November 21, 2019: The launch of a new initiative – Bharatiya Poshan Krishi Kosh (BPKK) (the India Agriculture - Nutrition Fund) – highlighted the importance of agriculture for nutrition. The initiative, launched in the presence of Minister for Women and Child Development, Government of India, Ms Smriti Irani, with Microsoft founder, Mr Bill Gates, also had a keynote message from Prof M S Swaminathan at the event.
The initiative is designed to create a repository of diverse crops across 128 agro-climatic zones in India for better nutritional outcomes. With the partnership of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation with the Government of India, a major objective of the programme is to encourage healthy dietary practices and maintain healthy lifestyle.
Minister Ms Smriti Irani emphasized on the need for convergence between agriculture and nutrition to tackle malnutrition. The initiative will address the challenge of malnutrition through understanding social, behavioral and cultural practices for healthy dietary behaviours. Also, it will create the first ever database linking relevant agro-food system data at the district, to map diversity of native crop varieties to be more cost-effective and sustainable over the long run.
Microsoft Corporation Founder and Co-Chair Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation Mr Bill Gates said that fighting malnutrition in India will bolster India’s development and help in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
In a video message at the launch program, Prof M S Swaminathan, spoke of the high importance of ending malnutrition, especially among mothers and children. He suggested that the Government could set up a band of ‘Community Hunger Fighters’, to address malnutrition at the community level. MSSRF has researched and tested this approach in some locations of India with good results.
The five-point plan to address malnutrition suggested by Prof Swaminathan include: ensuring calorie-rich diet for women, especially pregnant women and children; ensuring protein is imparted to children and women through cereals and pulses; addressing micronutrient deficiency, such as vitamin A, B, iron and zinc; ensuring clean drinking water and spreading awareness and literacy in every village.
In consultation with Ministry of WCD and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the project team will select around 12 high focus states which are representative of the geographical, social, economic, cultural and structural diversities of India. In each of the states or group of states the team will identify a local partner organization which has relevant work experience in Social and Behavior Change Communication (SBCC) and nutrition for developing the food atlas.
(This article has been written with information sourced from Press Information Bureau, Outlook India)
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