Video | Health and the nutritional value of indigenous grains, seeds and millets: “The tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious”

“Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative.” – Vandana Shiva >>

“In the 2023 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 111th out of the 125 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2023 GHI scores. With a score of 28.7 in the 2023 Global Hunger Index, India has a level of hunger that is serious.” – (Date accessed: 6 March 2024) | Related posts >>

National Family Health Survey on dairy products and vitamin-A-rich fruits

New Delhi: A UN estimate has raised questions about the Indian government’s figures on food assistance needs. The UN report, released this week, suggests that over a billion people in India couldn’t afford a healthy diet in 2021, contradicting the government’s claim that only 813 million people require food assistance. […]

According to the 2023 report on food security and nutrition by five UN agencies, 74.1% of Indians, approximately 1.043 billion people, were unable to afford a healthy diet in 2021. The report also estimated India’s proportion of undernourished population at 16.6% during 2020-2022. […]

A study based on the National Family Health Survey 2021 found that among the poorest 20% households, more than 40% of women, even pregnant women, did not consume dairy products. It also found that over 50% of women and 40% of men in the country did not consume vitamin-A-rich fruits. […]

S.V. Subramanian, professor of population health and geography at Harvard University, who led the study, said the Union’s [Government’s] own count of 813 million people needing food aid was a “bit of a surprise” because “it seems larger than what is suggested by conventional measures of undernutrition,” the Telegraph report said. […]

Source: “‘Over 74% Indians Unable to Afford Healthy Diet’: UN Report” by Wire Staff, 15 December 2023
Date Visited: 6 March 2024

“In the 2022 Global Hunger Index, India ranks 107th out of the 121 countries with sufficient data to calculate 2022 GHI scores. With a score of 29.1, India has a level of hunger that is serious.” – (Date accessed: 22 October 2022)

On India’s 73rd Independence Day, we need to grapple with the shameful fact that over one-third of the world’s malnourished live in India. In Outlook this week, our I-Day special cover story asks- what about azadi from hunger?
Poshan​ #OutlookThisWeek​
Posted: Aug 15, 2019 on >>
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Discussing the challenge ahead for millions of India in the foreseeable future:
How to bring down the rate of stunting and wasting to single digit rates? [5:35] >>

Excerpt from “Rage Of A Silent, Invisible Killer Called Malnutrition – Why Shining India Is In Grip Of An Epic Calamity” by Damayanti Datta | Read the full article >>

Despite designing the world’s earliest and largest schemes on hunger and malnutrition, having surplus grains and food wastage, millions of Indians go to sleep hungry every night. It’s an invisible emergency that India must get rid of

It’s a crisis that hides in plain sight. […] At the heart of global geopolitics, India is an emerging superpower at 72. But away from the spotlights, here starvation stalks, families battle chronic hunger to stay alive, lack of food starts from the womb, underweight mothers give birth to undersized children, while low immunity snuffs out vulnerable lives. […]

One in three children is stunted in India, too short for their age. One in five Indian children suffers from wasting, too thin for their height. One in four is underweight, too thin for one’s age, reports the Global Hunger Index 2018.“ […]

How India compares with the world
Graphic © Outlook India 26 August 2019 | Enlarge >>
“The tribal food basket has always been diverse and nutritious” >>
Childrens rights: UNICEF India >>

What’s worrying is the havoc that malnutrition can cause to a child’s cognitive abilities, brain development, health and product­ivity—often irreversibly—starting in the first two years of life. […]

The tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious, including maize, minor millets like kodo and kutki, oil seeds like ramtila, along with fruits, leaves, ­rhizomes, mushrooms, meat and fish,” says Bal. “We have pushed them out of their complementary relationship with ecology, way of life and time-tested nutrition. […]

Indians who sleep hungry every night number 19 crore. They are one-third of the world’s ­malnourished.

It is the secret story of India. Three-quarters of the world’s teenage births take place in India. New research shows how the health of children born to adolescent mothers is far inferior to those born to adult mothers (The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health, July 2019). A 2015 study from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health pinpoints the five most ­important predictors of childhood ­malnourishment, three of which have a ­direct link to mothers: maternal underweight, short maternal stature, a mother with no education, extreme poverty and poor ­dietary diversity. “Undernourished girls become undernourished mothers, who in turn give birth to low-weight ­babies, perpetuating a vicious cycle,” says Basanta Kumar Kar, country director at Project Concern International.

Doctors across the country are analysing mental maps of communities to understand malnutrition. What they find is an eye-opener: misconceptions, myths and malpractices in the name of customs and traditions, often dictated by elderly women of the household. […]

“It’s a man-made crisis,” says Balram, advisor to the Supreme Court on right to food, in Ranchi. Until the 1960s, India had a sustainable agricultural system and natural food security, explains the act­ivist who worked closely with Jayaprakash Narayan’s movement in Bihar. People grew whatever they needed, or gathered from the surroundings—weeds, herbs, fruits, fish, livestock. The consumption of traditional coarse grains, pulses and millets, rich sources of vegetable protein with balanced amino acid profile, was exceptionally large.

The green ­revolution changed the way people ate. A host of indigenous grains, seeds and millets disappeared. […]

“The world and India so far has focused on food security and we have achieved a lot,” says Purvi Mehta, Head of Asia for Agriculture at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. “Having reached that hard-earned goal, the next step is tackling malnutrition,” she says. The impact of the word, however, goes beyond hunger and health—about 40 per cent of school absence in rural India is ­attributed to only one factor: malnutrition. […]

Source: “Rage Of A Silent, Invisible Killer Called Malnutrition – Why Shining India Is In Grip Of An Epic Calamity” by Damayanti Datta (Outlook Magazine, 26 August 2019)
Date visited: 15 March 2021

India continues to rank poorly in various global indices that reflect the quality of life, human capital or human development in the country, such as the Human Development Index (rank 131 out of 189 countries) and the Global Hunger Index (rank 101 out of 116 countries). It is well documented that the pandemic over the last two years has had a severe impact on the health, education and food security of the poor and informal sector workers. A number of recent reports, including the Oxfam’s ‘Inequality Kills’ report and the ICE360 survey, well establish that the recovery in economic growth in India is K-shaped, meaning that the incomes of the poorer sections of the society are decreasing, while those of the richer sections are increasing. As many have argued, while this trend has been exacerbated by the pandemic, the country has been experiencing increasing inequality over the last couple of decades. […]

[T]he resources allocated for crucial government schemes in the fields of health, education, nutrition, and social protection have remained stagnant or show negligent increase. In fact, the budgets for these schemes have been declining in real terms since 2015. India already starts off from a weak position of having very low spending in the critical areas of social protection, education and health. For instance, the World Social Protection Report 2020-22, brought out by the International Labour Organization, shows that the spending on social protection (excluding health) in India is 1.4% of the GDP, while the average for low-middle income countries is 2.5%. Budgets on health and education have also been low, much below the desirable levels of 3% and 6% of the GDP. This continued negligence does not bode well for inclusive development in India.

Dipa Sinha is fac­ulty at Dr. B. R. Ambed­kar Uni­ver­sity Delhi

Source: “A betrayal of the social sector when it needs help” by Dipa Sinha, The Hindu, 2 February 2022
Date Visited: 2 February 2022

Learn from M S Swaminathan – a world renowned scientist – how biological diversity contributes to public health, people’s livelihood and environmental security in addition to food security: his call on fellow citizens to use and share resources in a more sustainable and equitable manner; outlining the long journey from the 1992 Earth Summit to a commitment to foster inherited knowledge through India’s Biodiversity Act and Genome Saviour Award; an award intended to reward those who are “primary conservers” – guardians of biological diversity!

More about the work of his foundation which “aims to accelerate use of modern science and technology for agricultural and rural development to improve lives and livelihoods of communities.” – | Regarding the issues of food security raised above, and the nutritional value of indigenous grains, seeds and millets, read an in-depth report that concludes that “the tribal food basket has always been ­diverse and nutritious” >>

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“It was assumed that tribal people have same health problems, similar needs and hence the uniform national pattern of rural health care would be applicable to them as well, albeit with some alteration in population: provider ratio. The different terrain and environment in which they live, different social systems, different culture and hence different health care needs were not addressed.” – Abhay Bang in Report of the Expert Committee on Tribal Health >>

“Development means nothing if it does not lead to human development in its broadest sense. It must have components of healthcare for everybody, education for everybody, and food security for everybody; and in this the role of the state is vital. Equality starts with economic equality.” – Summary of Professor Kurien’s books by Parvathy Menon in “At 90, C.T. Kurien – Scholar of Social Conscience – Is More Relevant Than Ever” (The Wire, 5 July 2021)

There was a time when Adivasi communities in the Nilgiris had easy access to food from the forests. “Adivasis are extremely knowledgeable about the tubers, berries, leafy greens and mushrooms which they collect,” says Mari Marcel Thekaekara, who has been working with Gudalur’s tribal communties for four decades. “They would also fish and hunt small animals for food throughout the year. Most homes would have some meat drying above the cooking fires for a rainy day. But then the forest department began limiting their entry into the forests and finally stopped it completely.”

Despite the restitution of community rights over common property resources under the Forest Rights Act of 2006, the Adivasis are not able to supplement their diet with resources gathered from the forest as they did before.

The falling incomes in village here are also contributing to the growing malnutrition. K.T. Subramanian, secretary of the Adivasi Munnetra Sangam, says that over the last 15 years, wage labour options for Adivasis have steadily reduced as the forests here became the protected Mudumalai wildlife sanctuary.

Source: “In the Nilgiris, an inheritance of malnutrition” by Priti David ( People’s Archive of Rural India, 1 May 2020)
Date visited: 4 April 2021

Tribal communities have big lessons for the modern society” – Mari Marcel Thekaekara in The Hindu >>
Learn more from Mari Thekaekara >>

Eating a balanced diet is vital for our health and well-being. Food provides our bodies with the energy, proteins, vitamins, and minerals to live, grow, and stay active. We need a wide variety of different foods to provide the right amounts of nutrients to live healthy and productive lives.

However, in many countries – rich and poor alike – foods that are rich in nutrients, like fish, nuts, fruits and vegetables, are often far too expensive for ordinary people, or they are unsafe, inconvenient, unattractive and simply not available.

Malnutrition is caused by the interaction of poor quality diets and poor health environments and is manifest in a number of different ways:

  • poor child growth (stunting, wasting and underweight);
  • micronutrient deficiencies (lack of vitamins and minerals);
  • overweight and obesity (excess weight or body fat);
  • non-communicable diseases (such as diabetes or heart diseases).

Source: “Malnutrition”, The Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)
Date visited: 6 February 2022

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