Debating the role of agricultural production and markets for nutrition
Rural infrastructure investments in roads and markets alongside diversity in agricultural production have the potential to promote diet diversity by making a range of foods, particularly perishable micronutrient dense foods, widely available. Recent literature evaluating these links have found evidence for crop production diversity to positively impact diets in many developing countries, this relationship has proven to be undermined by market access. The realisation has led researchers in agriculture- nutrition- health (ANH) fields to debate whether households should be encouraged to produce a diverse basket of foods or whether policies should focus on deepening markets in rural areas.
My presentation at ANH Academy week in Addis Ababa this June, attempts to add to this on-going debate - whether households should produce or buy food by studying state level determinants of dietary diversity (DD) in rural India. The research evaluates the role played by both production diversity and infrastructure in improving diets. The findings support the hypothesis that both increases in market coverage and production diversity improve diets. Female literacy is also found to be an important determinant of cross-state DD, but there is less support for the role of road infrastructure. Thus, agricultural policies that provide easy access to micronutrient rich foods by means of production diversity and market development are key for nutritional security.
I look forward to having these discussions with participants working on similar research across different country settings during the session on markets, value chains and nutrition.
This strand of research is highly relevant for the LANSA’s continual efforts to address undernutrition in India via the agriculture route as it attempts to better understand pathways from farm to fork that help reduce the burden of malnutrition in scenarios where adequate national food availability has fallen short of its promise.
Mehroosh Tak is a doctoral researcher with the Leverhulme Centre for Integrated Research on Agriculture and Health (LCIRAH) at SOAS. She is an applied economist working on the linkages between agriculture, food and nutrition. For her doctoral research Mehroosh is exploring how public investments in rural India can be made more nutrition-sensitive via investments in infrastructure and agriculture route. She has also worked with the Global Panel for Agricultural and Food Systems for Nutrition to better understand the drivers of food systems in low and middle-income countries.
For LANSA Mehroosh is researching the role of state expenditures in improving dietary diversity in India