workers under MGNREGA for whom job cards have been issued so far, 11.62 crore (43.53%) are women. In 2010-2011, out of the total of 8.73 crore workers who requested for work, 3.92 crore (44.9%) were women.

•           A closer look at the state-wise women participation rate during 2010-11 gives an impression that in some states it has been either abysmally low or significantly high. While states like Kerala and Tamil Nadu register 90.39% and 82.59% women participation in MGNREGA, respectively, Uttar Pradesh shows just 21.42%, Assam 26.51% and Bihar 28.49%.

•           Main reasons for low participation of women in MGNREGA have been non-revision of Schedule of Rates**, socio-cultural constraints and low awareness. Some of the States including Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, and West Bengal have revised their SORs to make them work and gender sensitive

•           As per a study conducted by National Federation of Indian Women (NFIW), New Delhi, there is an emergence of women's identity and their empowerment with the coming of MGNREGA as an economic opportunity provider.

•           Due to MGNREGS, women have also started to appear more actively in the rural public sphere as they take up their work and responsibilities. There is a general trend of low migration in the areas where assessment was carried out and workers have started to repay their debts.

•           As per a study conducted in Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, there was a substantial jump in earning potential for women. Out of total sample, 69% workers said MGNREGA helped them avoid hunger. MGNREGA also provided easy access to credit.

•           Ministry of Rural Development has not conducted any specific study on the issue of wages earned by women. However, the 64th Round survey by the National Sample Survey (NSSO) in 2007-08 had found that there was no difference between wages earned by men and women under MGNREGA as compared to other public works and that there was a reduced difference in the normal male-female wage rates for casual labour in rural areas vis-à-vis urban areas.

•           A Study titled as “Concurrent Evaluation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the State of Uttarakhand” by IIT Roorkee, conducted in the districts of Udham Singh Nagar and Chamoli found that Women's participation in decision making process had increased after the introduction of MGNREGS, mainly due to their increasing wage earnings. The study further stated that participation of women is higher in the hill district of Chamoli than the plain district of Udham Singh Nagar. Apart from the lesser socio- economic constraints, non-availability of the male workers due to their significant migration to plains could be the basic reason for the larger participation of women under the Scheme.

•           A “Research study on changing gender relations through MGNREGS” in the States of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu done by NIRD Hyderabad found that MGNREGS acted as social security measure to the aged women, widows, divorced/deserted women. The study further stated that female dependency level has declined after the execution of MGNREGS.

•           A study of “NREGA process and practices in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh: Appraisal cum research study”, by Centre for Educational Research & Development found that NREGA helps the women in general and lactating women in particular, to meet their basic needs, like food by ensuring regular income.

•           When asked about the performance of women mates, the Parliamentary Committee on Empowerment of Women (2011-12) have been informed that the district administration of Jalore in Rajasthan focused on training of women for deploying them as mates at worksites. This would ensure an increase in women persondays, participation and economic empowerment as well as better monitoring at worksites. The training was phase-wise and women were given calculators, bags, diaries, measurement kits, medicine kits. The model has now been adopted by the remaining districts of Rajasthan, districts in Uttarakhand, Manipur, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Himachal Pradesh.


Positive Impacts of NREGS

•           A study conducted by the Indian Institute of Management, Shillong on the Implementation of MGNREGA in six districts has indicated that Mahatma Gandhi NREGA has sufficiently added to household income of the people who worked/ are working in Mahatma Gandhi NREGA. The workers were of opinion that they have been able to arrange their households' daily food requirements.

•           A study conducted by Indian Institute of Management, Ahmedabad has indicated that the earnings from Mahatma Gandhi NREGA are used as a supplementary income source during non-agricultural seasons.

•           A study conducted by the Institute of Human Development has noted that the earnings from Mahatma Gandhi NREGA has contributed 8 percent of the total income of the households in Bihar and about 2.41 percent of the total annual income of a household in Jharkhand. It has contributed more to the income of the SCs (11%), OBCs (9%), landless (9%) and marginal landholders (8%). In both the states (Bihar and Jharkhand) beneficiaries have spent a substantial part of their earnings on food and daily consumption items, health, social ceremonies and education of the children. Debt repayment has also been formed as a component of expenditure from NREGA earnings.

•           A study entitled, “Supporting the Operationalization of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA in Khasi Hill, Megahlaya”, by Martin Luther Christian University has noted increase in cash flow at the household level during the month of employment under the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA and the increase in the cash flow ranged from 13 to 32%.

•           A “Research study on changing gender relations through MGNREGS” in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu done by NIRD Hyderabad stated that MGNREGS became primary source of income for one third of households. Household?s average income has increased significantly in all the three States, according to the study.

•           A study entitled as “NREGA process and practices in Andhra Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh: Appraisal cum research study”, by Centre for Educational Research & Development stated that beneficiaries of the Scheme in both the States reported that the Scheme increased their income by more than one fourth.

•           A study entitled as “Concurrent Evaluation of National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme in the State of Uttarakhand” by IIT Roorkee, conducted in the districts of Udham Singh Nagar and Chamoli found that the employment in the post-MGNREGS period had increased between 12 and 18 percent in both the districts.

•           A study entitled, “Socio-Economic Impacts of Implementation of Mahatma Gandhi NREGA” by Council for Social Development in tribal areas of Chhattisgarh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Andhra Pradesh noted that the implementation of the Mahatma Gandhi NREGA has contributed in increasing the food security of the rural masses and a major portion of increased income earned through NREGA was spend on food consumption. The beneficiaries have been able to construct house on their own land due to additional income from Mahatma Gandhi NREGA work.

•           A study on “Impact Assessment of NREGA in Bankura and Purba-Medinipur Districts of West Bengal” by IIT Kharagpur found that villagers consider Mahatma Gandhi NREGA a boon for improving rural livelihood. The availability of works within the village is an encouraging factor, especially for women.

Note: ** The value of work done by a worker is estimated using the Schedule of Rates (SoR) prepared by State Governments. In States there are Schedule of Rates Committees entrusted with the task of preparing SoRs. Schedule of Rates are arrived at based on the All India Standard Schedule of Rates 1986 published by Ministry of Urban Development in association with National Building Organization. For commonly used completed items for which the standards are not available, standards are decided by the Chief Engineer. SoRs are revised yearly on the basis of inflation and calculation of cost of material/ labour at the market rate of material and labour.


 I am also sharing below links of a number of success stories pertaining to agriculture, livelihood and nutrition:

Farmville in the real world -GS Unnikrishnan, The Hindu, 10 October, 2012,

Magic of millets-Ananda Teertha Pyati, Deccan Herald, 9 October, 2012,

Getting malnourished children back on the right track-Firoz Rozindar, The Hindu, 16 July, 2012,

Chhattisgarh's smart move-Sreelatha Menon, The Business Standard, 1 July, 2012,

Grow and let grow-Baba Mayaram, The Hindu, 6 May, 2012,


Please check the following study so as to know how Public Distribution System (PDS) was improved in the state of Chhattisgarh (India) through political will:

Reforming the Public Distribution System: Lessons from Chhattisgarh by Raghav Puri,

Economic and Political Weekly, February 4, 2012 Vol xlvIi, No. 5,



Shambhu Ghatak

Inclusive Media for Change

Centre for the Study of Developing Societies (CSDS)

Dr. Claudio Schuftan PHM, Viet Nam

Dear all,

2.  You mention pro-poor economic growth policies. I feel uncomfortable with any use of pro-poor. I have many times written that we rather need poverty alleviation (or rather disparity reduction!!) policies that are pro-nutrition. There is a big difference there. Pro-poor has the connotation of  throwing a few crumbs, but leave them in poverty kind'a thing. It victimizes the poor.

3. This relates to your Q3:
How can we mobilize the political will necessary to put policies for hunger reduction and improved nutrition higher on the list of political priorities?

  • Should we not be mobilizing politically for disparity reduction at least in parallel if not before?
  • Can we change political will of elites with entrenched interests? Is this an illusion? Are we not really talking about exerting de-facto counter-power to their political priorities?

Claudio in Ho Chi Minh City

Bernardo Alayza Mujica Independent, Peru

My experience in Peru is on supporting farmers associations in order for them to be able to supply new products to the urban markets.

Benard Langat Moi University, Kenya
Benard Langat

My name is Benard Kiplimo Langat

I am a lecturer in the department of Agricultural Economics and resource Management, in the School of Business and Economics of Moi University Kenya. 

I share my experience on household food security in commercialized subsistence economies. These are smallholder farm families who have been introduced to cash crop/non-food crop production in place of a food crop production such that production is constrained mainly by land size and scale of production. The assumption is always that high valued cash crop guarantees sufficient income to buy food crops and other household needs. Over the last three decades, the raging debate remains as to whether commercialization of subsistence economies presents a durable solution to food security problems in Sub-Saharan Africa. The debate has basically centred on the appropriate production strategy between advocates of food production for household food self-sufficiency, on the one hand, and household production of cash crops for income, on the other.

The critics have argued that commercialization of these economies increases competition between food and cash crops for scarce capital, land and other inputs. The fear is that food crops could crowd-out food production in the process jeopardising household food availability.
Advocates for commercialization, however, contend that cash crop production do not necessarily impact, negatively, on food production levels and that, in fact, the two forms of production should complement. Other supporters reason that even if cash crop promotion displaces food production, the latter should not be an issue as long as it is done on the basis of specialization. The logical reasoning of this view is that income earned from cash crops should finance imports capable of raising or sustaining domestic food consumption levels.          

Our studies were focused on smallholder tea farming in Kenya. The subsector has been dubbed a success story in Africa. Tea subsector contributes significantly to Kenya’s GDP and it is a leading foreign exchange earner. However, food security and poverty levels of households who directly depend on the cash crop don not reflect the handsome figures from the export of the crop.   

Kenyan government had put in place strategies to guarantee sufficient household food supply when smallholder farmers were introduced into cash crop production. One strategy required farmers to set aside a minimum size of land for food production. Another strategy also was that farmers were needed to produce a given minimum size of land under the cash crop to ensure economies of scale. The advent of market liberalization, however, saw these strategies abandoned. Subsequently, despite favourable prices of tea in the international market, food security and poverty levels have worsened over time among these farm households. We found out that those farmers who continued the strategy of setting aside a minimum size of land to produce maize, which is a staple crop, were more food secure compared to their counterparts who depended purely on cash crop. I recommend that ppolicies promoting commercialization in a smallholder setting should target improved production of cash crop as a complement to food crops without compromising attention to the latter.

Thank you