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Agriculture, Nutrition and Health

About the Programme

Evolution of the programme

Food and Nutrition Security has been a focus area of the Foundation since inception. The activities included research, community based interventions to promote food security, building capacity at the community level, demonstrating models and policy advocacy. The underlying objective has been sustainable enhancement of livelihood, food nutrition security of marginalized sections of rural communities including vulnerable communities in the biodiversity hotspots of peninsular India.

Lessons Learnt

The Food Security programme area was established as a separate entity within the Foundation in the year 2004, under the aegis of the B V Rao Centre for Sustainable Food Security and the Ford Foundation Chair for Women and Sustainable Food Security. Work under the Food Security programme has been largely supported over the years by the UN World Food Programme and Ministry of Rural Development, TATA Trusts, UKAID, endowment funds from Ford Foundation and the Venkateshwara Hatcheries group, besides a number of small donors. The work has spanned research on the state of food insecurity at national and sub-national levels, action research on community food grain banks, empowerment of women farmers and leveraging agriculture for nutrition. In terms of current activity, the Food Security Programme has been spearheading the concept of Farming Systems for Nutrition (FSN) as a means to enhance the household food and nutrition security of small and marginal farmers. Agriculture, Nutrition and Health programme will retain this focus and engage in activities that address the SDGs, in particular SDG2 (Zero Hunger) and SDG3 (Good Health and Well-being). The approach will encompass SDG5 (Gender Equality) and SDG13 (Climate Action) as underlying cross-cutting themes.

Our Focus

  1. Research

Reports on State of Food Insecurity: Using a holistic concept of food security that takes into account the three broad dimensions, namely, availability, access and absorption of food, the Food Security programme area has published five Reports (between 2001 and  2010) that provide a macro perspective of the country’s food security concerns. These Reports are descriptive documents on the level of food insecurity in rural and urban areas of the major States of India and in the country as a whole.  The Reports have also carried out an exercise of constructing a composite index of food and nutrition insecurity for the major States of India, using a select set of indicators based on available secondary sources of data.  The five Reports that have been published so far have proposed specific recommendations for food security policy in the country.

Studies on the Technological Dimension of Agricultural Crisis:  Two research studies titled, ‘Designing Rural Technology Delivery Systems for Mitigating Agricultural Distress’, one pertaining to Wardha District in Maharashtra and the other to Anantapur District in Andhra Pradesh identified key factors that contribute to agricultural distress in the districts and have suggested suitable recommendations to tackle them.

Study of large-scale feeding programmes and their linkages with small farmers: An exploratory study was undertaken to investigate the possibility of linking small and marginal farmers directly to large-scale public feeding programmes like the Mid-Day Meal Scheme (MDMS), the Integrated Child Development Services (ICDS). The study was carried out in 36 villages in Andhra Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Odisha, Tamil Nadu and West Bengal. The study results were discussed and disseminated in a National level workshop.

Study on Maternity Entitlements: The study, Towards Universalisation of Maternity Entitlements: An Exploratory Case Study of the Dr. Muthulakshmi Maternity Assistance Scheme, (DMMAS)Tamil Nadu carried out in Dharmapuri and Kanjivaram districts of Tamil Nadu was a collaborative effort between Public Health Resource Network, New Delhi,  M S Swaminathan Research Foundation and Tamil Nadu Forum for Creche and Childcare Services. On June 2nd 2010, the Planning Commission hosted a meeting in New Delhi, to disseminate the results of the study to a wider audience, consisting of key Government functionaries from all States.

Study on Mid day meal programme: An e-Report on the evolution and experiences of school-feeding programmes in the country as a whole as well as in the States of Tamil Nadu, Odisha, Andhra Pradesh and Puducherry was prepared and brought out in August 2011.

Study on some aspects of food security policy interventions: This Report presents some aspects of the state of food security in India, in three of its states -Odisha, Kerala and Tamil Nadu – and in the field sites of operation of the MSSRF in the bio-diversity hotspots in these three states, located respectively in Jeypore block of Odisha, Wayanad region of Kerala and Kolli Hills of Tamil Nadu based on secondary sources of information as well as a primary survey conducted in 2013.

Other initiatives: A compilation of more than 200 entitlements (State and Central) that are in operation in Tamil Nadu is being undertaken. The specific details of entitlements, as listed out in the document, are currently being validated across MSSRF field sites in Tamil Nadu. This document that shall serve as a tool for creating awareness among villagers shall be available for MSSRF field workers as well as Panchayati Raj functionaries by end 2014.

B. Community Based Interventions

Community based interventions initiated by the Food Security programme area have focused on promoting household food security, among the socially and economically deprived sections in society, through various initiatives.  Capacity building of community partners (ie. the villagers)  has been a crucial element in all community based interventions involving training, awareness sessions, information dissemination, demonstration, exposure visits, workshops, conferences, etc. Some basic details about the community based interventions are as follows:

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana (MKSP – Programme for the Empowerment of Women Farmers), Vidarbha and Odisha

Mahila Kisan Sashaktikaran Pariyojana was initiated for empowering women farmers, including the widows of farmers who had committed suicide, in Wardha and Yavatmal districts of Vidarbha region, in 2007. MKSP focuses on women who are actively engaged in agriculture, operating own or family land or labouring for wages. The programme addresses empowerment of women farmers through a range of capacity building measures, in the areas of grassroot institution building, sustainable agriculture, and household food security. At present MKSP, Vidarbha covers more than 3000 women farmers spread across 60 villages, formed into 215 women farmers’ groups. (For more details visit http://mssrf-fs-mksp.org/). MKSP was initiated in Koraput district in 2013, covering 2581 women farmers in 45 villages with funding support from MoRD, Govt and OSRLM, GoO.

Community Hunger Fighters (CHFs): The high levels of under nutrition amidst a plethora of schemes is a cause for concern.  It is assumed that besides consuming a balanced diet, if there is appropriate utilization of entitlements with efficient service delivery and good governance mechanisms, it would lead to improved food and nutrition security in the long run. People’s participation is key to this. The Community Hunger Fighters’ initiative, launched formally in October 2011, is an action education model, wherein critical awareness of food and nutrition security issues and impetus for action among village communities was generated through sustained capacity building of five leaders consisting of men and women and belonging to different social groups, selected by the village community. A total of about 90 CHF’s, from 18 villages in Kundra and Boipariguda blocks of Koraput district, Odisha have been trained so far. Women’s active involvement in local governance, increased demand for personal entitlements and liasoning with the government authorities have been the major achievements. (Click on video for a detailed account). Currently, the CHF programme has been extended to 3 villages in Vidarbha, Maharashtra.

Community Grain Banks: Community Food grain Banks (CFB), as a community managed self-reliant food security system, operate on the principle of social inclusion. In the backward region of Koraput, 30 community food grain banks have been set up since the year 2000, across 30 hamlets. About 1260 households on an average have directly benefited from the community food grain bank initiative each year.

Participatory research in reducing undernutrition (0-3 years): Ongoing participatory research with tribal communities, integrating gender concerns, is being carried out in the above villages to reduce undernutrition in children below 3 years of age. Five trained representatives consisting of men and women known as Community Hunger Fighters work hand in hand with the parents, ASHA Workers and ICDS functionaries to promote better maternal, adolescent and child care practices.  Community managed preparation and distribution of kasantaka churna a herbal medicinal preparation from locally available plants, for reducing Respiratory Tract Infection (RTI) has been supported.

Home Gardens: Participatory research with tribal communities in 3 villages in Kundra block of Koraput district, Odisha in enhancing home gardens with plants rich in vitamin A and C. Baseline survey of the status of home gardens in 2010 is available in the form of a publication. The kitchens garden will be helpful in lowering the instances of hidden hunger by providing the essential micronutrients in the diets of the people ( Narayanan, R and Panda, A .2011).

C. Advocacy

Farming System for Nutrition: A Pathway for Addressing Malnutrition in India: The Farming Systems for Nutrition (FSN) approach propounded by Prof M S Swaminathan and implemented as part of a research programme on Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA), is now being advocated in four states of India. Given the importance of the FSN approach in dealing with the persistent malnutrition among rural households, this advocacy project with a time frame of 18 months was initiated in February 2017, with two core objectives: (1) to advocate the concept of ‘Farming Systems for Nutrition’ across different stakeholders, in Andhra Pradesh, Bihar, Maharashtra and Odisha; (2) to provide policy recommendations for strengthening agriculture-nutrition linkages in these four selected States. This project is being funded by TATA Trusts.

Farming Systems for Nutrition, as a farmer led strategy is defined by M. S. Swaminathan as, “The introduction of agricultural remedies to the nutritional maladies prevailing in an area through mainstreaming nutritional criteria in the selection of the components of a farming system involving crops, farm animals and wherever feasible, fish”. The basic principle underlying the concept of FSN is that diversified food production system has the potential to diversify the consumption basket of farm families. The FSN model is a location-specific, inclusive model based on the resource endowments and specific environment, to address the nutritional needs of families. More details: Farming System for Nutrition

Other initiatives: Education Support Programme in Vidarbha: Education Support Programme, initiated in Vidarbha in 2006, serves as a source of support for suicide affected families by providing an annual stipend to their school going children, in the range of Rs.1,500/- to Rs.3,000/-. On an average, the programme has covered about 75 children each year.

This programme received funding fro the MoRD, GoI and MSRLM, GoM in December, 2011 for a period of three years, since November, 2014. Further the programme has received a no-cost extension for two years and shall continue operations with Govt funds till November, 2016.


Achievements & Publications

Improved dietary diversity of farm households

  • 1000 home nutrition gardens established with local and high yielding varieties of vegetables, tubers and fruit trees. Backyard poultry promoted in 700 HH. Integrated rice-fish cultivation in 32ha in the low lying areas of Ernakulam district under traditional Pokkali cultivation. Nutritionally rich Pokkali rice and the protein and micronutrient rich fish ensured nutrition security for more than 100 HH.
  • 1733 household nutrition gardens with all the three types of vegetables i.e., green leafy vegetables, root and tubers and other vegetables along with some fruit bearing plants viz. papaya, drumstick, banana, guava, custard apple, lemon etc., have been established in Koraput district.
  • 286 farmers cultivated Orange Flesh Sweet Potato (OFSP) in their backyard or farmland as per availability. Recently 680 farmers showed their interest to grow OFSP in their backyard.
  • 221 acres Fallow land brought under horse gram cultivation.
  • 55 acres of biofortified rice cv. CR Dhan-310 (with protein content of 9.5-10 mg and Zn with 15-20 mg) cultivated during Kharif 2020. Due to growing demand of this biofortified rice, the area increased to 290 acres benefiting 580 farmers during this Kharif season.
  • Green gram cultivation with Nayagarh local variety was undertaken on rice fallow covering an area of 80 acres involving 95 farmers.
  • Yield enhancement trials carried out in more than 300 spice farmers covering area of 1000 ac. high yielding varieties of black pepper (10,000 vines), ginger (1300kg), turmeric (1000kg) supplied along with latest formulation of plant growth promoting bacteria and antagonistic fungi and micronutrient mix for cultivation
  • 500 coffee homesteads intensified with fruit trees, medicinal plants for income and nutrition security as well as increasing diversity
  • Rice cultivation promoted in Kuttanad and Ernakulam area and 100ha of wet land brought under cultivation from fallow land with high yielding varieties with an increased farm income over 35%
  • Established home-nutrition gardens to address malnutrition among vulnerable tribal communities in three panchayaths. Home gardening consists of a package of cultivating leafy greens, varities of vegetables, pulses, tubers – Yam, Colocacia and Dioscorea, fruit trees etc. The data on the impacts of home nutrition garden revealed better access to diverse nutritious foods for the tribal households and helped to achieve household food security in a larger extent
  • Collective farming involving tribal farmers and small holder farmers for increased production with high yielding varieties of Vegetables covering 10ac in two districts
  • Developed a millet based Nutrimix and the product is under nutritional profiling at CFTRI under DST project
  • Pulses village program extended to 5 acres to ensure seed sustainability of farmers in 2 districts leading to food and nutrition security
  • Improved agricultural production and increased area under cultivation of major crops in the intervention village such as Coffee and Pepper in 1000 ha, rice in 200 ha

Developing Grassroot institutions and building capacity

  • Infrastructure facilities for Community Resources Centres (CRC) cum Plant Clinics established in 6 districts and 35-40 Plant Clinic sessions conducted across intervention villages
  • Agri based entrepreneurships established for income generation for small holder farmer’s/fishers groups and women SHGs through skill development and capacity building by intensive trainings and facility creation, the initiatives covered 215 families across 6 districts”
  • 12 mini flourmills have been established to reduce the drudgery of women in 12 clusters of villages.
  • As a part of building community-level understanding and uptake, 112 Community Hunger Fighters (62 men and 50 women), undergone residential training on nutrition literacy last year.
  • Provided technology and handholding support for production and marketing of herbal products and value added ginger products. Around 200kg of products marketed earning 1,07,000/- by the SHGs. Pulses villages program was extended to 5 acres to ensure seed sustainability of farmers in 2 districts.
  • Women SHG provided with modified technology of ginger processing intensive training (150 training days), including maintaining quality of value-added products, ensuring hygienic production environment, packaging and storage
  • Women SHG on herbal production unit at Wayanad established provided training sessions on processing and production with technical knowledge. Created facilities including installation of machineries.
  • 5MT of Biofertilizer based on Trichoderma and Pseudomonas produced and supplied by women group earning an income over 3 lakhs
  • 6 Agri-food industries managed by local communities that supports nutrition sensitive value chains for strengthening livelihood
  • FPO established and nurtured, procured 30MT of vegetables, 5500 Kgs of traditional rice varieties, 400 kgs of honey and various value-added products of coffee and spices with a turnover of over Rs.28,29,559/-.

Ecotechnologies for enhancing farm income and strengthening rural livelihood for ensuring food and nutrition security

  • Enhanced knowledge base on the production and use of bio-inputs in agriculture such as Trichoderma, Pseudomonas, vermicomposting, aerobic composting, and other biofertilizers
  • Standardized innovative methods utilizing local available raw materials for the production of antagonisitc fungi and bacteria (Trichoderma and Pseudomonas).
  • Tissue culture methods standardized for quality banana planting material production and Oyster mushroom production under aseptic conditions developed and offered training to the youth and women
  • Watershed management in 1000ha covering three watersheds in Wayanad for soil and water conservation, Eco-technologies adopted and promoted in management of soil and water resources benefitting 2000 farm households

 Enhanced understanding among different stakeholders of farming system for nutrition and aspects relating to food, nutrition, health 

  • Trained and imparted scientific agriculture methods to the members of a student group of 100
  • Demonstration plots of major crops like Banana, tubers and vegetables created in 3ac of fragmented land owned by the tribal community with training to youth from the community on science based agriculture for yield enhancement
  • Organic farming training and promotion in three panchayaths covering around 600 households
  • 250 farmers engaged in spice cultivation trained for improving the farm income through science based farming
  • With an intention to spread awareness on nutrition, 20 training programmes on different aspects of home nutrition gardening were organized, 198 men and 544 women participated.
  • A direct target group consisting of 200 tribal students of 8 tribal hamlets across Wayanad attending the alternate classroom sessions, with a visible improvement in students’ interest and enthusiasm towards learning process
  • 30 Master Trainers have been identified for creating nutrition awareness in four blocks of Koraput district.
  • CHFs conducted 77 awareness programmes on nutrition and family diet by reaching to around 12000 individuals.
  • An awareness Rath was moved for eight days covering 32 villages in the block of Kundra to create nutritional awareness and family diet by reaching to around 8000 individuals.

Policy Advocacy for mainstreaming farming for nutrition

  • MSSRF has been recognised as expert agency in promoting Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture
  • IFPRI, ICAR institutes (including KVKs), NIRD, Universities and other agencies working in agriculture and nutrition invite MSSRF to share FSN experiences for their trainings
  • MSSRF provide technical support for FSN demo plots in KVKs in Maharashtra and Andhra
  • MSSRF has advocated the FSN concept among policy makers and scientists
  • Odisha Govt includes ‘Nutrition-sensitive Agriculture’ in their budget in 2018-19



Work Locations

VISION: A society where food, nutrition, health and ecological security are guaranteed to all in a sustainable manner

MISSION: End hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition and health, promote sustainable agriculture among marginalised households in rural India


  • To enhance household availability, access and consumption of diverse and nutritious food for improving nutrition and health status of target population
  • Increasing food production, agricultural productivity and rural income
  • To promote sustainable management in Agriculture and ecosystems for strengthening community resilience

Implementation Strategy

A. The strategy for achieving the focal themes will be under four strands, viz. Research for Development, Capacity Development, Promoting Grassroot Institutions and Research Uptake and  Advocacy

i. Research for Development:

    • Participatory Research and Action focusing on Farming Systems and Nutridense crops and species
    • Policy Analysis on sustainable Food and Nutrition Security
    • Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation of food systems

ii. Capacity Development: Preparation of training materials on the themes; identify target groups (School children, SHGs, Farmers, KVK officials, PRI members, CRP etc) and trainings based on annual training calendar.

iii. Promoting Grassroot Institutions: Form groups around common goal and build capacity for collective action

  1. Research Uptake and Advocacy:
  • Stakeholder engagement at different levels from grass root community level to district, state, national, regional and global levels
  • Developing research uptake products
  • Research dissemination
  • Policy Advocacy

Monitoring of activities will be an integral component inbuilt into all the implementation strands.

B. Linkage with Other Programme Areas

  • Eco-technology: On-farm equipment and Off-farm post processing technologies
  • Biotechnology: Gene – Seed bank linkages, Production management of Bio-inputs
  • Cross-cutting linkages: Gender and GRIs, Climate adaptation, Training and Capacity development, Policy

Stories of Change

All Stories
Socio-economic improvement is now achievable for Odisha

Koraput district in Odisha is largely a rural, agrarian economy. Declining land-holdings, poor incomes, and threatened nutrition security, combined with the consequences of climate change, pose a serious challenge for sustainable livelihoods. The gradual shrinking of land-holdings can be dealt with by pooling together land-based enterprises like fishery, poultry, duckery, apiary, field and horticultural crops, etc.

Read More

Publications and Newsletters

International Conference 2021

This fortnight e-synergy has some of the eminent participants’ videos who speak on various issues related to food and agriculture.

MSSRF Annual Report 2020-2021

Thirty-First Annual Report

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