Farming system for nutrition

A feasibility study of Farming System for Nutrition intervention in India

The Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) study led by the M.S. Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF) potentially seeks evidence on “How agricultural interventions can be pro-nutrition?”

In the context of food and nutrition security of rural India, FSN is an interventional approach that includes a combination of sustainable agricultural remedies involving advanced crop production practices, bio-fortification, promotion of backyard and community nutrition gardens of fruits and vegetables, livestock and poultry development, setting up of small-scale fisheries and regularising veterinary services as stimulant for rendering consistent output of higher income and better nutrition. The underlying hypothesis is that nutritional outcomes in a rural population improves through production and own consumption of nutrition-rich diverse diets or alternatively through higher incomes from sale of agricultural produce which is in turn used for addition or enrichment of diet with multi-nutrition-rich foods to often consumed staples

The FSN study in underway in selected resource poor villages in two districts with high burden malnutrition viz., Wardha in the state of Maharashtra, and Koraput in the state of Odisha. A baseline survey was undertaken in 2013-14 to identify the existing disconnect between agriculture and nutrition linkages. Subsequent discussion with farm-households and stakeholders, tailor-made FSN interventions fitting into local resource factors were proposed. A number of on-farm experimentation in multiple locations was conducted in 2013-15 under collective responsibility of farmers and researchers.


Moving forward from the formative to the feasibility phase, core interventions were identified for up scaling in 2016 to increase area and number of farmers practicing nutrition-sensitive agriculture. The crop based interventions being tested for feasibility under FSN focus on crop diversification through varietal substitution of nutrient rich crops i.e. finger millet and maize, and pulses (green gram, black gram, pigeon pea) in Koraput and sorghum, wheat and pulses (green gram, pigeon pea and gram) in Wardha. Nutrition gardens of fruits and vegetables in the backyard or field, poultry in Wardha and fishery in Koraput and nutrition awareness generation are the supporting interventions.  

In addition, nutrition gardens have also been established in schools and ICDS centres at both locations and linked to the midday meal for children. Underlying the entire approach is creating awareness in the community on leveraging their main source of livelihood, i.e. agriculture to improve their nutrition status along with attention to aspects of WASH and health of women and children in particular. A participatory research was initiated in May 2016 to train resource persons at the community level (Community Hunger Fighters) on nutrition sensitive agriculture to make the effort sustainable. Selected individuals (both male and female) from the core study villages underwent training in aspects of nutrition like balanced diet, importance of dietary diversity, leveraging their agriculture for better nutrition and access to entitlements. These individuals are being followed up to monitor outreach and impact.   

Several measures have been initiated under the study for sustainability – introducing triple layered polythene bags for safe storage of the seeds (already distributed) and establishing community seed banks to ensure timely availability of seeds. In addition, several training programs are being organized on improved package and practices of crops as well as their post harvest management.

Starting 2017, the up-scaling of core FSN interventions is underway both within and neighbouring villages of both study locations. The farm men and women are now becoming the spokespersons for uptake.

More information on the ongoing FSN study, see the following links:

Power point Presentation on FSN study 

LANSA Blog: Development of Farming System for Nutrition intervention (FSNi) at crop level

FSN products:  FSN Leaflet and Nutrition Garden Leaflet

South Asia Focus

Funded by UK DFID

This research has been funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policies



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