Pro-nutrition agriculture in India: entry points and policy options

Pro-nutrition agriculture in India: entry points and policy options

Nutrition security has acquired a sense of urgency in the wake of dramatic surge in food prices since 2005, the ensuing economic crisis and the stubbornly high food inflation rates. These concerns dovetail with the recent renewed emphasis on pro-poor agricultural policies aimed at improving food production and marketing systems and policy measures to augment access to food for the poor.

This paper looks at the role of agriculture in nutrition and suggests that agricultural policies and programmes, while augmenting public investment in nutrition, should consider a triad of pathways. It notes that inclusiveness and equity in agriculture in India can be achieved by increasing agricultural productivity in rain-fed and resource poor areas, thereby raising productivity and income of small and marginal farmers.

Furthermore, by increasing the production and availability of diverse nutrient rich food and their access and consumption, agriculture and food policy can contribute effectively to combating micronutrient deficiencies. This will also require marketing reforms and managing price fluctuations to benefit small and marginal farmers as well as the realignment of agricultural policies t empower women in agriculture.

To ensure pro-nutrition agriculture, the paper makes the following key policy recommendations:

  • Achieve the target agriculture growth and productivity rates
  • Increase productivity in rain-fed and resources poor areas
  • Refocus on small and marginal farmers to strengthen farm and non-farm rural livelihood base
  • Support systems relating to credit technology water and marketing for development of bio-fortified crops, pulses, fruits, vegetables, livestock, dairy and fisheries
  • Policy reforms in marketing (amendment of APMC Act) and price stabilization
  • Group approach for marketing
  • Ensure land property rights for women
  • Correct the gender bias in the functioning of institutions and support systems
  • Maternal entitlements and child care facilities, following optimal standards at work sites for women and
  • Linking Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme (MNREGS) to strengthen women’s capacity to care
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