With World Food Day around the corner on 16 Oct, the three food and agriculture agencies of the United Nations in India - The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) come together to address the issue of food and nutrition security in general, and malnutrition in particular.
Focussing on the role of agriculture and food production with nutrition and food security, Tomio Shichiri, Representative, of FAO said “The focus must not only be on increased food grain production but to also increase the production of targeted Nutri-cereals (nutrition-rich crops) such as millets. Promotion of homestead gardens and diversification of agriculture production towards fruits, vegetables and aquaculture can contribute towards addressing the malnutrition.”
He also spoke about the need for agriculture and food systems to be climate resilient in addressing issues related to land degradation, biodiversity loss, climate change mitigation and sustainable forest management.
In the context, Meera Mishra, Country Coordinator, IFAD India Country Office spoke about the benefit of changing patterns of consumption on farmers' production systems and incomes. Noting an example of millet production in Madhya Pradesh, Meera said- tribal Baiga women in the remote Dindori district in MP grew minor millets- Kodo and Kutki- using traditional practices. After being trained in better agronomic practices as well as processing, packaging and marketing, the farmers were able to increase the demand for these millets in local and nearby markets. These minor millets are climate-resilient crops and more suitable for the agro-climatic conditions in the district.”
Referring to the exceptional step taken by the Government of India in making access to food a legal Right, Bishow Parajuli, Representative and Country Director- WFP India, highlighted the advancements being made to ensure efficiency and effectiveness of the food-based safety nets through use of technology.
He said, “There are some great initiatives being undertaken by several states in India that are now using technology and these good practices need to be amplified so other states can replicate it. This includes examples of states like Odisha and Uttar Pradesh where SMS service is being used for reaching beneficiaries, IVRS is used for awareness on entitlements and grievance redressal, the multi-modal authentication mechanism is being used to ensure zero denial of services.”
Parajuli also emphasised on the importance of sharing information and awareness on entitlements for beneficiaries and promoting health and nutrition seeking behaviours such as a focus on the first thousand days, intra-household distribution of food and the role of women in ensuring food and nutrition security for their families.