The Agriculture- Nutrition Disconnect in India

Children in Puri District in Odisha. Source: Flickr: Vartika Singh/IFPRI
Children in Puri District in Odisha. Source: Flickr: Vartika Singh/IFPRI

Despite the fact that India is the second fastest growing economy in the world, it is still home to one-third of the world’s malnourished children. According to the third National Family Health Survey (NFHS-3), one-third of Indian children are born with low birth weight, 45 percent of children below three years of age are stunted, 23 percent are “wasted” (too thin for their height), and 40 percent are underweight.

In order to understand the link between nutrition and agriculture—the central source of livelihoods in India--researchers must map pathways between nutrition and agriculture in India and empirically investigate how these pathway at play. IFPRI publication on The Agriculture-Nutrition Disconnect in India suggests that data and policy disconnects need to be bridged to enhance the nutrition sensitivity of agriculture in India. The study argues that there is an urgent need to address this gap to clarify the nature of agriculture–nutrition pathways or disconnects, and their variations across socioeconomic groups and regions. The need for building nationally representative panel datasets that enable this inquiry in the short and long run is crucial.  Without progress in closing data and empirical disconnects, policy gaps will remain.

Other Publications

A Nutrition Secure India: Role of Agriculture 
 Strengthening the Role of Agriculture for a Nutrition Secure India






Government launches Data Portal India

Data Portal India

Government of India has launched Data Portal India, a single point access to over 4000 datasets from 51 different government offices in India. Free to access and use, the portal has about 1745 datasets from Ministry of Agriculture. The portal also has datasets on commerce and industry, defence, finance, health, information and broadcasting, energy, transport and water resources, among others. The portal also contains 7 apps, including a map service, an app on rural sanitation coverage and one on physical, biological and geological information on oceans and coasts. The aim of the portal is to increase transparency in the functioning of Government and also open avenues for many more innovative uses of Government Data to give different perspective.

Bangladesh: Agriculture and Climate Change

Harikhali in Paigachha, Bangladesh; Source:Flickr-CGIAR-CCAFS

Despite dependency on natural resources and vulnerability to climate change, agriculture in Bangladesh contributes about 20 percent of the GDP and provides work to about 52 percent of the population. Over the years the country has experienced erratic rainfall, high temperature, drought, and high humidity -- impacting farmers, especially smallholders who have historically incurred significant losses.

According to the planning commission in 2005 about 60 percent of the crops were damaged due to cyclones which increase poverty at similar percentage and also decline in economic growth by 15 percent for that period.  The effect of climate change especially on cyclone frequency, storm intensity, and excessive rainfall will also impact the aquaculture infrastructure and livestock rearing. Frequent cyclone warning lead fishers to stay at home thus lowering their income and nutritional status of the rural poor.

A recent IFPRI discussion paper on Agriculture and Adaption in Bangladesh- discusses the impact of climate change in agriculture in Bangladesh by looking at crop yields, sowing pattern, fertilizers usage, irrigation usage with changing rainfall patterns etc. Despite knowledge on impact of climate change and undertaking adaption options, the farmers in the household survey gave insight on loss incurred during such shocks. In the year of the survey, farmers lost about 12 percent of the harvest due to issues related to floods and about 3 percent of rice is lost due to pests.

Using crop models for the current and future climates, the authors predict impact of climate on yield, and report the differences from crop to crop. For example, wheat production suffers yield declines due to climate change (mostly heat), whereas maize has only a small decline in yield when the production is already using a high level of fertilizer. An important finding of the research is that boro rice yields will actually rise with climate change if the planting month is moved to November or December from January or February.

The paper suggests investment in research to develop improved cultivars, and that adjusting planting dates can lessen the impact of climate change on yields especially in rice. It has been observed that increase in availability of nitrogen in soil can help in reducing losses in yields in some crops.

Using the IFPRI IMPACT model, the price of maize is expected to increase by 209 percent by 2050 in one of the models, while rice is only expected to increase by 83 percent in the same model. Thus switching from rice to maize in future could potentially bring benefit the farmers, assuming yield changes for the two crops are similar. Improving adoption practices during excessive rains and floods will reduce crops loss to farmers. Efforts towards improving pesticide efficiency are needed as farmers lose about 3 percent of production due to pest-related issue.

Prioritizing Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) in South Asia- IFPRI and APAARI

Farmer at Naogaon, Bangladesh: Source: Flickr: Divya Pandey/IFPRI

Reducing food and nutrition insecurity in South Asia requires—among many other things— greater long-term investment in agricultural research for development (AR4D). In an effort to strengthen the capacity of research systems in South Asia to invest effectively in this area, IFPRI and the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI) collaborated with the national research systems of Bangladesh, India, and Nepal to closely example AR4D priorities in the region. The collaboration, carried out through a series of large-scale consultations and both country- and region-level analyses in 2012-13, highlights the urgent need for structural, institutional, and financial reforms throughout the region’s AR4D systems to accelerate inclusive growth and improve food security.

A recent policy brief resulting from this collaboration provides strategic insights that may help shape ongoing and future AR4D investments in the region—priorities that include more stable and longer-term spending on research by governments, reforms to the governance and management of research systems, stronger incentives for private sector participation, and increased cooperation between countries.

The brief also identifies major areas for reform, including a tripling AR4D spending from the present levels in all the countries, building partnerships and consortiums to intensify innovation in the agricultural sector, ensuring functional autonomy of national research systems through stronger policy support and de-bureaucratization, and strengthening human resources development with liberal funding and progressive training policies. The brief further points out the need for greater investment in research areas that are currently underrepresented in national and regional priorities, for example, natural resources management, value chain development, and the provision of farm inputs and services.

With greater, more stable, and longer-term commitments to AR4D, accompanied by significant systemic reforms and renewed priorities, governments, donors, entrepreneurs, and communities can do much to address the persistence food insecurity and poverty across South Asia. Stronger and more effective national research systems have a central role to play in this process.

Guaranteed Employment and the Poor

Women working in MNREGA Site. Source: Flickr UN Women/Gaganjit Singh Chandok

Introduced in 2006, India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MGNREGS), one of the most ambitious programs of ruling government with the aim to reduce poverty by granting rural household right to employment up to 100 days per year at minimum wage rate. Self-targeting design with the aim to capture pro-poor section the program plans to increase employment and incomes of rural poor. IFPRI discussion paper on Heterogeneous pro-poor targeting in India’s Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme explores the degree to which MNREGAS targets pro-poor both at national and state level.

Following the three parameters such as participation, rationing and job-seeking, the authors studies the dynamics of the program, from the 66th round of National Sample Survey covering 58, 263 rural household in 27 states. It is observed that there has been overall 24 per cent participation in the program with huge variation across states, ranging from 4-5 per cent in Haryana, Maharashtra, and Punjab to 89 per cent in Mizoram. Looking at the scale of its operation, the variation can be observed due to --
1. Self -selection leads to greater participation by poorer and disadvantaged households

2. Administrative rationing in MNREGS is not pro-poor, many of the state report card unveils middle class bias i.e. household near poverty line likely to receive job than poorer households

3. Though MNREGS offers equal wage for men and women, data shows limited reach towards female headed households, due to self-selection and rationing effects

4.  Self -selection in some states with rationing towards selection of schedule caste and tribes (SC/ST)

The desired targeting pattern is high and pro-poor (i.e., progressive) participation with little rationing among the poor.  Deviations from this desirable standard can occur in any of three directions:  i) participation rates are low for the poor, ii) the participation and rationing profiles are flat or regressive (i.e. upward-sloping), or iii) rationing is high among the poor. Inter-state variation can be observed in many states, Arunachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir deviate from pro-poor targeting in all the three directions. In Jammu and Kashmir the participation rate was below 20 per cent, while rationing reached 60 per cent for the poorest households. On positive side out of the 27 states, 13 states fared well in pro-poor targeting. Success stories can be employed to improve livelihood of poor household and lessons learnt from Manipur, Mizoram, Rajasthan, Sikkim and Tripura can be taken by both national and state governments for the successful reach of the program to the targeted section of the population.

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