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Re: Making agriculture work for nutrition: Prioritizing country-level action, research and support

Mahtab S.Bamji
Mahtab S.Bamji Dangoria Charitable TrustIndia

Dear all
The issue of agriculture for ensuring nutrition security is very important.  The Indian National Science Academy (INSA) discussed the issue of "Nutrition security for India: issues and the way forward" in a sympsoum held held on August 3,4, 2009. Based on the presentations and subsequent extensive discussion among fellows and other experts, a position paper was prepared. I am reproducing below the recommendations relevant to agriculture.
Increased Availability and Access to Variety of Foods

  1. Environmentally sustainable, nutrition oriented cropping pattern, using a blend of time-tested conventional and new technologies with appropriate safety checks. – Awareness and education of agriculture professionals at all levels and community–Ministry of agriculture (MOA), ICAR, State agriculture universities, MI&B.
  2. House-hold food and nutrition security through decentralised, nutritionally oriented cropping pattern, homestead production of nutrient-dense vegetables, fruits, and animal products–poultry, dairy, fishery. Home grown food can ensure livelihood security, reliable and affordable food security and reduce rural urban and gender divide. - Awareness and education of agriculture professionals at all levels–MOA, ICAR, State agriculture universities, I&B.
  3. Nutrition dimension should be main-streamed into national missions like Horticulture, Food security, NREGA and Rural Health Mission, with defined input and output parameters for monitoring. NREG scheme should be well structured to create assets that would help ecology and nutrition and develop skills. S&T institutions should be involved in its execution. –MOA, Ministry of rural development (MRD), MOH.
  4. Orphan crops like millets should be revived. Increase in production of pulses should receive high priority. –MOA, ICAR, State agriculture universities, MI&B.
  5. Efforts need to be made to bridge the gap between actual and potential productivity of all crops. –MOA, ICAR, State agriculture universities, MI&B.
  6. Community gene, seed, grain and water banks, and crop livestock integrated farming will enhance nutrition security in dry land areas. – Agriculture extension, MOA, ICAR, State agriculture universities.  
  7. Post harvest technologies including establishment of modern silos, and food processing for value addition should receive high priority to prevent wastage of farm produce and generate employment. –MOA, MRD, Ministry of food processing industries (MFPI).
  8. Public distribution system should be strengthened and basket of commodities increased to include millets, pulse and oils. –Ministry of civil supplies.
  9. Export of Soya bean products should be stopped till availability of other pulses improves. Soya bean can be used to fortify wheat flour and other vehicles. - MOA, MFPI, Civil supplies.

Subsequent to publication of this paper, a more focused paper entitled "Micronutrient security for India- priorities for research and action" Both these papers are also available on INSA web site.

Hope this information is useful

Mahtab S. Bamji
INSA Hon.Scientist, Dangoria Charitable Trust,Hyderabad
Address for correspondence: 211, Sri Dattasai Apartments, RTC Cross Rds, Hyderabad, 500020