|Interfaces between Agriculture, Nutrition, and Food Science (UNU, 1984, 406 pages)|
|Session 6: Panel presentations|
Chairman J.S. Kanwar
Rapporteur A.K. Kaul
From knowledge to practice in the home
Storage in practice
From research and development to industry
How the consumer can react to policy
Technology for farmers
Popularizing new technology
Continuing interdisciplinary dialogues
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.
Food-grain management is the overall responsibility of the Food Department of the Government of India. Some facts will indicate the magnitude of the operation. The aim is to maintain a buffer stock of about 12 million tonnes of food grains, besides another 3.5 to 3.8 million tonnes as operational stock for the public distribution system.
Procurement is done by the Food Corporation of India, which also monitors imported grains; the 1979/80 procurement figures were 3.84 million tonnes of rice and 8 million tonnes of wheat.
Public distribution functions through 280,000 ration and fair price shops, of which 77 per cent are in rural areas, and in 1980 some 14.8 million tonnes of total food grains (mainly wheat and rice, but some coarse grains also) were thus handled. Storage of food grains occurs at many levels, and for many purposes. Total storage capacity is about 29 million tonnes (FCI 19.9, Central Warehousing Corporation 3.9, State Warehousing Corporation 5.1). Modern storage structures are designed for either bagged or bulk grains, and are of many types, some with mechanized systems, aeration devices and temperature-measuring facilities. Storage at farmer level is unsatisfactory and both biological and non-biological factors cause tosses of many kinds - physical, financial, hygienic and toxicological.
Loss prevention is an important area of multipronged efforts, which include R&D, training and extension. R&D in storage is pursued by the Indian Grain Storage Institute set up with UNDP financial assistance at Hapur (with five field stations elsewhere) to investigate the nature and extent of losses, improve existing storage structures, develop village-level driers, and train those who will themselves teach or administer food-grain storage. The Central Food Technological Research Institute (CFTRI), Mysore, the Post-harvest Technology Centre, Bhopel, and various agricultural universities also pursue R&D in food-grain storage. As a result of these efforts, losses in handling nearly 20 million tonnes of food grains annually have been less than 1 per cent.
At village level, the Save Grain campaign attempts to educate and motivate farmers through 17 countrywide offices. Demonstration include recommended storage techniques, storage hygiene, periodical inspection, grain cleaning methods and the adoption of model villages. Education and publicity programmes employ numerous media. The scattered offices motivate state governments, voluntary agencies, and village youth organizations, and offer loans and grants towards metal storage bins (of which 250,000 have been sold to farmers), improvement of existing storage structures, and pesticide purchase. Training at all levels is offered at Hapur, by the Food Corporation of India (FCI), the Central Warehousing Corporation, and the CFTRI. Training in food-grain milling is offered at several places.
Processing of paddy is carried out in the country in several types of units, and the out-turn of rice could be improved. Modernization of huller rice mills by adopting rubber roller shells, and setting up efficient mini rice mills have been promoted with success, as have improved parboiling technologies. Improved wheat chakkis are also being promoted.
Legislation to lay down food-grain quality has been enacted to serve as standards for grain for distribution by the public distribution system. The private sector consisting of 200,000 wholesalers and some 3.3 million retailers complements the public distribution system. In all these efforts, it is the collaborative efforts between various government agencies, R&D institutions, voluntary agencies, production units, and so on, that has taken the form of a systems approach to ensuring quality food grains for the people at reasonable prices.
During the past two days the interphases among agriculture, food science, and nutrition have been amplified. The need for constant interaction among breeders, post-harvest technologists, nutritionists, and extension specialists was clearly established. The interaction is very essential to evolve a systems approach leading to increased production levels and optimum utilization without sacrificing nutritional qualities.
Agricultural production as a policy should plan for meeting the requirements of bulk consumption, buffer stock, industry, and export. The main stress, however, will continue to be that of meeting the needs of our large population.
Research and development should focus on the following:
Apart from these direct R&D tasks, other efforts at several interfaces are called for, as follows:
As a scientitst I have enjoyed the presentations and discussions at this workshop. I have certainly gained valuable information on what scientists and nutritionists are doing in this area, which I shall transmit to the consumer organization that I represent. When policy is talked about, I sometimes wonder what is meant and whose policy it really is. If it is government policy, should not this be one of helping the consumer rather than providing him with difficulties? If scientists have doubts in regard to implementing policy, usually one can talk to them and persuade them to do something about resolving them: with the government it is often a frustrating struggle. Any criticism means that one is simply thrown out of the committee!
In the United States and the United Kingdom Governments have been forced to listen to consumerists. The consumer movement in India is still young, and has little power at present. Only recently have active groups been formed in cities like Bombay, Hyderabad, Delhi, Calcutta, and Bangalore, and at least there is now talk and discussion about problems that are affecting the people. What is really needed in India is to have the consumer educated. This means that the work and findings of scientists should be made known in terms that can be understood, not merely by other scientists, but also by the lay public. That is why I myself decided, after I retired from scientific work, to devote myself to social problems that affect everyone who lives in our country.
I visited villages in Maharashtra State and spent time in the market yards, and also went to the mandis in towns and cities. What did I find? That almost all foods were adulterated, and that the quality of even basic foods like rice and wheat was really shocking. It is the poor people, who have to consume such substandard foods all the time, that really need help. Can you expect health or strength from them? This is where things need to be remedied, and where scientists should go. I confess that when I was an active scientist I did not do so, but I now realize what the problems really are for common people.
Let us take for example the bajra, which was introduced into ration shops in Bombay. About half the grains were normally coloured but the other half were black. People did not know what to do about it and they are used to eating a large quantity of bajra at every meal. Ergot-infested bajra as you have heard, is really dangerous to eat, and so the Government was approached to ban sales of food grains of this quality. But the argument used was that there was a shortage of foodstuffs, and sales had therefore to go on. Poison was in fact being given to the people. It has been suggested that the grains should be floated in salt water and light grains discarded. This is a highly impractical recommendation. The population density in Bombay is so high that there is hardly space to do all this: the grains would have to be dried on the road! I even issued a warning to the Government that if it continued to sell ergot-infested bajra this fact would be broadcast by consumer associations all over the country, but such bajra continued to be sold.
Take again the case of milk. The quality is poor, with a low fat content of 3.5 per cent. Yet the price is rising all the time, and has now reached Rs 5 a litre, which people simply cannot afford. We have sued the government of Maharashtra on this matter as a prestige issue, but the case is dragging on. A judge who was to try the case appeared to be sympathetic, but he has been transferred; another judge has been appointed, and his attitude is still not known. These are examples of the struggles that common consumers have to go through. I would appeal to scientists to see themselves also in their role as consumers, and play their part accordingly in matters concerning food quality.
Agriculture is the bedrock for man's survival. It is the foundation of man's food and his well-being. Dr. Parpia aptly elucidated the interphases between agriculture, nutrition, and food technology, and how nutrition acts as an undercurrent. Mr. Majumder and Dr. Desikachar talked on their excellent work done at CFTRI on the role of technology in production of nutritious food and food products. Mr. Rajagopalan presented scholarly work on agricultural developments, the Green Revolution, production of calories and proteins, and doubling of food production. However the only fly in the ointment is doubling of the population. For every two steps forward we are taking two steps backward, and we are where we were 30 years ago! Dr. Pradilla said yesterday that India has technology, manpower, know-how, expertize-and also goitre! In the same vein we can say that we have expertize, we have know-how, we have technology, we have manpower, we have technical information, and we also have uninformed farmers and food producers and farming community. Dr. Tulpule emphasized that we must strengthen our nutrition education programme.
Several months ago, the Honourable Om Prakash Mehra, Governor of Maharashtra and Chancellor of my University, visited us and saw the lab-to-land programme. A farmer can produce six times more sorghum and acquire a 600 per cent increase, by using university recommendations, in one year.
Today, technological developments at CFTRI, nutritional information generated at the NIN, and agricultural developments at the ICRISAT are laudable. However, we need to have extension services or education programmes to reach farmers, agro-based industries and also consumers and show them how they can produce more food, more nutritious and healthful food for all of us, including farmers.
Dr. Kanwar told me the other evening that some of his staff working with local farmers are producing more food than at the ICRISAT experimental farms. This kind of missionary work needs to be done by agricultural universities, departments of agriculture, zilla parishads, grampanchayats, research stations, CFTRI, NIN, ICRISAT; my friend Dr. Venkataraman, Vice-Chancellor of Tamilnadu Agricultural University, will underscore this. We have developed our agricultural universities on the basis of the United States Land Grant System. However, we have miserably failed to strengthen our extension programme. To give you an example: We have a beautiful car, technologically and aerodynamically sound; it has nutritious fuel, but that beautiful car is not moving! Because, there is a dead battery. That battery needs to be charged and started. That battery in totality is the transference of power to the engine. This is essential for forward locomotion. We need to transfer the information for more and better food production, nutritionally sound foods and food products. We need to strengthen our extension service and education programmes by planning, by policy-making and by management. We must strengthen our extension sectors to educate farmers for maximum food production by applying present technology and by demonstrations. Such lab-to-land programmes must integrate agriculture, nutrition, marketing, and agro-technology programmes. I believe firmly, and I have faith, that with this catalytic action of extension, we can make definite strides.
Agriculture is a chancy operation, and perhaps we underestimate the risk that a farmer runs in its pursuit. While no one can underrate the importance of developing new seed varieties and the technologies to go with them, they must be viewed also in the farmers' light. Above all what he wants is not simply a number of technological options, but also some assurances to go with them. Can he afford to risk a failure when the livelihood of his entire family depends on raising an agricultural crop?
Thus I see security as an essential component of new technologies before recommending them to the farmer. Not only must the seed variety be stable, but the package of practices, which will include fertilizers, pesticides, and cultural directions, should be well tested out by our agricultural scientists to minimize as far as possible the risk entailed by the grower. Even such imponderables as the vagaries of the monsoon in its effect on crop growth and performance must at least be checked out before any variety is released for general usage.
Dr. Salunkhe has stressed the importance of extension, and I am fully in agreement with him. I would only add that extension workers should familiarize themselves also with any element of risk or shortfall in the task of putting their wares before the actual taker of the risk, the poor farmer.
There are two aspects to continuing interdisciplinary dialogues: how to organize a continuing dialogue, and how to use the facts generated. It may be best to keep the present group a technical one; to bring policy-makers into it might even be suicidal. It could take the form of a South-Asian Club, find funds, and meet again say a year from now. Three types of goals would have to be recognized. The immediate need is to bring out a paper summarizing the views expressed at the present workshop so as to make them known. The next is to compile a directory of manpower and institutions available in the region, and the papers and patents that could be widely disseminated. The intermediate goal could be to exchange human resources, and to use the technical facilities of institutions in the area for general service. For example, ICRISAT had the capacity to perform 150 nitrogen determinations in a day. The long-term goal would be that of developing a minimum technological base in the member countries to make use of the technologies available. In fact ail these objectives were no other than a barometer of success attendant on building interdisciplinary activity.
Considerable information of the kinds mentioned already exists. The World Health Organization (WHO) has compiled a list of institutions working in the area of nutrition, and the CFTRI has a comprehensive list of institutions in food science and technology. CERES of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has information on research projects being pursued in laboratories in all authorized countries, and the CFTRI has compiled a good list of ongoing research projects in India. The food abstracts periodically issued by the NICFOS, the CFTRl's library, are available to any institution wanting them. The UN University is actively promoting interdisciplinary training of the kind required to get wheels moving in developing countries. The Asian Network for Technology Transfer in Agro-Industries (ANTTAI), is being set up through the joint efforts of the FAO, UNCTAD, UNU, and ESCAP. The next step logically arising out of the present workshop would be to organize others at national level to draw up relevant action-oriented work programmes. These would clearly specify interphase activities, so that each country does what it wants to do, rather than what others tell it to do. A strong recommendation to the UN University for such interdisciplinary training could emanate from this workshop.
In India, the Cabinet Sub-Committee on Food and Nutrition and the National Council on Food and Nutrition Policy count operational activities and interdisciplinary training among their functions. The Government of India has accepted in principle the formation of a National Food and Policy Research Institute, at a cost of Rs 15 million, to fund relevant research in existing institutions and to translate research findings into the language of the policy-planner. There is a lack of empirical studies on the vulnerable poor, and interventions that do not have the support of the economic system will not bear fruit. The public distribution system should be so improved that people rely on it at all times and not merely in times of stress. What is really wanted is a need-and-demand base, not a subsidized one. Dual pricing is relevant both to product development and to marketing. Operational studies are required to determine community behaviour in response to price fluctuations. In applying appropriate technology, each unit operation has to be considered. For example: What are the merits or otherwise of the mechanization of any component? Is the displacement of labour by machine an advantage? Communication between the policy-maker and the public should be a two-way process, yet each uses a different language.
The village continues to be the key in India both to food production and to its use. The widening cereal-pulse gap among the poor, and the imbalance in quality protein, call for special attention from researchers and policy-planners. Among local village groups, organizations of women have a powerful part to play. Urban food supplies need attention to preserve quality using innocuous protectants, and national organizations like the FCI have an important role here. Food markets could serve as outlets for preservative chemicals. In evolving new varieties, breeders must take care to interact with nutritionists, technologists, and the public to ensure a fruitful outcome. Even in food policy studies, consumers represent an important element both in respect of evaluation and of furnishing a channel for the transmission of knowledge that is constantly growing.