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TIGR2ESS: Transforming India's Green Revolution by Research and Empowerment for Sustainable food Supplies

A Global Challenges Research Fund project

Overview of Flagship Project 6

Flagship Project 6: Impacting Wellbeing in Rural and Urban Communities

Key determinants of populations health and resilience include heredity, environment, diet, lifestyle and socioeconomic factors. Within this framework, education and, empowerment are important components that can define theories of change to improve lives and livelihoods, leading to better nutrition, health and economic outcomes. Our flagship project explores the relationships between these factors through assessing needs and piloting innovative intervention models.

We have brought together a multidisciplinary group of social scientists, land economists, basic scientists and a nutrition think tank to work on several interlinking sub-projects. Our work centres around two key research themes, the first on nutrition-specific Education, Food, Nutrition and Empowerment (EFNE) and the second on more general Education, Employment, Entrepreneurship and Empowerment (4E). These two themes are linked by two different, innovative intervention methods: Mobile Teaching Kitchens (MTKs), a teaching method pioneered by our partner NNEdPro, and food education-focused Innovation Farms, spearheaded by a team at NIAB.

Central to our flagship project is capacity building. Our research will provide an evidence base from which Indian partners and stakeholders can extend, strengthen or create their own innovative initiatives which work in the settings in which they are applied. Through bringing different research disciplines and partners together to devise and test new interventions in the field, our flagship project will enhance youth skills, women’s entrepreneurship and improve nutritional literacy.

How are we putting our research into practice?

6a: Education, Food, Nutrition and Empowerment (EFNE)

We are working in rural communities in several locations across India. The EFNE theme, led by Professor Nitya Rao from UEA, is using participatory research methods in Maharashtra, Punjab, Orissa and Telangana to understand past and current nutrition and dietary practices in rural communities, across genders and generations. This work will inform community-led education programmes that re-introduce traditional dietary practices, backed up by modern nutrition science, to improve health and nutrition, particularly in women.

6b: Education, Employment, Empowerment and Entrepreneurship (4E)

Our 4E theme, led by Dr Shailaja Fennell from the University of Cambridge, uses a variety of techniques including use of normative data, baseline household surveys and looking at the key links between education to empower communities towards developing skills and livelihoods for employment as well as entrepreneurship. In the context of agriculture and female smallholders this includes decisions on land use, impacting productivity and household income.

6a & 6b: Mobile Teaching Kitchens (MTK) and Innovation Farms

Together with NNEdPro Global Centre for Nutrition and Health, led by Professor Sumantra Ray, we have adapted their MTK intervention for use in a rural setting. We are testing this adapted version at sites including Punjab and Orissa. As we refine this intervention we will roll it out to other locations, using workshops to train Indian stakeholders so that MTKs can become a self-sustaining community-led cornerstone for nutrition education in rural settings.

Innovation Farms, Dr Lydia Smith from NIAB will provide an important platform for uptake of new technologies and educational materials that stem from our research.

Response to COVID-19

Unhealthy diets are the leading cause of ill-health. Without dedicated action on nutrition, all forms of malnutrition are likely to increase as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on food environments. Financial hardships, reduced physical activity, and altered purchasing patterns favouring products with longer shelf-life and often poorer nutrition profiles can lead to higher levels of food insecurity, undernutrition, and overweight/obesity.  

We are actively responding to the pandemic.  We are assessing the response of the local, state and central government and even civil society to the availability, accessibility, and affordability of food essentials. It is on record that the COVID-19 pandemic response plan was not the same for all states and districts across India. States may have various responses to ensuring food availability, depending on urban, rural and tribal contexts.

Example areas of investigation include:

  • The disruption of value chains due to staff shortages; especially fairly junior low-paid packing and sorting jobs. Such disruptions may have resulted in waste where produce could not be either picked or packed. In some cases, produce has been landfilled or suffered a much decreased value or shelf-life. 
  • An absence of traders who collect agricultural produce from the farm gate has led to dumping of fruits and vegetables in India. Reduced operational hours of markets has also caused food waste.
  • Assessing the effects of large numbers of agricultural workers returning home to their villages after the current lockdown ends.