With India and its agriculture and food processing sectors facing grave nutritional challenges, an ASSOCHAM-EY joint report has suggested the Government of India a two-pronged strategy based on public-private partnership (PPP) mode to promote nutritious, diversified and resilient food production.
There is a need to focus on a dual pronged approach, where on the demand side, nutritious food is promoted among consumers by bringing companies and the Government together on a consumer sensitization campaign; and on the other hand, diversified and resilient food production is promoted that reduces the cost of production on the supply side, noted the study titled 'Bridging the gap: Tapping agriculture potential for optimum nutrition,' jointly conducted by ASSOCHAM and global professional services firm EY (Ernst & Young).
Noting that in order to cater to the large unmet need of both macronutrients and micronutrients, it stated that India must bring about both policy and practice level reforms that ensure easy access of low cost and nutritious food to the people.
The nutrition and agriculture programs will need to strengthen both demand and supply side initiatives such as agricultural diversification of farmland, food production, food fortification, strengthening food supply chains, empowering local communities for growing nutritious food and encouraging kitchen gardens, said the report.
The ASSOCHAM-EY study also said that it is extremely critical to spread awareness among the community on importance of a balanced and diverse diet, and empowering them, especially women, to make smarter nutrition choices for themselves and their families.
Highlighting the need to shift India's approach towards 'responsible farming,' it said that enhancing agricultural production can no longer be seen as the sole objective of the sector.
Focusing on nutritional adequacy to address India's malnutrition crisis will have to be considered as a prime objective as the country is home to about 50 per cent of world's undernourished children, it said further.
The ASSOCHAM-EY study also suggested the need to shift focus to a crop-neutral agricultural policy that reduces the bias toward particular staple commodities and encourages farmers to respond to the market demands.
Further, the policy needs to focus on reducing health and social inequities within populations, raising educational attainment and providing WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) facilities as well as secured jobs to ensure access to services.
It added that bio-fortification, would prove to be a more effective strategy in India as it is cost-effective and has the ability to reach the rural population.
Such initiatives need to be scaled up to ensure that a larger proportion of population can reap its benefits.
The report stressed upon the need to re-orient health services by aligning the other sectors with the goal of eradicating any and all forms of malnutrition. There is a strong need of convergence between the health and agriculture sectors along with gender-based empowerment.
Developing and strengthening a nutrition-sensitive approach in agriculture is critical for the country to successfully meet the nutrition requirements of the country and achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), said the ASSOCHAM-EY report.
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