|Interfaces between Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Science (UNU, 1984, 406 pages)|
|Session 6: Panel presentations|
Rajammal P. Devadas
Practices in the home centre around the members of the family. The mother is still the pace-setter, although the head of the family may appear to be the dominating decision-maker. Practices in the home are influenced by the totality of the interactions between socio-economic, cultural, and educational forces. For the translation of knowledge to practice, knowledge of present practices with regard to food production, food conservation including post-harvest technology, and nutrition, is required. The papers presented so far have thrown light on many of these aspects. If the mother and the members of the family are to adopt the improved practices, we need to strengthen or assure their economic feasibility and viability in the context of the needs of the families, and their capabilities to purchase, adopt, use, and benefit from the new practices. But the major proportion of the families are steeped in poverty, hence the practices have to be built into some economic improvement programmes. The families must be helped to augment their income. The next step is to make available the skills and resources for the changed practices in the most acceptable. appealing, and workable forms. Practices are appealing if a number of leading people follow them. This involves practical training of the home-maker through demonstrations and convincing results.
For any improvement to be adopted on a large scale, women's organizations are essential for leadership, continuity. and feedback. They will then be able to become partners in the development efforts, which are directly related to the improvement of food production, food science, conservation, and nutrition. The infrastructure, and government and voluntary agencies and investments can then be utilized profitably. For that they must have the will and come together. For example, the multimixes and other improved food products can find their way into all the feeding programmes currently in operation. In these programmes, nutrition education must be "built-in." We have numerous evidences for the take-home effects of nutrition education efforts through the pre-school and primary school. All the functions at the village/block level need to get together at their levels and bring about the interaction in that interface. Women must be involved in the decisions at every level.
Formal and non-formal educational channels must be utilized to disseminate the knowledge and bring about the required changes. The undergraduate, post-graduate, and research programmes at the Sri Avinashlingam Home Science College in Coimbatore are practical examples of how this can be done in practice. Thus the B.Sc. Home Science curriculum includes a paper on agriculture, food production, and home science extension education which attempts to enable students to understand the efforts made to augment food production, become aware of the practical work usually done by women in agricultural operations, to know about India's Community Development Programme, National Extension Service and rural agricultural economy, and to understand the role of home science in rural development. The teaching hours are nine per week, and this includes practical sessions and related experience that take the form of actual visits to production centres, co-operatives, fruit farms, dairy farms, poultry farms, local panchayat, mahilar manram, warehouse and land mortgage bank, planning kitchen gardens, starting a bee-keeping unit, preparing aids for teaching rural people, and so on. The post-graduate programme for the M.Sc. degree includes agriculture, post-harvest technology, and food science taught through four broad areas: food science, nutritional problems in the community, nutrition education, and nutrition intervention programmes. These in turn include such subject areas as agricultural planning, ecological factors, and the roles of food technology, food preservation, and food storage. Placement in a community gives the student an opportunity to observe and learn from direct experience which helps to plan more meaningful education, and maximize nutritional returns by way of food production and storage. A view of the community as a focus of interaction of agriculture, nutrition, food science, and post-harvest technology is thus obtained. Research also seeks to develop such interface areas. Examples are the analysis of new food-grain varieties, analysis of conventional new and uncommon foods, development of low-cost food mixes using local ingredients and of new concepts like leaf protein, community education regarding food storage, and so on.