Knowledge is critical for concrete development outcomes. With a lot of information, different sectors and several stakeholders working for one common purpose, it seems necessary to bridge all these different pockets of work through one common platform,” emphasized B Jayashree, Head, The Hindu Media Resource Centre, M S Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF).
She was at ICRISAT to present the Foundation’s launch of the Tamil Nadu nutrition knowledge portal in partnership with UNICEF. The portal is a one-stop center to provide tools and resources on nutrition and support stakeholders on nutrition, as part of tackling the growing issue of undernourishment in India.
Jayashree talked about the nutrition system, such as maternal health, anemia, adolescent nutrition and water and sanitation. She stressed that despite having good food production rates in India, 53% women are anemic. This raised the issues of availability, access and absorption of nutrition and the discussion circled around the component of knowledge for nutrition. While availability and access to nutritious food are critical factors, there is a lack of knowledge about nutrition available in one place for
Nutrition-specific websites and databases are available, for example, at a global scale from FAO or the National Family Health Survey in India at national scale along with several research programs and institutions releasing information on the subject. However, this opens up the challenge of ‘too much knowledge’.
“Knowledge on nutrition should be available in one place so different kinds of people can access it easily, not only share but also utilize it better,” says Jayashree.
As part of MSSRF’s push to link agriculture and nutrition, a Farming System for Nutrition conference took place on August 8.
In the session, ‘Pathways of Farming System for Nutrition (Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture)’, Dr Anthony Whitbread, Research Program Director – Innovation Systems for the Drylands, ICRISAT, discussed managing food and nutrition security of smallholder farming systems in the semi-arid tropics. He emphasized the need to better frame and address the multi-dimensions of nutrition security.
The conference highlighted key points, such as: cereals remain affordable across all levels of wealth however, higher density foods and fruit/vegetables become unaffordable to the poorer sections of the community; and the approach to solving nutritional deficits depends on the context.
Bridging the gaps was another key area, covering issues from using ICT for better extension to building consumer demand. Joanna Kane-Potaka, ICRISAT Director of External Relations and Strategic Marketing, presented on the need to focus on what people want to eat, thinking about the taste and the image around food. Whether poor, wealthy, young or old, people have personal food preferences and are not just driven by production or what they are told is healthy. Engaging with the food processors and food service industries is important and providing food that is tasty and nutritious and has the right image, are all factors that are often neglected by agriculture or health sectors. She highlighted the Smart Food initiative as an example that is focused on fulfilling and driving consumer demand for millets and sorghum.