On question 3, linking evidence from research to bring about desired change in policy is a challenge, but what is most needed for impact at scale. This calls for a process of continuous engagement with policy makers at multiple levels, keeping them informed, producing briefs that convey the evidence from research in simple, understandable terms sans technical jargon, targeting specific policies where feasible, clarity on costs and time required where possible, keeping an eye on every available opportunity to reach out and inform, and active use of social media.
The process is more impactful when the practitioners themselves become the spokespersons for what is being recommended. For instance, under the Farming System for Nutrition Study of LANSA, farm men and women in India are now sharing their experiences of imbibing and practising a farming system approach for bettering nutrition outcomes (e.g. see http://lansasouthasia.org/content/%E2%80%9Ci-wish-teach-others-line-sowi... http://lansasouthasia.org/search/node/Block%20level;).
To move to the next level of uptake, the FSN approach requires policy support for nutrient-dense crops in terms of input access, prices, and development of the value chain. The evidence provided by numbers, backed by voices of the practitioners, the stories of change are all elements that add up to provide thrust to the effort.
What public and private actions are needed to strengthen the impacts of agri-food value chains on nutrition? is one of the themes that the research programme consortium LANSA has been working on. Following up from the very engaging discussion at this forum, there is an e-discussion forthcoming next week on 25-26 April to discuss the effectiveness of markets and post-farm gate value chains in delivering nutritious food in different contexts, based on case studies in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh as part of LANSA research. Interested participants are requested to send in request for registration to email@example.com
A major challenge in the context of markets for nutrition is how to make the private sector agri-food players see addressing the problem of malnutrition as a corporate responsibility, as important as shareholder satisfaction and market share. The processed food industry for instance has immense potential to address specific micrinutrient deficiencies like iron and vitamin A. There are many examples of pilot initiatives that have worked. For instance, in India, there is the example of Britannia, GAIN and the Naandi Foundation coming together to promote high fortified iron biscuits under supervised consumptino to address iron deficiency anaemia. The company, Britannia Industries, also introduced a low iron fortified variant in its commercial line. The direction given by senior management is very important for the private sector to retain this kind of focus., unless it is ingrained in the corporate philosophy of the business entity and comes naturally. The other possibility is mandatory fortification, like iodisation of salt and vitamin A fortification of edible oils, both of which are current in India. But then there are also a large number of players in developing countries who are in the informal unorganised sector. For poor and vulnerable low income households, it is the latter that is more accessible. There are issues of accessibility and affordability that come up. Packaging in small quantities priced affordably is one of the aspects to be taken care of in consciously addressing low income households.
The state becomes a major player in the value chain for nutrition in developing countries with a large population that is malnourished. In India for instance, the supplementary nutrition programme under the ICDS targets 0-6 years children, and pregnant and lactating women in a focussed manner. There is scope for the private sector to partner with the state in these food value chains as a businesss proposition and many such instances exist.
Nutrition awareness and education for women is definitely important. It should not however be limited to women and adolescent girls. Men too need to be sensitized and made to realise the burden of work on farm and at home being shouldered by the women and its consequences. Better understanding and sharing or responsibilities at work and at home can help a great deal in addressing undernutrition in women. Easier said than done though!
Adding on to the point made by Nitya on gender sensitization of agriculture graduates, engendering the curriculum of agriculture universities will be a good starting point and has to be actively pushed for. The M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and Kerala Agricultural University had collaborated on preparing course material on these lines more than a decade ago: However, uptake is proving to be a slow process.
Another area is policy for women in agriculture, taking into account the multiple roles they play on the farm and on the home front. Government officials responsible for delivery of entitlements related to agriculture at the village level have to be gender sensitive.
The title to land is in most cases in the man's name. A woman farmer in spite of shouldering a lot of the work on the land, cannot get access to agriculture schemes in her name. In the process, widows of farmers who commit suicide are oftentimes left at a loose end.
A Women Farmers' Entitlement Act is very much needed.