Good Farming, Good Food: Improving Agriculture and Addressing Malnutrition Go Hand in Hand
Agriculture is the largest source of income in India and accounts for one quarter of the country’s GDP. In rural areas, 70% of households depend on agriculture for their livelihood, and almost 80% of rural farmers are smallholders.
Although India is one of the leading agricultural producers in the world, the country still faces an acute malnutrition crisis. Those most affected are women and children. According to UNICEF, malnutrition causes 69% of the deaths of children below the age of 5 in India. Half of Indian children under age 5 are affected by malnutrition, with many experiencing micronutrient deficiencies.
In September 2021, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation (EWS-KT), as part of a consortium of partners led by Solidaridad Asia, helped to launch the implementation phase of the Good Farming, Good Food project, which aims to reduce malnutrition, particularly amongst women and children, in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. The project is jointly funded by East-West Seed, Vippy Industries, and SDG Partnership Facility, a grant programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs managed by RVO.
The project’s two objectives of improving agriculture and addressing the challenge of malnutrition go hand in hand towards bolstering the nutritional security of the people of Madhya Pradesh. The project aims to help 30,000 farmers improve their net income through crop diversification and improved market access, which will contribute to better food security and nutrition at the household consumption level.
At the launch event for the implementation phase, Shatadru Chattopadhyay, Managing Director of Solidaridad Asia, said, “It is ironic that Madhya Pradesh, the biggest producer of soybean in the country, is also one of the top states in the prevalence of malnutrition among women and children. And this, when soybean is a very affordable and rich source of protein. The project has twin objectives of boosting farm incomes and reducing malnutrition by encouraging people to consume vegetables and soybean-based products.”
He noted that the objective of the project is to increase the productivity of vegetable farming by 20% and soybean by 30% through the use of better farming techniques and the use of high-yield seed varieties. The project will cover 30,000 farmers growing soybeans and vegetables on over 26,000 hectares of land in Madhya Pradesh. In addition to increasing the accessibility and availability of safe and nutritious foods, Good Farming, Good Food plans to improve the acceptability and consumption of nutritious foods through community and school-based awareness-raising activities.
Jeroen Douglas, Executive Director of Solidaridad, said, “With funding of 3.5 million euros, the programme aims to support around 50,000 vulnerable families, including rural women and schoolchildren, through access to nutritious food. The objective is also to increase the consumption of nutritious foods, particularly soybean-based products and vegetables at the farm and household level.”
Sathiyabama Baskaran, EWS-KT’s Head of Knowledge Transfer in India, provided more details about the project: “In this project, we are focusing on four major areas to improve the farmer’s knowledge on available vegetable crops and varieties, techniques to vegetable yield and thereby improve the nutrition deficiency in vulnerable rural groups in Madhya Pradesh. We would create demonstration farms with multiple cropping cycles to showcase vegetable farming techniques and thereby increase profitable returns. We would focus on the village-to-village training programs and field training programs to spread awareness on unique farming techniques. We are also providing undivided attention to improve women participation in farming through our kitchen garden programs.”
During the project’s inception period, EWS-KT trained over 3,300 farmers in over 47 villages.