Agriculture-nutrition linkages and policies in India

By now it is well recognized that agricultural development is important for enhancing nutrition. Agriculture-nutrition linkage has become an emerging area for research and policy in developing countries like India. Earlier studies have shown that there has been a disconnect between agriculture and nutrition particularly regarding policies. In this context, this paper looks at some key entry points for agriculture to influence nutrition and suggests policies for nutrition-sensitive agricultural development, within the current policy framework. In addition, it reviews three key agriculture-food programs for their nutrition sensitivity at the policy level, using a convergence framework. The three key entry points for agriculture-nutrition linkages are inclusive agriculture growth, food prices, and women in agriculture. It provides policy options for strengthening the linkages between agriculture and nutrition. This paper contributes towards an improved policy making in effecting a reduction in malnutrition in India.

Inclusive growth in agriculture is important for strengthening the linkages between agriculture and nutrition. Inclusiveness and equity in agriculture can be achieved by having policies for increasing agricultural productivity in lagging areas like rainfed areas and raising productivity and income of small and marginal farmers. The shifting consumption patterns toward non-cereals provide an opportunity for small farmers to diversify their agriculture.

This paper examines how food prices affect other basic and underlying determinants of well-being, including the pathways of the effects of food price inflation on household nutrition (particularly of women and children). It also discusses the food management and price policies needed to lower food inflation and raise nutrition levels in India.

There is increasing recognition of women’s role in agriculture. Improving the productivity of women farmers, as well as the income levels of women agricultural laborers, is crucial for contributing to improved nutrition. Policies that protect women’s rights in land, enhance infrastructure support to women farmers, and give them legal advice on existing laws will facilitate the recognition of women’s role as farmers and enable them to access credit, inputs, and marketing outlets.
It is well known that for reducing malnutrition, India requires multisectoral inputs—that is, convergence and intersectoral actions involving the fields of nutrition, health, agriculture, livelihoods, and women’s empowerment. This paper looks at this convergence at the policy level in two ways. First, it examines whether agricultural policies directly discuss nutrition. Second, it identifies potential pathways between agriculture and nutrition to have convergence. It also looks at some of the programs, such as National Horticulture Mission, Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, and the public distribution system in the framework of convergence.

Mahendra Dev, S.
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International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
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