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Foro Global sobre Seguridad Alimentaria y Nutrición • Foro FSN

Re: Call for experiences and effective policy approaches in addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics

Sumanth Chinthala
Sumanth ChinthalaIndian Institute of Technology DelhiIndia

Call for experiences and effective policy approaches in addressing food security and nutrition in the context of changing rural-urban dynamics

When the urban rural dynamics are changing rapidly, the following policy approaches can be considered for addressing the nutrition and food security aspects. The current approach can be effectively implemented in countries like India. The necessary aspects on social and economic equality, Food systems, Governance and Sustainability have been explained in detail.

1. Social and economic equality

This section discusses exclusively on nutrition aspect.

Nutrition among the individuals is significantly affected by the following factors:
(a) Availability of nutritious food to the individuals
(b) Cost of nutritious food in individuals
(c) Awareness on nutritious food to the individuals
(d) Identification of nutrition levels in communities and individuals

(a) Availability & cost of nutritious food to the individuals In urban context availability and cost of the nutritious food is an issue because many people cant afford it. In India we need the following policy to bridge the gap Policy: Government controlled Low cost food outlets with nutritious food items with one time payment option and redeemable for a long period is an effective sustainable policy which is needed. Examples: Amma Canteens in South Indian state of Tamilnadu, India is a good example of how government has provided food at low cost. On a similar lines, the delhi government is planning to launch Aaam aadmi canteens for providing nutritious food at low cost.

(b) Identification of nutrition levels in communities The levels of hemoglobin in blood gives us a good indication on the nutrition levels of the individual to an extent. Since, it is tough to verify the haemoglobin levels of every individual, checking of haemogloblin at blood donation camps is a cost effective way where the nutrition levels can be tracked. Our experience in Delhi has worked well where we have identified many individuals above 18 years have lesser haemoglobin levels and alerted many individuals about their nutrition levels. Depending up on the severity of the issue, awareness information on nutritional requirements has been provided for those people whose haemoglobin levels were found to be too low. Based on this the following change is recommended

Policy Change: Conduct a certain number of blood donation mandatory in organizations, institutes and firms can help us in tracking the people who has nutrition related deficiency.

(c) Awareness on nutritious food to Individuals

Approach 1

This can be done in a three stage activity
1. Identification of graduates in sciences fields related to food, nutrition
2. Train them with expert doctor’s guidance about how to inform communities
3. Trained professionals inturn conduct awareness sessions in firms, educational institutes as a part of Corporate social responsibility activities 4. Trained executives shall further travel to rural communities to address the issues of nutrition funded by the organizations which has to perform corporate social responsibility activities.

Policy change: Make nutrition related awareness session in firms, educational institutes mandatory in once in three months (to address the nutrition aspects in different seasons)

Approach 2

In the urban areas, most of the people are forced to eat in restaurant’s café’s atleast once in a day due to the work culture and other related factors. As a result people don’t have information on the nutritional requirements everytime they eat. Hence at all the restaurants and food outlets, the information on the number of calories, proteins and carbohydrates etc have to be given in the following form

Policy change: Menu cards in restaurants must show the information on the calories, proteins etc on the every food item in the list along with the cost.

Food Systems

(i) Collecting the data on the sale of seeds and collecting information of the farmers and the field locations. Currently this data is not available online and as a result, we never know whether a crop productivity is going to be less or more. Once the data is collected and predicted date at which you get the product is obtained, the data shall be then used to identify the extent to which the food security is serious. In countries like India, we sometimes have excess of tomatoes grown most of them were thrown away by the farmers. Instead they can be sent to proper storage places where the food can be used elsewhere

Proposed policy: Everytime a farmer buys seeds from a dealer, the dealer should take the data of how much seeds he has sold and where is the location of the farm where the seeds are being sown. This collected data can enable us to predict the total amount of crop that is estimated after the growth period.

(ii) Transport reforms for food transport in rural and urban areas
On one side, vegetables which were thrown away in rural areas due to lack of proper support price and on the other side the same vegetables are bought at a higher cost by the consumers in cities. This is because the food transportation mechanism is not planned between consumers in cities and farmers in the rural areas. Due to the presence of multiple transfer channels, a lot of food is wasted in between.

Proposed Policy: An online demand/supply channel for food products has to be generated so as to check where the goods has to be delivered and from where the goods has to be picked. Based on this demand/supply channel, transportation plans shall be made to optimize the time and distance travelled by the food products to reach consumers. This will eliminate the middle men and ensure that more nutritious food is reached in the urban areas. Few experiments on this bases have been conducted by few individuals at a small scale. However, a large scale application of this project is yet to be made in the Indian context.

Governance

The following policies can enable to solve the problems 

Temporary provision of storage spaces

Schools and colleges in towns mostly don’t function on weekends. The space in the premises can be used for storing food/ providing farmers to sell their products temporarily and the transportation mechanism should be planned in such a way that the food reaches the city during weekends and gets distributed during the same period. This shall also provide employment opportunities for youth by working on weekends.

Sustainability

Handling climate change: In this section handling climate change issues during drought and unpredictable rains are discussed.

Reducing losses due to winds

It is evident that most of the crop is lost during unpredictable rains accompanied with winds. The main reason is that there are no barriers to reduce the speed of the winds which flow through the farms. Since farmers cannot invest in taking measures for growing plant species to tackle wind speeds, the corporates should be allowed to fund the farmers to grow the species which reduces the wind speeds.

Urban waste as a source to reduce evaporation

Many sources in urban areas may be effectively used to reduce evaporation from the tanks in rural areas. The usage of scrap tyres, unused pet bottles, plastics etc can reduce the losses due to evaporation and ensure that water availability for a longer time and thus reduces crop losses during drought