Have orphans in India made reservations?

India: Realizing the Right to Food for All

Realize the right to food for all

Country case study
October 2016
Photo: Enrico Fabian / Welthungerhilfe 2016; Hide

India has made significant strides in combating hunger and malnutrition over the past two decades, but they are unequal; Many Indians are still disadvantaged. Now is the time to assert the right to food for everyone and to make the goal of “zero hunger” a reality.

Whom are full camps good for when people are starving? There cannot be two different Indies.Judge at the Supreme Court of India, April 21, 2011

India is a land of sharp contrasts. A total of 22 percent of the Indian population live below the poverty line (Government of India 2013), while 84 billionaires live there (Forbes 2016). More than 50 percent of the nation's wealth is owned by just one percent of the population. India is the second largest food producer in the world and is also home to the second highest number of malnourished people in the world (FAO 2015).

This side of the story is illustrated by India's 28.5 rating in this year's Global Hunger Index (GHI) (von Grebmer et al. 2016). Brazil, Russia, China and South Africa, which together with India form the highly traded group of BRICS countries, can all have single-digit values. India's neighbors, including Bangladesh, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar, also have better GHI scores. Although the incidence of stunted growth among children in India has been reduced by almost half over the past decade (IFPRI 2015), a third of all stunted children worldwide still live there (UNICEF et al. 2016); the hunger situation in the country falls into the severity category “serious” in this year's GHI report.

The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development has set itself the goal of ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture. The aim is to eliminate malnutrition among children, secure year-round access to sufficient food for every citizen through sustainable food systems, double the productivity and incomes of smallholders, and avoid food losses and waste.

Rain-fed agriculture feeds almost 40 percent of the Indian population (Government of India 2012), but this type of agriculture is very endangered by droughts. This often results in crop failures that plunge the farmers into ever deeper debts.

The central task in the struggle for a world without hunger and malnutrition will be to ensure that nobody is disadvantaged or left behind in the endeavors to ensure food security (“leave no one behind”). In India, to this end, the health of women and children in particular needs to be significantly improved.

In 2013 the Indian government passed the National Food Security Act (NFSA), a nationwide food security law that "ensures food security [...] through access to sufficient quantities of high-quality food at affordable prices" should guarantee that “people can lead a life in dignity” (Ministry of Law and Justice 2013).

The 2013 NFSA creates a legal right to participate in existing government food security programs. Above all, however, it has changed the way in which food is negotiated: it is now understood as a human right and the state is therefore seen as having an obligation to satisfy certain basic demands. However, the question arises whether the quality of life of all people has actually improved since then. The food that the government makes available as part of its procurement and distribution measures can meet the caloric needs of part of the population. However, the system has also changed the eating habits of these people: They are now dependent on rice and wheat and the traditional diversity of their food has been lost. This reduced the amount of micronutrients in their daily food.

Those left behind

Photo: Baby Devi, 35 here monitoring was elected as one of 32 women in the Women's Federation in Jharkand, India. The group works to ensure that poor villagers receive their statutory rights (to subsidized rice, etc.). Hide

Among the poorest people in India are those who belong to so-called registered castes and tribes - traditionally oppressed population groups, whose interests in education and economic and social development are considered particularly worthy of promotion and protection through appropriate provisions in the constitution. Among the registered castes are millions of Dalits or "untouchables" who still suffer from endemic discrimination. The same applies to the Registered Tribes, a term that also includes indigenous groups known as Adivasis. They are often disadvantaged, among other things because they live in remote regions. It follows that Dalits and Adivasis are disproportionately affected by poverty. With 104 million people belonging to almost 700 different ethnic groups, India has the second largest indigenous population in the world (Government of India 2011). While the national average of 28 percent of Indians live below the poverty line, the figure for the indigenous rural population is 48 percent (Rao 2012). The level of poverty and food insecurity of the indigenous peoples remains a major problem, regardless of the measures to overcome their discrimination enshrined in the Indian Constitution.

The Adivasis saw how their land was seized, their environment destroyed and their traditional knowledge degraded to a commodity. This has been an uneven business to the detriment of their way of life and well-being, starting with their health and securing their resources for future generations. Protective measures, such as obtaining their informed consent to sales, fell victim to the haste with which the forest and its products were appropriated and sold on a large scale.

The problems of the indigenous peoples of India are further clarified in a study by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF). Research in eleven states found that every second Adivasi child is stunted, 68 percent of Adivasi mothers under the age of 20, 48 percent of them are malnourished, and 76 percent are anemic. The study also shows that the risk of severe growth retardation in girls between six and 23 months is almost twice as high as in boys of the same age (UNICEF 2014). This could be due to the distribution of food within households, where the sexes are treated unequally. Women are the last to eat and often only the leftovers. Implementing the Food Security Act and a number of other laws to address these issues poses a challenge. The Adivasis often live in remote, poorly connected small villages, making logistics and assessment of the situation difficult. It is only when the news of starvation leads to public outrage that society deals with the torment of these starving people. These groups must be helped before anyone else.

Despite the scarcity of land, diversity is possible

Photo: A relative of Ruai Urlaka, a participant in the Global Hunger Index study, prepares a field for the sowing of new varieties, on the outskirts of Langi, Odisha, India. Hide

Loknath Nauri, from the village of Kerandiguda in Rayagada, Odisha

My friends didn't want to farm. I told them that the variety of varieties that we have in our village must not be lost. Last year I grew 70 different varieties and I was able to feed on them all year round. I told my neighbors to grow 80 varieties this year.Adi Kumbruka, young farmer from Kanduguda village, Odisha

Welthungerhilfe has been working in India since 1965. At the moment she is primarily committed to mobilizing and raising awareness of the marginalized and poor communities and supports them in asserting their rights and claims to fight hunger and poverty. Welthungerhilfe's approaches are based on four pillars of food security: the availability of food in sufficient quantity and quality, the physical and economic access of people to this food, and the health and hygiene conditions that enable people to derive full benefit from this food , as well as the year-round stability of these factors.

Welthungerhilfe works in India with a number of partners from civil society. It uses a rights-based approach that takes these four aspects of food security into account. Many projects are carried out in states and regions where there is extreme malnutrition.

One of these partners, the non-governmental organization (NGO) Living Farms, supports landless and marginalized smallholders in the dry, hilly region of the state of Odisha in eastern India to feed themselves independently and to improve their quality of life through ecological and sustainable agriculture. To this end, Living Farms is working to ensure that these farmers can have their food and farming systems back at their disposal. They achieve this through the protection, restoration and revitalization of biodiversity. At household level, measures are being introduced to increase productivity and thus also the amount of food available on the limited space.

In the village of Kerandiguda in the Rayagada district, Living Farms works with Loknath Nauri, a farmer of over 60 who works with the agricultural methods that the indigenous peoples have used for decades. Loknath Nauri has an enormous wealth of knowledge. For example, he can tell from the orientation of bird nests where the rain will come from. He can also predict when it will rain if he looks at the beans in the pods of a creeper that is common there. He passes these and many other lessons on to other farmers. Even though Loknath Nauri only owns an acre of land, he has ample food stores at home. He grows 72 different types of crops on his land. “If you grow different types of plants, you are less at risk from drought or other stresses. I harvest from September to January and have vegetables all year round, ”says Loknath Nauri.

Living Farms maintains an extensive list of smallholders who grow more than 50 different species on their land. Thousands of people grow more than 20 different crops and are no longer completely exposed to the crises that threaten farmers in other rain-fed regions of the country. This stability is important as farmers could easily be tempted to grow products for sale, such as cotton, cashew nuts, palm oil, sugar cane or eucalyptus. That would mean that they would have less food available for their own consumption. Debjeet Sarangi, a Living Farms associate, said the NGO is working with scientists to rediscover the benefits of traditional plant varieties that can withstand uneven rainfall and high temperatures while still yielding bountiful harvests. “This community has long had traditional rice varieties rich in micronutrients, zinc, iron, magnesium and calcium, while researchers in laboratories around the world are working to develop such seeds,” says Debjeet Sarangi, adding that the Adivasis den Refuse to use chemical fertilizers on their land and produce their own compost instead.

In Jharkhand, Pravah, another partner of Welthungerhilfe, supports families without land of their own in planting kitchen gardens next to their houses and growing food crops on the community's fallow land. Diversity is once again finding its way into the agricultural areas, supported by the concept of “Sustainable Integrated Farming Systems” (SIFS), which function according to the principle of agricultural planning and in which all available resources, time and space are included, as efficiently as possible be used. Robust, drought-resistant millet plants are now part of the harvest cycle again. Rich fertilizer is produced from waste from livestock, poultry and aquaculture in an organic digester, and fodder for the animals is obtained from agroforestry. The available space on the farm and on the agricultural land is used to grow various crops, sometimes in several layers on top of each other. The harvests are planned so that there is food all year round and various products are left over for the market. In addition, the micronutrient deficiency is remedied and a varied diet is provided for the population.

Pravah works closely with farmers like Nandlal Singh, who owns around one hectare of land. Nandlal Singh's story was similar to that of many other farmers in the area: debt, crop failures, emigration and mortgages. In the meantime his situation has improved. Through planning and integrated agriculture, Nandlal Singh was not only able to pay off his old debts, but now has money in the bank. Pravah successfully instilled knowledge of vermicomposting, organic farming, and integrated pest and nutrient management techniques, and this reduced production costs on Nandlal Singh's farm.

The family's diet is now varied and consists of up to eight food groups, including cereals, lentils, fruits and vegetables. Nandlal Singh grows food all year round and also keeps cattle, fish and ducks on a former fallow land.

What distinguishes the work of these two organizations is the low indebtedness of the farmers involved in their programs. Small and marginalized farmers like Nandlal Singh or Loknath Nauri do not lack the resources they need for this type of agriculture. This eliminates the need for credit and avoids the problems caused by debt. Debjeet Sarangi from Living Farms tells of farmers who were previously destitute, but who now produce several harvests a year and, in combination with keeping poultry and other livestock, can protect their families from food insecurity. But above all, says Debjeet Sarangi, they need the forest.

Forests ensure a healthy diet

Photo: Enrico Fabian / Welthungerhilfe, 2016; Kerendiguda, Odisha, India: Mr. Loknath Nauri, who was part of the 2016 WHI study, inspects the fruit tree near a natural forest that he left on his property to collect mushrooms, tubers, medicinal plants and herbs. Hide


of the Indian population are malnourishedbecause they cannot meet their caloric needs.


who are children under 5 years of age lagged behind in their development (English "stunted"; too small for their age), evidence of chronic malnutrition.


who are children under 5 years of age emaciated (English "wasted"; too low weight for your body size), evidence of acute malnutrition. / p>


of the children to diebefore they turn 5 years old.

The diet of the Adivasis used to be very varied. But with years of government planning and resource control, these farmers lost the ability to grow the varieties that had fed their tribes for generations.

... explains Debjeet Sarangi.

Among other things, this development has led to a massive decline in the variety of species and the available forest resources over time.

Debjeet Sarangi is alluding to evidence that large areas of forest are fraudulently acquired. "For the authorities it is only one piece of forest less, but in fact the loss of these forests also affects the eating habits and nutrition of the indigenous population," he says. “Over time, the government's actions have narrowed the range of forest fauna, flowers, fruits, vegetables and mushrooms that the indigenous communities used to consume. They collect 25 types of roots and tubers, 35 types of fruit and various seeds in the forests. In addition, the forest produces 40 different leafy vegetables, mushrooms as well as various birds, edible insects and other foods over the year. In addition, the watering holes in the forests are home to a large number of snails, fish and crabs, ”explains Debjeet Sarangi.This diversity of forests is now threatened; entire species have already disappeared, which makes a balanced diet for families considerably more difficult.

The women in Rayagada are now resisting plans by the forest authority to plant commercially viable trees. They demand that trees be planted instead that serve several purposes at the same time. Thanks to their initiative, the forest cover was saved and 275 types of micronutrient-rich, wild-growing foods were reintroduced. Rua Ulaka, a farmer from the village of Lanji in the Rayagada district, is part of this active citizens' movement, which is reflected in the care she has taken with her forests and their ecosystem. Together the Adivasis can ensure that this valuable good is not commercialized. Ultimately, the work of Living Farms and Pravah has shown that families with very little land ownership but unimpeded access to the forest are very much able to survive - with dignity.

Every day a fight against hunger

Photo: Ms. Mangoli Murmu, cook at Anganwadi Center, washes rice in preparation for lunch that she will prepare for some children from Raykund Village, Jharkhand, India. Hide

In the past, women neither had their babies weighed nor breastfed; out of superstition. It's different today. The mothers now ask me, 'How much does my child weigh?' Women wear shoes, families have toilets, girls resist being married off early, and children are born in the hospital. Not a single child has died in this village in the past five years.Sharmishta Raj, health advisor at the Anganwadi Center in Laxmipur Village, Odisha

Both organizations are not only committed to the availability of sufficient and nutrient-rich food, but also work to increase awareness in communities of preventive health care and the importance of adequate nutrition for infants and young children and to bring about change here.

One promising approach that Pravah is pursuing in the villages of Jharkhand is the so-called “Positive Deviance Sessions”, which aim to improve the health of acutely malnourished children. With 15 percent emaciated children under five, India's acute malnutrition rate is on the threshold of what is internationally classified as a nutritional emergency. Babita Sinha, Program Director at Pravah explains:

80 percent of the children in the nutrition camps gained weight and were able to be reclassified from the category of "moderately acute malnutrition" (MAM) to the category of healthy children. An example of such a program is a 15-day hands-on camp that introduces new, nutritious recipes to young mothers and pregnant women, collects and processes nutrient-rich wild foods, and introduces child care practices and regular hand washing.

As part of these camps, worming programs are also carried out and parents are advised on changing behavior. As Babita Sinha reports, when the mothers were weighed, they noticed that their children responded positively to these initiatives:

The mothers were thrilled when their children gained 500 grams.

This awareness-raising process was also instructive for the experts at Pravah. "We understood why children in the red category [children whose weight-to-age ratio is in the lowest range on the World Health Organization's growth chart, indicating malnutrition] came from families within the villages who all had similar socio-economic backgrounds," says Sweta Banerjee , Nutrition specialist at Welthungerhilfe in India. She was able to observe how the village communities learned in the course of the process to combine nutrition with good agricultural practices and the correct use of natural resources: “We found that it was no coincidence that the families from which these children came, either were landless or had unwatered land in the upper areas of the hills. We had to tailor our nutrition program so that it would benefit these families. "

A decisive breakthrough came when the women realized that the cycle of malnutrition can be broken if you pay attention to the nutritional needs of different age and gender groups, including adolescent girls, pregnant women and nursing mothers. The Pravah team found that nearly half of the households in the participating villages have since improved their dietary practices. Visible changes were also recorded in the area of ​​personal hygiene at household level. Taken together, these measures will have a lasting impact on the health of the people in these villages.

Putting the right to food into practice

Photo: The 32 women of the Women's Federation in Jharkand, India, here monitoring, are committed to ensuring that poor villagers receive their statutory rights (to subsidized rice, etc.). Hide

The traditional snake and ladder game has been adapted to educate mothers about health and care practices for infants and young children. Ladders represent correct behavior, snakes represent danger. Pahtri Village, Deoghar, Jharkhand Photo: Pravah, Jharkhand.

The “Fight Hunger First” initiative, which Welthungerhilfe implements in cooperation with several Indian partner organizations, including Living Farms and Pravah, is based on the premise that people can only break out of the vicious circle of unequal treatment and discrimination if adequate social systems are introduced and fundamental rights, including access to adequate education, sufficient and adequate food and income, better health services and treatment as equal citizens by the state.

The right to food guaranteed by the Food Security Act is translated into specific claims, which in turn are implemented through various programs. Examples are the "Integrated Child Development Services" (Integrated Child Development Services, ICDS), which provide pregnant women and young children with health and nutrition options, as well as the "Mid-Day Meals" (school meals, MDM), which provide free lunches for Cares for school children, thereby improving their health and promoting regular school attendance. The National Rural Employment Guarantee Act guarantees paid jobs for rural families. In some cases, this has reduced the dependency on the Public Distribution System (PDS), which distributes subsidized food rations to those most in need.

Implementing the National Food Security Act remains a challenge, especially in remote villages. In addition, many families lack access to paid work that would allow them to finance food and education for their children and other household expenses.

For example, households covered by the Rural Employment Act received paid work for only 41 days per year on average between 2011/12 and 2013/14 (Desai et al. 2015). That is less than half of the workload stipulated in the constitution. The situation is comparable in Jharkhand. It seems almost ironic that the government there has raised the minimum number of paid working days that households are entitled to by law to 150.

As part of the “Fight Hunger First” initiative, community-based organizations are founded or existing ones are strengthened. Mechanisms for the control of politics by the citizens, such as the so-called “community score cards” (evaluation cards), are introduced so that the community members can assert claims and hold service providers accountable. In the state of Jharkhand, Pravah and 13 other NGOs achieved that in future eggs will be used for school lunches three times a week. Living Farms also convinced government agencies to include millet in the ICDS program, especially in home rations for pregnant women. The persuasive work that was necessary for the ICDS officials to appreciate the feedback from the communities can only be counted as an advocacy lesson. “Community members feel that the state programs don't make sense. On the other hand, the service providers also feel handicapped. There is a noticeable gap and we were able to bridge this with our instruments for community participation, ”says Babita Sinha.

An association of self-help groups sponsored by Pravah reports numerous examples of how women can be encouraged to take on leadership roles. This enables you to confront the employees of the public distribution centers or the heads of other authorities in order to provide services. At the same time, the employees of the Anganwadi health centers are now on an equal footing with the women from the villages. Rua Ulaka now knows her rights and claims as a citizen; she knows what to expect from the village self-government, the Panchayat, and that she has the right to take part in the Gramsabha (village assembly). When the Adivasi women know these rights and duties, they can hold the rulers accountable. As a result of the work of Pravah and Living Farms, more households are now getting paid work. Access to a number of government social programs has also been greatly improved, breaking the cycle of poverty and building resilience in the community.

The project also works with the “Village Health & Nutrition Days” initiative and institutions such as the “Village Health, Sanitation and Nutrition Committees” and can thereby improve the range and quality strengthen government health services. Sharmishta Raj and her colleagues from the Anganwadi Center in Lakhimpur emphasize the positive impact of working with Living Farms thanks to the effective communication between the center and community members. "Not a single child has died in this village in the past five years," she says, her face glowing with pride - an example of what a small group of local government workers can do by partnering with a civil society organization in a remote corner of the city Earth can reach.

Successfully fighting hunger means integrating all groups

Photo: Wide range of seed varieties from Mr. Loknath Nauri, participant in the 2016 Global Hunger Index Study, stock for future sowing in his fields, Kerendiguda, Odisha, India. Hide

I grow enough food, earn enough money, and receive government support for food. We can even eat fish once a week and have fruits and vegetables.Geeta Devya, from the village of Dhanway Naya in Jharkhand

India's agricultural growth increased enormously in the decades after the “Green Revolution” - which turned an import-dependent economy into a country that can provide food security on its own. It was driven by technological change, major investments in infrastructure such as irrigation, markets and roads, the development of credit institutions, agricultural services and the simplification of pricing policies. Nevertheless, the “revolution” also had negative effects. Therefore, a more ecological and socially sustainable “evergreen revolution” is now necessary.

India still has a long way to go before the goal of “zero hunger” is achieved. More than 25 years after the country reformed its economy, it has undergone decisive structural change; the planners have shifted their attention from agriculture to the service and manufacturing sectors. Agriculture must now be given priority again, in line with its central role in food security, poverty reduction and job creation. The move away from agriculture means, especially in times when the effects of climate change are clearly visible, a threat to the food security of the 1.25 billion people who live in India.

The government recently set an ambitious goal of doubling farmers' incomes by 2022 (The Economic Times 2016). This corresponds to a targeted annual agricultural growth of over 14 percent. More needs to be done to strengthen the role of agriculture in improving the food situation, for example through the implementation of multisectoral strategies and programs at national and subnational levels.

Greater efforts are also required to ensure that marginalized and landless smallholders actually benefit from these programs. Too many people are still being disadvantaged and left behind in efforts to end hunger in India. The goal of “zero hunger” can only be achieved if the most marginalized people are now at the center of all thoughts and actions.

Indian civil society, including Welthungerhilfe's partners, supports these communities in taking control of their own lives and demanding that their right to food be enforced. It is also working closely with the government to implement a number of innovative ideas to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition in remote parts of the country. Most importantly, in this land of abundance, it will only be possible to overcome the national dietary contradiction if the social, economic and political structures that discriminate against the most vulnerable people in India are removed.

about this case study

The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals are an inspiring and necessary call to action. We are called to end hunger for all people by 2030 - forever. How do we react to that? How can we make this call a reality?

The present case studies highlight the work of Welthungerhilfe as part of the efforts for a world without hunger. On the basis of many years of experience and sound knowledge, we work together with governments and partner organizations to develop sustainable and long-term solutions.

People are at the center of these programs. Their stories show how diverse the challenges they face on a daily basis are: they have to build resilience against the armed conflict in their environment. They live with social inequality and fight against it. They are directly affected by the effects of climate change and must try to reduce them. Despite the enormous scale of these challenges, there is just as great potential for making the ambitious goals for sustainable development a reality for all people.