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Improving Nutritional Status of Vulnerable Groups through Agricultural Interventions

Updated: 4 days ago


Lessons from India


The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals designed to tackle global issues, including poverty, inequality, climate change, and more. One of these goals, Goal 2, focuses specifically on ending hunger, achieving food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. This is important because millions worldwide suffer from malnutrition, which can have serious health consequences and prevent people from reaching their full potential.

Vijaya Khader, a former Dean of Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University in India, researched ways to improve the nutritional status of vulnerable groups, particularly those at risk of malnutrition. Her research focused on several interventions, including crop diversification, horticulture interventions, and value addition. Crop diversification involves growing a variety of crops instead of just one, which can help improve soil health and increase income for farmers. In Khader's research, intercropping ragi and red gram or groundnut with red gram or castor in specific ratios resulted in higher income for farmers than growing only one crop. Red gram-based cropping systems with cluster beans also gave the highest yield.

Horticultural interventions can increase the supply of micronutrient-rich crops essential for good health. For example, Khader's research showed that the nutritional status of nutritionally vulnerable populations in the East Godavari district of Andhra Pradesh improved significantly with the help of horticulture crops and dairy farming. Khader also studied the operational feasibility of Red Palm Oil (RPO), rich in beta carotene, a precursor of Vitamin A. Supplementation of crude RPO to Anganwadi Children showed a decrease in Grade IV and Grade III Malnutrition. Additionally, oyster mushroom cultivation was studied as an income-generating activity for women in rural areas, where women can easily manage 4-10 beds and earn Rs.180 (USD 2,20) to Rs.450 (USD 5,5) per month.



Vijaya Khader, former Dean of Acharya N.G. Ranga Agricultural University in India


Two Amylase Rich Malted Mixes (ARMM) types were formulated using Ragi / Wheat. Other suitable products, namely Laddu, Roti, Kheer, and Porridge, were also prepared using a formulated malted mix. The supplementation of malted mixes for three months showed a significant increase in the weight measurements of preschoolers, pregnant women and lactating mothers. In addition, the clinical assessment showed a considerable reduction in nutritional deficiency symptoms and morbidity rate of all the subjects. The supplementation of ARMMs helped improve the nutritional status of the vulnerable population groups in rural areas, especially regarding protein, energy, iron, calcium, and B-complex vitamins. Furthermore, promoting the malt-based small-scale food industry provides entrepreneurship and employment opportunities for rural women and food and nutritional security through income generation.

Studies conducted on women fishers in the coastal ecosystem of Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu also showed that preschool children's nutrient intake was less than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Therefore, products such as Laddu, Roti, Kheer, and Porridge, prepared using a formulated malted mix, were given to vulnerable groups to improve their nutritional status. They were also given low-cost energy protein-rich preparations, namely RAGINA and EPRF, which were prepared with horse gram and soya bean using simple home-scale processing methods like

germination, roasting, and puffing.

Overall, Vijaya Khader considers her research has demonstrated the importance of implementing various interventions to combat malnutrition among vulnerable groups in India. These interventions, she affirmed, improve vulnerable groups' nutritional status and provide income-generating opportunities for women in rural areas, helping promote sustainable agriculture and move India closer to achieving Goal 2 of the SDGs.


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