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Re: Nutrition-enhancing agriculture and food systems

Mr. Subhash Mehta Devarao Shivaram Trust, India
14.07.2013
Subhash

I have read with interest the contributions made to the consultation and would like to highlight the fact that a key factor why there was no food crises post-Soviet Union collapse in South Caucuses and Central Asian countries after 1992, as seen in Sub Saharan Africa, was the Dekhon / Homestead farming practiced by each family. These farms provided most of the immediate nutritious food needs of vegetables, meat, milk, eggs, fruits, etc., even when inflation was rife.

The NARES, Regional and International  research orgs/ stakeholders have not and are continuing to follow a top down approach, thus ignoring to meet the AR4D needs of the rural poor smallholder producer community ( 85% of farmers) to reduce costs, hunger, malnutrition, poverty, suicides and the effect of climate change whilst improving farm production of homesteads, quality of on farm produced low cost inputs in terms of improved livelihoods, seeds, compost, bio mass, water and irrigation, cultivation techniques, housing of livestock and their upkeep, net income and purchasing power etc. Many out of the box interventions like the funding  for the setting up of producer orgs/ company (PC) GOI doc attached, staffed by professionals (rural youth trained as general practitioners [GPs]/ MBAs in agriculture to take over all responsibilities, manage risks, leaving their members to on farm activities producing nutritious food for their communities and accessible at farm gate price), creating local human and institutional capacity (knowledge/ know how/ technologies/ ICTs and material sciences to manage water, etc., can contribute significantly to increased productivity of nutritious food by homesteads.

Link to an article about smallholder agriculture contributing to better nutrition, by Steve Wiggins and Sharada Keats, Overseas Development Institute (ODI), UK - commissioned by The Hunger Alliance (March 2013):

http://www.ajfand.net/Volume13/No3/Reprint-DI%20Smallholder%20agriculture’s%20contribution%20to%20Nutrition%202013.pdf

A couple of excerpts:

Public agricultural research needs to focus on smallholder needs, with technical innovations that are sparing in their use of capital, but which emphasise labour and the skilful application to local circumstances: reflecting the relative endowments of smallholders. For very small, part-time farms there is often a call for intermediate technologies that raise yields of food crops without heavy demands for labour or external inputs. 

Farmer-to-farmer learning, especially of agro-ecological approaches with considerable local specificity, can be facilitated and promoted by innovative extension services; research on conservation of soil and water need to recognise how and where local innovations function. 

Recommendation:

Develop and promote innovations for marginal farms, focusing on higher yields for staples but using few external inputs and where possible saving labour. These will allow these farms to achieve the self-provisioning in staples that is often a primary objective of the farm, as well as potentially allowing some of the land to be switched to more diverse, nutrient-rich fruit, vegetables and small-scale livestock rearing. 

Responsibility for this lies with agricultural research systems, although for some researchers taking up this challenge may require setting aside the search for optimal yields. There is scope here for NGOs to foster exchange of experiences from local innovations and NGO research.