By Dipanwita Chakraborty
India, a land of paradoxes—a subcontinent where paucity and plenty go hand-in-hand, faces significant challenges related to poverty and hunger. By providing innovative solutions that improve the productivity of the agricultural sector, connect farmers with their markets and move food efficiently to where it is required, the country can successfully nourish its people, especially the underprivileged and underserved.
Feeding India and nourishing its growing population is the need of the hour. At the same time, improving nutrition is not just a matter of having enough to eat. It is about breaking the cycle of poverty and allowing people to raise their own standard of living.
This involves, among other things, building a food system that encompasses high-quality and innovative products and services and is efficient, cost-effective, safe and environmentally friendly. As a company committed to feeding India and nourishing its growing population, Cargill has been focusing actively on several of these goals since it began operations in the country in 1987.
Working to feed India and provide nutritious food for its ever expanding population is not just Cargill’s organizational objective, but also one of our key social goals. Having built its core strengths in the food and nutrition arena, and having fostered a network of partners who complement their expertise in this domain, Cargill believes that it is in a position to support India’s food revolution.
Fighting malnutrition and ensuring food security is therefore the cornerstone of Cargill’s Corporate Responsibility (CR) engagement in India.
Cargill in India is addressing several of these problems through ‘Nourishing India’, its umbrella, multi-pronged program and the core of Cargill’s CR strategy.
Creating income opportunities for farmers
The Kutch district of Gujarat remains steeped in poverty owing to the low incomes of smaller farmers who have been unable to establish linkages to markets and do not have the resources necessary to upgrade their agriculture and rural enterprise.
Recognizing this problem and with a view to improving the conditions of the farming community, Cargill launched its six-year long flagship initiative—the Kutch Livelihood and Education Advancement Project (K-LEAP) — in partnership with leading NGO CARE. The project addressed the challenges being experienced by the marginalized communities in the vicinity of Cargill’s edible oil refinery in Kandla, Gujarat and lifts them out of poverty.
As part of K-LEAP, the Cargill- CARE combines
- Strengthened the capacities of institutions created by the project including producer companies and Agriculture Service Centers to make them sustainable
- Partnered with Reuters Market Light services to provide farmers with information (through SMSes) related to meteorology, post harvest management, agronomical practices, farm commodity prices and market trends. The initiative is expected to benefit 3,500 farmers directly and another 3,500-5,000 farmers indirectly
- Trained 198 farmers, including 68 women, on market functioning and market intelligence
- Today K-LEAP is fostering inclusive economic development by increasing opportunities for over 9,000 rural families in 225 villages.
Creating pathway for women smallholder farmers
Another CARE project supported by Cargill that has helped transform the lives and livelihoods of farmers, especially resource-poor Women Small Farmers (WSF), is Pathways, which was initiated in the southern districts of Kalahandi and Kandhamal in Odisha. Pathways has sought to promote improvements in productivity, equity and empowerment for 12,000 WSFs from Scheduled Tribe and caste families (SC/ST) and positively impact the well-being of 48,000 members in their families.
Through the past three years, Pathways has continued to advance nutrition security by working with women farmers and their households and improved their access to agriculture extension services. It additionally scaled their skills and capacities in governance and the management of their collectives.
Helping Madhya Pradesh in fighting child malnutrition and infant mortality
India’s state of Madhya Pradesh has been facing a huge difficulty in the form of child malnutrition and infant deaths. Having witnessed these life threatening situations and as part of its ‘Nourishing India’ plan of action, Cargill decided to roll out its three-year Madhya Pradesh Nutrition Project (MPNP) in the Bundelkhand region of the state in March 2013.
With the launch of the initiative, several concerns came to light. It was in December 2013 for instance, that on a routine home visit in Barkoha village, that the MPNP block coordinator observed the weak condition of twin sisters, Akanksha and Pranshi. The sisters, born in September 2012, were found to be very weak, frail and underweight. A check up at the Anganwadi center revealed that one of the girls was below the red mark on the growth chart owing to her poor food intake. The MPNP block coordinator counseled the family on the importance of health and nutrition for children up to the age of two years.
During a visit to the family in March, 2014, it was found that the efforts of MPNP staff had paid off. The weaker twin had progressed from the red area on the growth chart to the yellow area, in a span of four months, owing to improved nutrition practices.
Clearly, the MPNP is making a difference in the lives of infants in the Bundelkhand region of MP. By all accounts it is on track to meet its three-year goal of touching around one million people, including children under the age of six years, adolescent girls, pregnant women and nursing mothers.
Supporting Country’s first Food Bank
In an effort to augment food security in India and enable the needy to access nutritious food, Cargill partnered with the Global Food Banking Network (GFN) and the Aidmatrix Foundation to set up the India Food Banking Network (IFBN) and the Delhi Food Bank, India’s very first food bank! During the year, the company also funded the creation of the Gurgaon Food Bank Over the past two years the two food banks have consolidated into Delhi –NCR food bank and has been consistently feeding 1 nutritious meal a day to 10000 under-served people in NCR. This initiative has led other organizations to join the food banking network and today there are 6 food banks operating in different parts of the country and raising food from those who want to donate and connecting them to those who need them the most.
About the Author: Dipanwita Chakraborty is the Lead – Corporate Responsibility at Cargill India.