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Alliance for an Eco-friendly, Healthy and Resilient Food System in a Rising India

Create a multi-stakeholder partnership for a sustainable food system to enhance livelihoods and healthfulness in rural and urban communities

Photo of Karim Maredia
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

Michigan State University, East Lansing, USA and Somaiya Vidyavihar University, Mumbai, India

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Researcher Institution

If part of a multi-stakeholder entity (i.e. team), provide the names of other organizations and types of stakeholders collaborating with you.

Somaiya Vidyavihar University (University/Private) |Tata Institute of Social Sciences (Research/Government) |Konkan Krishi Vidhyapeeth (Research/Government) |Mumbai Metropolitan Municipal Corporation(Government) |Maharashtra and Karnataka State (Government) |Agricultural Extension Programs – Krishi Vigyan Kendra(Extension/Government) |Public Schools - Mid-Day Meal (Youth Organization) |National Bank for Agricultural and Rural Development(Finance/Government) |Good Food Institute (NGO)| The Bombay Canteen (NGO)| Future Food Institute |Somaiya Trust (Foundation/NGO) | National Association of Street Food Vendors | Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors(NGO/ Public Health) | Somaiya Institute of Applied Agricultural Research(Research/Private) |Somaiya Group of Industries (Private/ Industry)|S.P. Jain School of Global Management (Education/Private) |RelianceFresh supermarkets (Industry/Private) |Mumbai Dabawalas(NGO) |Jain Irrigation (Industry/Private) |Farmer Producer Co-ops (Farmers)

Website of Legally Registered Entity | |

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 1-3 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

East Lansing, Michigan and Mumbai, Maharashtra

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

United State of America and India

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

1) Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Maharashtra, 2) Palghar District, Maharashtra, and 3) Bagalkot District, Karnataka

What country is your selected Place located in?


Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

For our Food System Vision, we have selected three locations in India where we aim to enhance urban and rural food systems. Michigan State University (MSU), a premier land-grant university in the U.S., has been collaborating with numerous public and private institutions in India for several decades.  In 2008, MSU launched the South Asia Partnership Initiative which has been implementing collaborative programs with a long-term goal of enhancing food and nutritional security, livelihoods and economic growth. During the past 10 years, more than 300 faculty and students have visited India. Reciprocally, MSU has hosted over 1,000 faculty and students from India.

Among many partners in India, the MSU College of Agriculture and Natural Resources is implementing long-term collaborative programs with the Somaiya Vidyavihar University (SVU) in Mumbai focusing on “Sustainable Development.” Established in 1959, the SVU is operated under the Somaiya Trust. The trust has a long history of engaging rural and urban communities in human-centered development through a network of institutions covering programs across many sectors encompassing food and agriculture, human medicine, technology development, business management, K-12 education, and humanities.

The main campus of SVU is in Mumbai and has a strong presence on the ground and community development programs in Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR), as well as in rural areas of Palghar District in Maharashtra and Bagalkot District in Karnataka. Godavari Bio-refinery Ltd, a private company owned by the Somaiya Trust has a network of over 20,000 farmers. It supports numerous educational and community development programs as a part of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) mission. MSU and SVU are collaborating on projects including natural resource management, bioenergy, healthy foods, ecofriendly packaging, and precision agriculture. MSU and SVU share a vision and will to accelerate human-centered innovations in food system in India.

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 three sites for our vision are located in urban and rural areas in the Western part of India. The current total population of these sites is 27 million.

Site 1: Mumbai – Large Urban Area with Diverse Population and Socio-Economic Status:

Mumbai is located on the Western coast of India in the State of Maharashtra. Mumbai is one of the largest cities in the world, with a total population of 22 million people. Mumbai Metropolitan Region (MMR) covers 4,312 square kilometers and has a long coastline of nearly 270 kilometers. Mumbai is the financial capital of India and is a cosmopolitan city with diverse cultural, ethnic and socio-economic backgrounds. The 22 million people of Mumbai consists of four economic classes: high income, middle-income, low-income, and below the poverty line. As one of the most densely populated cities, Mumbai has little land to spare for food production. The MMR region has small scale vegetable production, fisheries and livestock farming. However, most of the food served in Mumbai comes from peri-urban areas, surrounding districts and other states.

Site 2: Palghar District, Maharashtra – Rural Costal Site with Tribal and Fisheries Communities:

The Palghar District is in the State of Maharashtra 100 kilometers north of Mumbai. The District covers area of 5,344 square kilometers. The 2.9 million population of Palghar District is spread in 8 Talukas and 1,008 villages. The District is well connected with Mumbai and other cities through the Western Railway line and National Highway. In Palghar District, nearly 35% of population are tribal communities residing in rural areas. The literacy rate in this District is 66% with per capita income of $210 annually. The road and electricity infrastructure in tribal areas are very poor. There is rampant malnutrition and in rural communities over 50% of children under age of six are stunted and underweight. Agriculture is small-scale, diverse and consists of cereal crops, fruits, vegetables, fisheries, aquaculture, and livestock. The cereal crops include rice and finger millet, vegetable crops and fruit crops such as sapota, mango, cashew and coconut. The livestock consists of cows, buffaloes, goats and poultry.

Site 3: Bagalkot District, Karnataka State – Rural Site with Dryland Agriculture:

The Bagalkot District is in the State of Karnataka in Western India. The district covers the area of 6,552 square kilometers with a population of 1.89 million spread in 8 talukas and 624 villages. The literacy rate in Bagalkot is 68%. Agriculture is the largest employer in Bagalkot with approximately 65% of the population engaged in agriculture. The major crops grown include sorghum, maize, pearl millet, sugarcane, cotton, sunflower, pulses and groundnut. Nearly half of the agricultural land is irrigated, and the rest is rain-fed. There are livestock and fisheries farming. The climate is warm and dry throughout the year and rainfall is low. The per capita income of the district is about $350 annually.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)


What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?


Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Despite remarkable economic growth and achievements in the agricultural sector in India, there is persistent food and nutritional insecurity. The agricultural sector faces low productivity and there is rampant hunger and malnutrition. With rising incomes and changing food habits, diseases such as diabetes, cancer, and cardiac diseases due to excessive intake of calories, fat, and sugar are becoming more prevalent. Large quantities of food are wasted due to poor handling and lack of adequate storage, transportation and market infrastructure, as well as weak supply chains. There is a great need to apply systems and human-centered approach to address current and projected challenges (2050).

Food System Challenges in 2020 include:


Unsuitable urban agriculture

Unsafe food and drinking water

Poor understanding of natural resources and ecosystem services

Low levels of recycling of food waste


Low awareness of nutrition and health aspects of food and diets

Triple burden of hunger, malnutrition, and obesity

Food-borne illnesses


Low agricultural productivity

Urban and rural poverty

Diverse and growing population with varying socio-economic status

Large food waste

Poor access to nutritious foods

Weak links of farmers and fisheries communities with markets


Diverse cultural and religious food habits

Informal, unorganized and highly fragmented food system


Weak and unhygienic market infrastructure

Significant food waste

Lack of scientific and eco-friendly agricultural and fisheries production practices

Lack of access to improved inputs

Policy and Governance

Poor implementation of food laws and regulations, resulting in food fraud, adulteration, and unsafe food

Lack of appropriate policies, support and governance by local Municipal Corporations, State and Central government

Lack of nutritional information on packaged foods and food outlets serving fast foods

Food System Challenges in 2050 include (Projected):


Greater impacts from climate change

Competition for natural resources, deforestation, land degradation, and declining arable land and water tables

Energy intensive food production systems


Diets dominated by processed foods, and food consumed away from home

Traditional diets replaced by fast food culture

Burden of malnutrition and obesity

Rising demand for locally grown/organic food


Declining share of food expenditure in total income

Food deserts in the midst of prosperity

High demand for protein-rich foods

Increased labor costs and availability


Diverse cultural and religious food habits prevailing


Access to improved technologies to meet environmental challenges and mechanization Sustaining productivity to meet rising demand of food

Policy and Governance

Regulations related to the use of emerging technologies

Regulatory frameworks to govern private sector-led food system

Pricing policies and social protection programs

The complexity and interconnectedness of these challenges require a holistic systems approach.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

In collaboration with many partners, MSU and SVU aim to form a multi-stakeholders partnership called “Alliance for an Eco-friendly, Healthy, and Resilient Food Systems in a Rising India” to address the food system challenges in the three selected sites.  The stakeholders include public and private organizations, government, universities, industry, NGOs, media, farmers, consumers, health organizations, and others. SVU and MSU will jointly establish a “Center of Excellence in Food System Innovations” to serve as a platform for implementing interventions and creating a multi-stakeholder movement to address the current and future challenges of the food system in India. The alliance will take an integrated systems approach to design and implement the following innovative programs to address the challenges identified in the previous section.

Policy, Advocacy, Regulatory Enforcement and Governance:  The alliance will engage policy makers and regulators, as well as street food vendors and restaurant managers to garner their support for this vision.

Awareness, Communication, Outreach and Dialogue with Local Communities: The alliance will promote outreach and information sharing through media such as radio, television, newspapers, internet, and social media.

Partnership with Doctors, Local Health Clinics and Public Health System: Working with the public and private health systems, the alliance will encourage local doctors and clinics to provide nutritional counseling and information in clinics, hospitals and public places with emphasis on quality, safety and nutritional value of foods.

Promoting Ecologically-based Sustainable Agriculture: Urban and Rural Food Parks and Home Gardens:  The alliance will promote the use of improved technologies, as well as eco-friendly practices to enhance productivity and ecosystem services.  At the community level, the alliance will promote educational and outreach programs for stakeholders to integrate traditional and modern technologies and approaches for efficient use of natural resources and adopt best practices.

Children, Women, and Youth Empowerment on Food Issues:  The alliance in collaboration with community-based programs, schools, and faith-based organizations will promote nutrition-sensitive outreach programs for local communities such as food banks, roof-top gardening, home gardens and school gardens.

Vibrant and Sustainable Value Chains and Markets through Public-Private Partnerships - Women-Led Food Enterprises: In collaboration with private sector, the alliance will promote the establishment of efficient supply/cold chains and link farmers to food processing industries and markets and reduce food waste. The alliance will strengthen the Farmer Producer Companies (FPCs), self-help groups, and cooperatives at three sites to unite farmers. 

Leadership and Professional Development:  The alliance will establish a fellowship program in food system innovations to groom the next generation of leaders

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

The alliance aims to contribute to India’s national food and nutritional security goals, as well as the UN sustainable development goals – zero hunger, good health and well-being, and partnerships for development.  Our vision will create a local, regional and national movement in India towards eco-friendly, healthy and resilient food systems resulting in:

Functional policies and governance programs supporting food systems with enhanced food safety, quality, grades and standards.

Gender-sensitive, diverse and eco-friendly agricultural landscapes, providing a variety of ecosystem services, along with natural resources management and climate change adaption and mitigation practices.

Farming practices that integrate traditional methods with modern technologies and precision agriculture, and crop insurance programs.

Well-informed and educated consumers with improved understanding of healthy diets and nutritional aspects of food with due consideration of gender equity.

Vibrant and sustainable supply and cold chains and markets contributing to reduced food waste, enhanced incomes and livelihoods of smallholder farmers and economic growth through creation of local, regional and international markets.

Locally produced safe and nutritious foods through utilization of advanced and user-friendly technologies – home gardens, terrace gardens, organic farms.

High-tech farming such as hydroponics, aeroponics, and in-door vertical farming using renewable energy sources (bioenergy, solar energy)

A cadre of next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs serving as champions for sustainable and healthy food systems in India.

Achieve zero hunger, reduced malnutrition, and healthy communities with reduced burden of non-communicable diseases for improved quality of life in urban and rural India.

Enhanced public-private partnerships among food systems stakeholders.

 The SVU-MSU Center of Excellence will emerge as a global model for holistic human-centered food system innovations.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

A Big Picture of Food System in India:

India is the second most populated country in the world with 1.3 billion people. Indian agriculture is made up of millions of smallholder farmers, where more than 70% of the population depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. According to the World Bank, 35% of India’s population lives in urban areas and the remaining 65% resides in rural areas.  In 2050, the population of India is expected to reach 1.7 billion with nearly 50% living in urban areas. With a rapid growth in population and industrialization, the land available for agriculture will continue to decline. Although, India is one of the leading producers of food grains, milk, fruits and vegetables, there are millions of hungry, food insecure and malnourished people. More than 200 million people in India suffer from hunger.  Approximately, 37% of the children under five are stunted and 20% are underweight. Around 51% of women of reproductive ages are anemic.

Despite the impacts of the Green Revolution, the current agricultural and food systems in India are not adequately meeting the national food security and nutritional goals. With rising incomes and growing urbanization, the dynamics of food habits and consumption patterns are changing, severely impacting health and quality of life of rural and urban communities.  Population in India faces a triple burden of malnutrition with coexistence of inadequate calorie intake, micronutrient deficiencies, under‐nutrition, obesity and related health issues. The dietary deficiency of energy and nutrients are widespread among rural and urban poor communities and with changing food habits there is an increased occurrence of non-communicable diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and cancer.

Hunger, malnutrition and diseases are common in three sites of our vision: Mumbai Metropolitan Region, Palghar and Bagalkot Districts. The current population of Mumbai is 22 million and is expected to reach 36 million by 2050. In Mumbai, 25% of population is malnourished. In Palghar District, 59% of the children are stunted and 20% are under weight. The population of Palghar District is currently at 2.9 million and the district is expected to become part of MMR by 2050. The population of Bagalkot is currently 1.9 million and will reach over 2.5 million by 2050. The projected population growth and rapid urbanization will exacerbate the triple burden of malnutrition in India if no actions are taken to address these multifarious and multi-faceted problems. Addressing these wicked problems will require multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral approaches.

Addressing the Food System Challenges:

India’s food system is largely unorganized and highly fragmented and is in urgent need of intervention and transformation.  Our challenge is to address, in a holistic and human centered manner, the patterns of low productivity, inefficient use of natural resources, poor access to improved technologies, low adoption of environmentally friendly agricultural practices, high amount of food waste, weak agricultural supply/value chains, poor food processing and market infrastructure, as well as lack of effective outreach programs on diet diversification and nutritional aspects of food.

In order to address these complex and multi-faceted food system challenges, SVU and MSU in collaboration with local partners will form an alliance to implement an integrated and human-centered food system vision program. The alliance will establish a “Center of Excellence in Food Systems Innovations” at SVU in Mumbai to serve as a platform for implementing various programs.  The Alliance and the Center of Excellence will be sustained through Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs of Somaiya Trust and support from other developmental organizations.

The SVU and MSU will bring unique strengths to lead the alliance. MSU programs in India are taking a long-term integrated and participatory approach. MSU has a Global Center for Food System Innovation (GCFSI) with an interdisciplinary team.  MSU Extension has established an innovative Center for Urban Food Systems that facilitates best practices for communities in Detroit, Michigan. MSU’s Product Center is engaged in creating economic opportunities through community-based food businesses in Michigan. Recently, MSU has launched an open forum called “Our Table” for interactive conversations and dialogue about food and food systems with local communities and stakeholders in Michigan. MSU will leverage experiences from these innovative programs for the Food System Alliance in India. The SVU’s core facilities are located in Mumbai, supported through inter-disciplinary education, field research and outreach sites in two of our vision places in the rural areas of Maharashtra (Nareshwadi, Palghat District) and Karnataka (Sameerwadi, Bagalkot District).  The SVU brings considerable experience in networking with rural and urban stakeholders to implement programs that will create impacts locally. Given the multi-faceted nature of food system challenges, the alliance will take an integrated approach to design and implement a variety of innovative programs that will address the food system challenges.

Our approach: The vision for Food System Innovations aims to create a human-centered, eco-friendly, healthy and resilient food system. On policy front, the alliance will work with local, state and national agencies towards building workable policies and governance programs supporting food systems to enhance food availability, safety, quality, grades and standards. The alliance will work with these agencies in planning and implementing programs in their jurisdictions for natural resources management, reducing food waste, recycling of the food by-products as well as proper zoning, urban planning, food fraud and food safety compliance. Our collaboration with street food vendors will promote the use of modern street food carts and stalls that meet India’s food safety standards.

The alliance will promote diverse agricultural practices and appropriate technologies that aim to enhance agricultural productivity and provide a variety of ecosystem services. In collaboration with our agricultural university partners, extension services and the private sector, the alliance will promote educational and awareness programs for stakeholders and incentives for efficient use of natural resources (land, water, biodiversity) and adapt best practices. The alliance will leverage the network of 20,000 farmers that supply sugarcane to Godavari Bio-refinery in Bagalkot District to promote sustainable agricultural practices.

The alliance will promote local production of food, as well as encourage consumption of healthy diets, safe, nutritious and protective foods through establishment of community food banks, roof-top and balcony gardening, home and school gardens, in-door vertical farming. The alliance will leverage the experiences of 4-H youth programs implemented in Michigan to empower and engage with children and youth about healthy food choices.

The alliance in collaboration with community-based programs, schools, and faith-based organizations will promote nutrition-sensitive awareness programs. In partnership with the Good Food Institute, Bombay Canteen, Future Food Institute, Mumbai Dabawalas (lunch delivery system) and public schools’ Mid-Day Meal program, the alliance will disseminate information on nutritional aspects of food to promote healthy, safe and hygienic foods and healthy diets. In collaboration with the Maharashtra Association of Resident Doctors, the alliance will encourage local doctors and clinics to provide nutritional counseling as well as nutrition information in clinics, hospitals and public places.

To enhance income opportunities, the alliance will work with stakeholders to develop vibrant and sustainable value chains and market infrastructure towards reducing food waste and enhance access to food. The alliance will strengthen the Farmer Producers Companies, self-help groups, cooperatives and farmers markets operating at three sites that bring together many farmers and other stakeholders. The alliance will harness resources from cooperatives, state and national banks and other financial institutions to support various programs.

Leadership and professional development of stakeholders will be a key component of our vision. In order to develop transformative leaders, the alliance in collaboration with SVU’s Management Institute and S.P. Jain School of Global Management will establish a fellowship and professional development programs that will produce the next generation of leaders and entrepreneurs to serve as champions towards building sustainable and healthy food systems.

 Overall, the alliance will aim to contribute to India’s national food and nutritional security goals as well as UN Sustainable Development Goals - zero hunger, reduced malnutrition, healthy and prosperous communities with improved quality of life. Our programs will build towards a sustainable, human-centered, healthy and resilient food system in rural and urban communities of India.  The progress of our food system vision will be monitored using appropriate indicators and milestones. The lessons learned and experiences gained will be shared with stakeholders both nationally and globally, and provide the critical feedback to sustain human-centered innovations. The success stories will be published through print as well as digital and social media. We envisage that our experiences will create an innovative food system model that can be scalable and replicable in other states in India and other parts of the world. Ultimately, the alliance will inspire a vision towards building a safe, healthy, resilient and sustainable food system that will create a vibrant movement which will go beyond 2050 towards improving the quality of life of people in India and globally.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Conference/event


Join the conversation:

Photo of Sumeeta Gawande

It's nice to hear about the alliance you have formed. We submitted a vision for Umarkhed, Maharashtra. There is significant overlap between your vision and yours. We'd love to hear your thoughts about our vision here Maati-Paani-Asha: Regeneration of Land, Health & Hope in the Face of Extreme Poverty & Climate Crisis 

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