evidence-based blog of Filippo Dibari

Agriculture and malnutrition in India

In Under-nutrition on June 3, 2012 at 8:19 am

A Gulati, A Ganesh-Kumar, G Shreedhar, and T Nandakumar

Food Nutr Bull, March 1, 2012; 33(1): 74-86.

 

Abstract

BACKGROUND: Despite the high and relatively stable overall growth of the economy, India’s agriculture sector is underperforming and a vast section of the population remains undernourished.

OBJECTIVE: To explore the possible interplay between agricultural performance and malnutrition indicators to see whether states that perform better in agriculture record better nutritional outcomes.

METHODS: Correlation analysis and a simple linear regression model were used to study the relationship between agricultural performance and malnutrition among children under 5 years of age and adults from 15 to 49 years of age at 20 major states using data from the National Family Health Survey-3 for the year 2005/06 and the national accounts.

RESULTS: Indicators of the level of agricultural performance or income have a strong and significant negative relationship with indices of undernutrition among adults and children, a result suggesting that improvement of agricultural productivity can be a powerful tool to reduce undernutrition across the vast majority of the population. In addition to agriculture, access to sanitation facilities and women’s literacy were also found to be strong factors affecting malnutrition. Access to healthcare for women and child-care practices, in particular breastfeeding within 1 hour after birth, are other important determinants of malnutrition among adults and children.

CONCLUSIONS: Malnutrition is a multidimensional problem that requires multisectoral interventions. The findings show that improving agricultural performance can have a positive impact on nutritional outcomes. However, improvements in agriculture alone cannot be effective in combating malnutrition if several other mediating factors are not in place. Interventions to improve education, health, sanitation and household infrastructure, and care and feeding practices are critical. Innovative strategies that integrate agriculture and nutrition programs stand a better chance of combating the malnutrition problem.

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