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

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?
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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] >>

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

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” >>

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. […]

Photo © Usha Ramesh | Outlook India >>

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

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)

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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” >>

“I hope that this report will prove to be a milestone in realizing the aim of health and health care to the tribal people of India.” – Abhay Bang, Chairman, Expert Committee on Tribal health

Learn more >>
Download Tribal Health in India PDF (35 MB) >>
Searchable file (backup):
PDF (OCR 70 MB) >>

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

The Food Book of four communities in the Nilgiri mountains >>

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: 4 April 2021

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

[Bold typeface added above for emphasis]

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