New Delhi [India], Dec 31 (ANI): With India and its agriculture and food processing sectors facing grave nutritional challenges, an ASSOCHAM-EY joint report has suggested the Government of India to adopt 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 sensitisation campaign; and on the other hand, diversified and resilient food production is promoted that reduces the cost of production on the supply side," the study noted.
The study titled 'Bridging the gap: Tapping agriculture potential for optimum nutrition' noted that in order to cater to the large unmet need of both macronutrients and micronutrients, the Centre 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 programmes 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 it is extremely critical to spreading awareness among the community on the 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 percent 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 was cost-effective and had the ability to reach the rural population. "Such initiatives need to be scaled up to ensure that a larger proportion of the population can reap its benefits."
The report stressed 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 for 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.(ANI)