Convergence of Multiple Support Mechanisms through a Change Agents Module to Engage, Enhance and Empower the Productivity of the Community.
Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.
Our Food System Vision 2050 is for the entire state of Odisha, where 32.59% people are suffering from acute poverty, the second largest of Indian states as against the national average of 21.92%, as per Niti Aayog SDG India Index Baseline report. In a recent publication on the state-wise poverty rate, the Reserve Bank of India also corroborated it by stating that 13.85 million populations in Odisha are below the poverty line as of 2011-12. But at the other end, Odisha is rich in natural resources with an abundance of minerals, forests, lakes, and rivers. The state’s mineral reserves include over 30 percent of India’s iron ore and 90 percent of its chromite, in addition to significant resources of coal, bauxite, nickel, and manganese. Almost a third of Odisha’s land is under forest cover. The state also has a long coastline that is home to Asia’s second-largest eco-system of mangroves and some of the world’s richest biodiversity. Agricultural growth is of particular importance given the dependence of 70% of the population on the land for livelihood. Our pilot for FSV 2050 is Koraput region in the Eastern Ghats, the first agricultural system in India that been recognized for its outstanding contribution to promote food security, biodiversity, indigenous knowledge and cultural diversity for sustainable and equitable development with over 70% poor tribal people. Koraput has significant genetic repository in the global context. As many as 79 plant angiosperms species and one gymnosperm species are endemic to the region. Despite the genetic richness, no significant initiative was taken to use this legacy to help the region overcome acute rural poverty. Ekta, is well-grounded with its 25 plus years of bonding with the communities and expertise in food production practices, committed to ensuring food for all in Odisha by 2050.
Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.
The Koraput district lies at 17.4 degrees to 20.7 degrees north latitude and 81.24 degrees to 84.2 degrees east longitude. The region of Koraput existed far back in the 3rd century BC belonged to the dreaded Atavika people and was ruled by several dynasties, like Satavahans, Ikshvakus, Nalas, Ganga kings and kings of Suryavanshi, who dominated the region before the arrival of British. Finally, the Koraput became a district in the year 1936. The Koraput district covers an area of 8807 sq km consisting total of 13,79,647 population as per the 2011 census. The district has got 2 subdivisions, 14 Tahsils, 14 Blocks, 3 Municipalities, 1 NAC, 23 Police stations, 2028 Villages, and 240 Gram Panchayats. Koraput experiences a minimum of 12.0 celsius and a maximum 38.0-Celsius temperature. The district experiences mainly three seasons are i.e summer, winter and rainy. The average rainfall in the district is measured to be 1505.8mm (Average) rainfall. The economy of Koraput district is primarily based upon forestry and agriculture, the bulk of commodities used domestically for everyday use are agricultural and forest products. The district with semi-evergreen to deciduous vegetation endowed with various wild plants as a natural resource. Collection, gathering, and consumption of wild food by the tribal people are an integral part of their ethnicity and lifestyle. In many instances, wild food is comparatively nutritious and has potential medicinal values. Especially, besides providing food and nutrition, wild tubers act as a savior during the period of acute food scarcity. The perennial streams and rivulets, the availability of huge underutilized groundwater, the potentials to promote eco-tourism and the village and cottage industries in different parts of the district are the strengths of the district’s economy. Agriculture is the mainstay of the economy of the Koraput district because around 83 percent depends on it. The soil and climate in the district are favorable for taking up of agro horticultural activities. The suitability of soil and climatic condition for the production of coffee, cashew, cotton, tobacco, vegetable and fruits and the production of these crops strengthen the economy of the people. The common annual food crops grown in the region are paddy, millet, maize, and pulses. The literacy rate of Koraput is 49.21%. There are total of3,40,843 literate male and total 2,27,247 female in the district. The tribals of Koraput region have retained the rich and varied heritage of colorful dance and music. Through songs and dances, the tribes seek to satisfy their inner urge for revealing their soul. The arts and crafts of Koraput are the products of a long historical process in which the spiritual, philosophical and human dimensions have merged to yield the finest effects of cultured and civilized life. The cultural heritage of Koraput is reflected in its distinct traditions of painting, architecture, sculpture, handicrafts, music, and dance.
Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.
Koraput has a very high prevalence of undernourishment and micronutrient deficiency. 70% population are in the grip of malnutrition with poverty in this region. Unless few urgent remedial measures will be taken, the globally known heritage agriculture will be spoiled sooner. The followings are a few challenges of Koraput Food System, today.
- With the helpless agenda of improving productivity with the increasing use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is destroying fertility, thus adversely affecting the sustainability of farming. More and more lands are rendered infertile due to untenable farm practices.
- Unpredictable climate, less, erratic and irregular rainfall is seriously affecting the soil and food production.
- Agriculture practices with amplified production, profitability, and biased marketing are failing to endorse the nutrition aspect. Government policy revolves around enhanced productivity but has very less emphasis on the nutritional aspects. Present status of agriculture is purely based on market-oriented and promotion of mono-crop. The result is people are anemic with stunted growth, underweight and micro-nutrient deficient.
- More than 50% women and children are the worst sufferers in the present food system. They are anemic, suffer from chronic diseases, lack optimal growth. The children are becoming physically and mentally weak and not able to cope with the day to day tests of life.
- A varied food system which we found in the earlier days is missing today. Helplessly, we have been taking foods with more carbohydrates as compare to other nutrients. The local products abundantly available in the area are frowned upon today as people are becoming prone to food items from outside. This imbalance of food choice and pushing more people towards poverty.
- Cultural erosion of tribal wisdom and practices has also affected food production and patterns in consumption. The tribal community being urban-influenced is losing its diversified seasonal crop production and healthy consumption practices. They are becoming increasingly dependent on external support and rapidly losing their self-sustainability and identity.
- 85% of families depend on agriculture most of whom are small landholdings. They hardly sustain for 4-5 months on farming and rest of the year they depend on daily wage labor and seasonal migration for sustenance. The subsistence agriculture practices of this huge number of farmers do not allow them to optimally use their resources. The farm productivity is quite low combined with low-value crops. Post-harvest wastage is also very high between 35% to 45%.
- The market chain is skewed where prime producers are getting 30%-40% of their crop potential. Mostly depend on local market and middlemen with exploitative relationship. No leverage for bargaining.
Very limited use of technology in managing natural resources, production mechanisms, storage, and marketing. Now the need is to transform subsistence agriculture to enterprising mode with sustenance.
Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.
The multiple shifts from natural farming to modern-day compromised agriculture has many challenges to face and dispensed with. But the positive aspect of tribal and other backward communities of the region will respect their traditional wisdom and will once again adopt the natural farming with technological support for the production of more nutrient content food. Our vision envisages to address the followings through our Food Health Champions as the game changer to percolate the vision into action.
- The subsistence agricultural practices will be transformed into enterprising agriculture providing much-needed biodiversity support to smallholder farmers. This will happen by adopting natural farming techniques.
- Multi-cropping practices to optimally utilize the resources, complementary crop groups will supplement micro-nutrient requirements, enhanced preservation of soil moisture and soil fertility. This will help in distributing hence minimizing total crop loss during extreme weather condition.
- Cluster approach to leverage the collective strength of farmers. The small farmers will operate in clusters to attract inputs, as well as introduction of innovative technological interventions, will help the farmers with their collective bargaining power and agglomeration to reach economies of scale.
- Better storage and marketing facilities to enhance crop values and fetch better price. The farmer clusters will have their own market outlets in the market with state of the art storing and packing facilities.
- Access to micro-irrigation techniques to provide support for the moisture requirement throughout the year.
- The community must shift diet diversity extensively. Persuasions efforts to consume local seasonal cereals, pulses, green vegetables combined with tubers, plants, and roots, those are traditional to them. They will eat unprocessed wholesome foods with enough diversity to meet their dietary needs. This healthy food practice will help in eradicating hunger and lead a disease-free life.
- Vulnerable sections like pregnant and lactating women, children, old persons, and diseased persons will have access to nutritious healthy food.
- The landless families and women who contribute substantially to the farming activities and single women-headed families will be gainfully employed in the agriculture fields with various post-production activities like processing, storage, transportation, etc.
- Appropriate, low cost, sustainable and viable technology will be in practice in managing natural scarce resources, farming, post-production harvesting and storing, transportation and ultimately reaching out to end-users.
These indigenous crop productions will be economically viable for the farmers. Crops like millets, pulses, and cereals will be in vogue. The external market demand for these crops will grow considering their unique health benefits. The farmers will get linked to this niche market to realize a better margin and have a brand value.
Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?
Despite Odisha’s economic progress over the past two decades, regional dissimilarities, food insecurity, and malnutrition problems persist, particularly in tribal-dominated districts like Koraput. Simultaneously, trends in overweight and obesity, along with micronutrient deficiency, forecast a future public health catastrophe. Over the last decade, increases in per capita incomes, greater urbanization rates, and an increase in literacy rates, population growth, and poverty reduction have characterized this growth process. While agricultural development has brought about income-generating opportunities to few in the farming sector, poor infrastructure and a lack of institutional support have excluded many small landholders benefiting from the growth process.
The unpredictable climate has affected agricultural production in this high land of the hilly region. At the same time, the unplanned productivity growth influenced by increasing demand for higher-value agricultural produce is leading to increased greenhouse gas emissions, water, and soil degradation, accentuating production risks in agriculture which is predominantly subsistence in nature. The poor farming communities can’t afford a loss in income, thus they are being forced to reduce risk and opt for higher productivity through chemical inputs, though they are aware of the adverse effects. They need to be provided support in a unified manner at all fronts to adapt the natural sustainable agricultural practices which are both economically viable and nutritious. Promoting small farm commercialization and diversification serves objectives of enhancing farm incomes while improving the supply and access to food system diversity.
With our Vision-2050 Action Agenda, the Focus will be on, “Convergence of Multiple Support Mechanisms through the Change Agents Module (Food-Health Champions) to engage, enhance and empower the aspiration and productivity of the community to grow more and eat well.” Here in this vision, the 3C is important.
- The Convergence of Multiple Support Mechanism
- Change Agents Module with Food-Health Champions
- Community Approach for Ease of Things and Life
The rising demand for diversified agricultural products has brought about opportunities and challenges for the Indian agricultural sector. The opportunities come from the increasing demand for diversified and higher value crops that can improve agricultural incomes and improved access to a varied food basket at the household level. Commercialization of smallholders’ farms is an essential pathway to improved rural incomes and better access to diversified and nutritious food. The major challenges, however, are problems associated with the supply side such as poor access to markets, credit, purchased inputs, technology and extension services that have delayed commercialization and made income opportunities inaccessible to many small farm producers. These will be addressed to enhance food production in the prime agriculture sector.
The Food-Health Champions (FHC) will be committed to expanding both opportunities to strengthen nutrition access and to enhance the capabilities of individuals so that they can access new opportunities in ways to increase their welfare, through systematic handholding support mechanism. The creation of new opportunities and capabilities for increasing farm production and productivity, reducing malnutrition and improving labor productivity and facilitating greater structural transformation are the main goals of the FHC in villages.
The development in the agriculture sector must be integrated with health, nutrition, and economic development. Linking smallholder farmers with markets through agriculture value chains, improving access to nutritious food, creating inclusive growth opportunities are the challenges to address. Small farmers are getting 30-40% worth of their product due to various factors, such as no holding capacity, bargaining power is low, lack of information and access to best buyers, quality aspect is compromised and not uniform. They will come to a vibrant cluster phenomenon to realize their collective strength. When they come together to address their common problems, they can leverage the opportunities around them much better. Here the FHC is the connecting force and will ensure the convergence to happen.
Other important vision actions are the sustainable intensification of agriculture production, mitigating market and climate risks through better trading opportunities and technology. Meeting the growing urban demand for food and other agricultural products and non-farm employment provides new growth opportunities for rural economies; the challenge is to ensure that it is inclusive of the poor.
Provisioning the cities is the new growth opportunity for rural areas and could lead to accelerated rural transformation. Through organized upstream and downstream network of activities, the urban cities facing agribusiness, value chains could absorb surplus agricultural labor and provide them with jobs, especially for the youth and women. Employment in logistics, like aggregation, storage, processing and so on, at the agribusiness upstream and food-related services such as restaurants at the downstream, could potentially be leveraged as the channel of employment generation. Such an inclusive transformation of rural employment opportunities by including those who are left out regarding access to non-farm employment is essential to remove rural poverty. As we envision, one of the channels for propelling stagnant agricultural growth will be to strengthen the rural-urban connectivity which provides ample opportunities to the small farmers and other rural populations with greater opportunities to share in the fruits of urban economic growth.
The benefits of local economies can be realized through the creation of clusters that supply goods and services both for consumption and for agricultural production in households. Growing urbanization and changing employment patterns, though offer opportunities for a more diversified food system, the challenge lies in ensuring these transformations are smooth and contribute to poverty reduction.
Diet transition and the rising demand for food diversity is not matched with a commensurate rise in the supply of non-staple foods leading to poor access to more nutritious food. Diet transition will be an important outcome of the structural transformation process. In the first stage, economic growth and better income of poorer strata will induce diet diversification. Consumer preferences will move away from quantity to quality, substituting traditional staples with non-staples, such as fruit, vegetables, and livestock products. In the second stage, awareness of the negative effects of processed foods that are rich in sugars and fat will result in replacing them with wholesome unprocessed or locally processed food. These food items with less harmful ingredients and ample fiber content will be suitable for a good dietary habit. The role of the Food Health Champions is very crucial and will prove instrumental in bringing changes in life and livelihoods.
Access to food diversity is not equitable and that the poor are significantly disadvantaged in this regard. With a clear shift away from cereals, it is important to ensure other nutritive food items are available at affordable prices. It is clear, however, that the supply of non-essential foods has not matched the rising demand as manifested in the rising and volatile relative prices of these foods. With access to nutritive substitutes, dietary diversity would improve substantially. Similarly, the highly seasonal supply of fruits and vegetables will be available round the year at affordable prices. Storage infrastructure to smoothen prices makes access to nutritious food at affordable prices a challenge for consumers, especially the poor. The value chain of these products will be robust so that producers and consumers will both benefit from good margin and accessibility. The pricing of these healthy foods like fresh fruits, vegetables, pulses of local varieties will be at par with processed food items available in the market at a lower cost. The vision of the Convergence of Multiple Support Mechanism through multiple stakeholders will be usefully implemented.
The emerging nutrition transition towards over-nutrition and the rising incidence of non-communicable diseases requires a move away from policies that promote calorie sufficiency to ones that promote food system diversity. Over the last few decades, the district of Koraput has managed to reduce undernutrition substantially though still, a large percentage suffer from hunger. On the other hand, obesity and Non-communicable diseases rates are rising among urban and rural populations, albeit at a slower rate in the latter. Increased dietary diversity is associated with a lower prevalence of hidden hunger and higher nutrient adequacy ratios for individuals. Lack of diet diversity and excessive carbohydrates and sugar consumption are associated with a higher risk of obesity and NCDs. The vision is that the population including the poorest will have access to dietary diversity which is affordable. We must ensure that there is greater availability of food diversity within the local system with large community participation.
Effective food policy, hence, becomes crucial to a nutrition-sensitive food system which enables transition towards a healthier diet. However, trends around dietary changes and nutrition transition provide a reverse situation. The existing policy needs a paradigm shift where access to good quality and balanced diet becomes the primary objective. Creating new opportunities for the food system diversification, to cater to changing consumer demand, should thus become a focus for policymakers. The vision will also work substantially to influence the policymaker, ensuring few good practices to follow, adopt and upscale.