Sustainable Communities

Nutritional Security through Nutri-Gardens and Food Fortification Duration: 2013-2017 Sponsor: Indian Oil Corporation Limited, Mumbai

Palghar district of Maharashtra is predominantly a tribal area, and known to have poor child health status. In the year 2015, the state of Maharashtra had reported 1274 child deaths due to malnutrition, out of which almost 32% were from Palghar district. Given the severity of the issue, and with an objective to provide effective solutions, the state government has established a relief network through its agencies like PHC (Primary Health Care Centre), ICDS (Integrated Child Development Service) and local Gram Panchayat. Further, a joint partnership of TERI and IOCL volunteered to develop replicable sustainable solutions in close association with concerned stakeholders.

Stall displaying the prepared fortified khakhras and other edibles

The primary objective of the project was to bring children who are Severely Acute Malnourished (SAM) and Moderately Acute Malnourished (MAM) back to being healthy. The process began by creating a base line using the health records maintained by the above mentioned state government agencies and sourcing the data for the target population through  various health checkup camps organized for children and young mothers in 42 villages of the Khanivali block.  The strategy of making short term and long term approaches helped in achieving the objective of bringing a positive health impact on the target population. The short term strategies aimed at providing immediate relief, included providing the prescribed dose of vitamins, proteins and iron to SAM and MAM children for a period of 3 months, whereas the long term approaches included encouraging involvement of  parents, children, teachers and other stakeholders. Through several interactions, importance of balanced diet was emphasized, the specially designed kits comprising easy to understand notes on nutrition, cultivation of backyard gardens using local resources and simple recipes for day to day use and seeds and saplings were distributed. Considering the local climatic conditions and deficiencies, cultivation of spinach, papaya, and mushroom was especially encouraged. A training program on mushroom cultivation was also conducted and more than 50 villagers including parents, anganwadi sevikas, and nurses were benefitted.

A khakra making training session in progress

As an outcome, at the end of the project period, 80 families had started cultivating recommended varieties for domestic consumption and integrating the ingredients in their regular diet. 68 percent of the children were re-designated to a normal category from MAM (Moderately Acute Malnourished) and 32 percent children were re-designated in MAM category from SAM (Severely Acute Malnourished).

The results were encouraging and motivated us to strengthen the activity by integrating other aspects like revenue generation through production of healthy food items. The need for interventions and practices that could greatly increase the nutritional quality of the available food was also strongly felt. More importantly, it was necessary to ensure that these interventions were aimed at building capacity and encouraged the villagers to become stakeholders in the process of achieving nutritional security.

TERI and IOCL once again joined hands to implement Phase 2 of the project in Wada. Women were the main focus group for this phase as it was realized that they were greatly responsible for the health and nutritional status of their family members, especially the children. Interventions targeting the empowerment of women and their capacity building were planned while continuing the on going activitiessuch as health check-ups, provision of nutritional supplements and the continual promotion of nutri-gardens.

To overcome the identified deficiencies of proteins, iron and vitamin D in daily diet, fortification of foods using naturally available ingredients is an excellent approach. Especially while formulating a recipe for children, aspects like acceptability in taste, novelty, color, ease of handling an item, satiaty, shelf life, affordability need to be considered. While keeping these parameters under consideration, it was decided to promote preparation of khakhras (roasted thin cracker bread) a popular Indian snack item, using spinach (rich in iron) and mushroom (rich in vitamin D and proteins) powders. Khakara, a novel food item was greatly liked and accepted by all and hence it could be distributed for consumption within the village, the anganwadis and could also be sold in city.

Further, a Knowledge cum Resource center was established to develop healthy food products and promote food fortification as well as other features related to health and nutrition and also act as the food processing cluster. An SHG group of 10 women from Khanivali village was first trained in preparing nutrient rich fortified khakhras, in its processing, packaging and so on, and given  awareness and capacity building workshops by TERI. The recipes for the nutrient fortified khakhras were standardized and soon the women started preparing and packaging packets that were ready for sale and even distributed them in the nearby anganwadis. The creation of this additional livelihood option for women was aimed at helping them achieve economic independence and help supplement the families’ incomes while ensuring sustainability.

A cumulative impact of the above activities along with the nutrition supplements marked a 29% improvement in the iron content of the target group. Almost 500 women were made aware of healthier and nutritious recipes and the importance of diet-diversity, and so on, thus benefiting their entire families.

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