Project Lead(s): Jayesh Joshi
Chronic undernutrition in India continues to plague groups of low socio-economic status. These issues have been especially pronounced for mothers and infants in poor and vulnerable tribal communities in Banswara, South Rajasthan, India
VAAGDHARA developed a project aiming to improve the nutritional status of pregnant women, lactating mothers, and children under age 2 in rural Rajasthan.
The innovation explored new cross-sectoral linkages between agriculture, nutrition, community development, and female empowerment through participatory learning and action methodologies.
They established 61 “Farmer Schools” for female farmers and created an environment where farmers could share nutrition-sensitive information with one another to improve the quality of crops in the community. Factors such as which crops to grow and food security were key.
In addition, they trained 1500 Annapurnas (Community Health Advocates) to deliver health and nutrition information to women and children. The Annapurnas sought to improve the dietary diversity within households.
The project found that the target groups improved their nutritional: status, security and practices.
Malnourishment rates dropped from 36% to 14% in the target group, likely due to the improvement in the nutritional security of new crops.
The project resulted in a 30% increase in dietary diversity due to new nutritious gardens and crops developed in collaboration with agriculture stakeholders.
Communities improved their overall nutritional knowledge as a result of programs run by Annapurnas and SHGs. More than 700 farmer families adopted a new and more effective management approaches for agriculture, nutrition and natural resources.
The project also discovered malnourishment in these communities could be attributed to a lack of gender equality in financial and household decision-making processes.
Due to the promising concept of Annapurnas, the Government of Rajasthan has developed policies to set “Poshan Sakhi” in villages that promote nutritional awareness and security during agricultural production.
VAAGDHARA continued its advocacy efforts by developing and presenting strategies for building sustainable and resilient indigenous communities to the UN Trusteeship Council. Furthermore, the organization’s statement on promoting “community owned solutions for sustainable development of tribal communities in Western India” has been published in the UN documentation system.