Time to Sow the Seeds for a ‘Nutrition Revolution’ – Prof M S Swaminathan

 Setting the tone for a new agenda on nutrition in the country, Prof M S Swaminathan, Founder MSSRF called for a ‘nutrition revolution’ in India. Speaking at the concluding session of the 3-day conference on Farming System for Nutrition, organized by MSSRF in Chennai, Prof Swaminathan said there needs to be a Common Minimum Programme among stakeholders so that ‘Zero Hunger’ could be achieved.

Prof Ramesh Chand, Member Niti Aayog, emphasized the need for data for planning. “Niti Aayog is in the process of developing input indicators for nutrition, relevant to India, rather than based on international standards,” he said. Affirming the Central Government’s commitment to nutrition, he suggested that the Indian Council for Agriculture Research make recommendations on ‘farming system packages’ rather than for individual crops so that nutrition sensitive agriculture could be promoted.

Prof Swaminathan spoke of how studies reiterated that malnourishment affects intellectual growth of children. There was need for public policy for a balanced diet. Several states such as Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Chattisgarh had initiated schemes for better nutrition such as through noon meal scheme, providing millets and pulses in the Public Distribution Scheme. Therefore, states had a significant role in addressing malnutrition in the country, he said.

Dr Rasha Omar, Country Director IFAD pointed out that co-ordinated action across different sectors such as health, agriculture and sanitation was required to address nutrition. She also said women’s empowerment and education was important for nutrition outcomes.  

Dr K M Nagargoje IAS, Maharashtra Council of Agricultural Education and Research, shared the example of how focused initiatives helped address stunting in the state.

Dr Lalitha Bhattacharjee, FAO, Dr Jahan Mohan, Tamil Nadu State Planning Commission shared experiences from their work on how malnutrition had been addressed.

The three-day consultation organized by MSSRF with the support of Tata Trusts, brought together scientists, experts in nutrition and agriculture, farmers, policy makers and NGOs to discuss ‘Farming System for Nutrition’ – a concept by which agriculture is used as a pathway to increase nutrition status of communities. The role of farming and of integrating various aspects into farming practices were shared by speakers from across the world. Speakers during the conference included 2016 World Food Prize laureate Dr Andrade, the IFAD Country Director, Dr Omar, Director General of ICAR Dr Mohapatra, Director Tata Trusts Dr Sankar, Director ICRISAT Dr Whitbread, Mrs Kalaivani progressive farmer from Thanjavur and others. The ‘Chennai Action Plan for a Nutrition Revolution’ that was discussed at the consultation will be shared with stakeholders and policy makers to strengthen nutrition sensitive agriculture in the country. 

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