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South Asia Food And Nutrition

Vol. 3 Issue 1 February 2013

Security Initiative

Knowledge Brief Fostering Cross-Cutting Action


The Role of Agricultural Research, Education & Extension The growth of agriculture — and its contributions towards achieving the MDGs — cannot come without further development of human capital and research systems. Agricultural Research, Education, and Extension can play a significant role both in releasing the constraints that have led to limitations in the growth of the agricultural sector and in reducing the endemic levels of malnutrition. In developing this human capital, trained personnel acting as local advocates and institutional resource persons for Nutrition are likely to initiate human development improvements more quickly with benefits that have the potential to accelerate agricultural growth. It is through these mechanisms where the unleashed potential of agriculture stands to make its greatest gains.

Ag & Nut rit ion Li nk a ge s South Asia is at risk of not meeting the MDGs unless urgent action is taken. Despite the proliferation of nutrition programs in South Asia and rapid economic growth, malnutrition rates remain stagnant and multisectoral coordination is rare, while impacts are widespread across the

The State of Agriculture & Nutrition

The Role of State Agricultural Universities


The Agricultural sector has witnessed a slowdown in

The State Agricultural University (SAU) system

suffering, malnutrition has several

global yields, which suggests that either the current

has a long and distinguished history dating back to

other far-reaching consequences for

generation of technology may be hitting its limits or

at least 1905. Yet, in recent years the system has

the human development and agricul-

the shifting demographic of the labor force is having

been in need of reforms to modernize institutions

tural growth of South Asia.

impacts on the productivity of the sector. Anemia —

with proper incentives, good management and

a condition effecting one’s ability to do heavy labor

international best practice. Currently the SAUs are

In India, rates of anemia among

— is particularly a concern for women, who are com-

not meeting the potential for the quantity, quality

preschool aged children and preg-

prising an ever larger segment of the agricultural

and applicability of agricultural research. Likewise

nant women are 74% and 50%,

sector. Therefore efforts are needed to support the

the institutions are not effectively educating the



woman farmer and provide her with new and im-

human capital that is needed to implement the

alone is associated with a 2.5% drop

proved varieties that will suit the nutritional and liveli-

vision of such research through extension. The

in adult wages. Conversely, iron

hoods needs of the nation. A variety of other micro-

confounding research-education-extension short-

therapy in anemic adults can be

nutrient deficiencies such as Vitamin A or Zinc defi-

comings and gaps are limiting the potential bene-

associated with a 5-17% increase in

ciency are also constraining agricultural growth and

fits for agricultural growth.

heavy labor productivity.

economic development through the related effects of

economy. Beyond the increased health-care




‘stunting’ on the agricultural labor force. Across South Asia stunting averages to a 4.6cm loss in adult height, whereas each 1% increase in adult height is associated with a 4% increase in agricultural wages. In total, 2-3% of GDP is lost due to malnutrition and micro-nutrient deficiencies.

At 28% of new births, South Asia has the highest rate of low birthweight babies in the world, which is associated



educational attainment.



There is also a pressing need is to refocus the system towards Nutritional objectives. As India

Leading the agricultural innovation system towards

transitions to a more high value and processed

not only anther technology revolution, but also a

foods market, there will likely be an increasing

Nutritional Revolution, can enable the labor force to

focus on nutrition by both companies and consum-

achieve higher yields. Utilizing the public research

ers as the demand for nutrition-sensitive agricul-

and education systems to build human capital will

ture produces a market for these services. Such

help cover the shifting programmatic needs of the

demand will be feed vertically through the supply

agriculture sector. Such a strategic shift can lead a

chain to the agricultural sector, which will trigger a

response that will activate nutritional advancements

need for trained professionals to handle the culti-

through Agriculture’s extensive networks. An invest-

vation and marketing of safely produced and nutri-

ment in such reform now can increase agricultural

tious foods. Enhancing this system now can open

productivity and prevent healthcare costs in the fu-

India’s agricultural/food processing industries to a


high value markets.

FNS Dimensions Achieving sustainable Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) is fundamentally a cross-cutting challenge since the problem is rooted in so many different dimensions. The food security objective has been defined by the FAO (World Food Summit, 1996) as: All people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food according to their dietary




preferences for an active and healthy life. Operationally, four conditions need to be met to sustainably attain this objective:




availability through faster (and diversified) agricultural growth, more efficient markets, and less restrictive trade;


Ensuring adequate access

to food by increasing the purchasing power of the poor and ensuring social and gender inclusion;




utilization of food through improved micro-nutrient uptake — especially during the first two years of life — along with adequate healthcare, sanitation, and consumption of safe drinking water and food;


Creating stability (and

reducing volatility) across the three aforementioned categories in order to build the resilience of households, communities and countries to shocks. Going forward, a critical need is to mainstream FNS-sensitive research, education and extension in each SAU, research system and extension service unit.

State Agricultural Universities

Reshaping the System

Room for Growth

Elements of Success

The State Agricultural University (SAU) system has been in need of reforms to modernize the institutions with proper incentives, good management and international best practice. Some identified challenges within the system include:

Given the challenges and changing institutional dynamics there is room for reform and expanded investment, including:

Inbreeding & Exposure. Often times individuals remain at the same educational institution throughout their academic career and are not sufficiently exposed to other research streams and teaching methodologies. The inbreeding of researchers and students often leads to closed learning systems and uni-track research that is not as informed as the collaborative research that takes place in other similar institutions. This is further constrained by low levels of English proficiency which inhibits the uptake of international research and limits international collaborations. Incentive and Meritocracy. It is noted that the SAUs have low levels of achievement both in terms of the number of faculty publishing quality research and the amount of graduates suited to the needs of the labor force. In many cases the incentive system is often not well aligned; faculty promotions are often based on social seniority (and not merit) and students are often pushed through the system without proper testing. Accountability for Budget. It is noted that in recent years the ‘faculty salary’ to ‘operational expenditure’ ratio has shifted dramatically in favor of the former, leaving very little in the way of research investment or student scholarships. This is leading to a decline in both the amount and the quality of research. Meanwhile, the number of high -caliber students that are attracted to the field is declining and as a result it is no longer seen as a competitive field. Gender Exclusion. As the agricultural labor force has increasingly feminized the agricultural research, education, and extension system has lagged behind. In light of this, there is a need to ensure that women are well represented in SAUs and the extension system to meet the service needs/demands of the client’s cultural sensibilities. Research-Education-Extension Gap. There is often the misperception that those involved in research should not teach; and those that teach should only do so to pupils in the classroom. There is a need to integrate Research, Education, and Extension functions to ensure the uptake of knowledge in the field.

Linkages to foreign universities are likely to facilitate a transfer of productive knowledge that will alleviate inbreeding, increase institutional capacity and build upon faculty research and student creativity. Funding for such linkages should come from a national and accountable institution that awards such grants on a competitive and conditional basis. Competitive provision of international scholarships for SAU students/graduates can provide further exposure and incentive to achieve. Competitive Scholarship. At the individual SAU level, each professor should be ranked based both on the output of their research (quantity and quality) and their teaching abilities. This ranking should feed directly into the SAU’s HR systems for promotion. In order for SAUs to be considered for national funding, HR systems should meet several nationally defined objective criteria. Such systems for promotion should be competitively based on merit and tailored to ensure gender parity. Governance. At the national level, establishing a strong M&E system for research and education — with challenging targets that are linked to future financing — can provide incentive to become an institution of excellence. A results framework should include institutional monitoring and ranking of the research publications produced by each institution. Assurance that sufficient resources are allocated to operational research expenditures should be held accountable to the ViceChancellors. This should be fed into a system of accreditation and conditional/competitive finance. Teaching & Extension. SAUs should be outfitted with practicum curriculum and extension units that provide field training for not only students, but also for the short-term occupational training needs of extension officers, civil servants, farmers, and even youth groups or those in primary education. Actively pursuing the participation of local governments and organizations will facilitate researcheducation-extension linkages and attract young people into agriculture. These extension units should be complemented with an agri-business development support unit that is tasked with assisting market linkages and providing for the extension unit’s budget. Public resource centers should also be established to facilitate continual learning and knowledge transfer.

Food & Nutrition Indicators Stunting* is low height-for-age

Underweight is low

Nutritional Governance: Strengthening Institutional Capacity An investment in nutrition now can increase agricultural productivity in the future. Competitive funding should also be awarded to support applied research and extension programs that produce nutrition outcomes. At the national level, mainstreaming nutrition sensitive curricula and gender targets into a Results-Framework for Agricultural Education can provide accountability for outcome. Leading the agricultural innovation system towards a Nutritional Revolution, will prove increasingly necessary and beneficial: Local Planning, Monitoring & Extension. SAUs should participate in local nutrition planning and should facilitate evidence-based policy making to promote nutrition. In this capacity it should also respond to the research needs/demands generated by this planning process. The universities should provide professional/technical education to farmers and extension workers, including sessions on nutrition and gender sensitization. SAUs can be used to assess, analyze and frequently monitor data on the nutritional status of local populations. These units should carefully guide the adoption of policies that lead to improved diets while avoiding conditions that would lead to endemic obesity. Research to Regulation. The Council of Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) is able to conduct research in some specialized areas related to agriculture and nutrition, including post harvest technology, food processing, agro chemicals, agro waste utilization, and fisheries. This research can be leveraged to provide proper guidance to the responsible ministries on regulations and policies for promoting Food Safety, Environmental Health and Nutrition outcomes. A similar system was set up in Thailand where research was commissioned in order to protect consumer's health from hazardous and deteriorated foods contaminated from cultivation or post-harvest processes. This research was included in a step towards approval of food additives, agrochemicals, nutritional labeling and registration of specially controlled food.

Strategic Directions: Towards a Nutritional Revolution It is widely recognized that there should be overlap in SAUs with faculties/research departments for agriculture, veterinary, animal husbandry, home science and technological and science colleges. Food and nutrition naturally falls under the home sciences faculties, however the degree to which research collaborations and the curricula overlap can be improved upon and fed into the extension system. Changing Gender Perceptions for Multidisciplinary Research & Education. There is a pressing need to change perceptions that Nutrition is a woman’s field. Home Sciences faculties are almost entirely female, meanwhile the number of women in the Agriculture faculty remains low and dominated by men. This leads to limited integration between the departments and gender-skewed production of extension workers. Gender targets should be made to integrate faculty and promote gender parity. Resulting cross-disciplinary collaboration can be effective in producing innovations that deliver on multi-sector objectives, such as nutrition and agriculture. Nutritional Agriculture should be a professional concentration that allows one to study the nutritional content of soils, foods or populations. This should further be defined by roles for each faculty — agreed upon by the ICAR/NAAS — to help achieve clarity in purpose (i.e. soil scientists should be given strategic focus on Zinc deficiency; crop scientists should promote nutritionallybeneficial crops adept to growing in local agrozones; food scientists tasked with nutritional content analysis and labeling, etc.). Furthermore, crop -specific research centers should be funded based on the nutritional potential or significance of the variety (e.g. fruits, vegetables or fish). Earmarking a discreet budget for nutrition purposes in the SAU budgets provides an incentive for multisectoral collaboration. SAU enterprise incubator units can operationalize the outputs of related research by assisting in the development of nutritious foods, which can be produced by entrepreneurs with locally available crops.


Wasting** is low weight-for-height

Body Mass Index (BMI) is weight [kg] / (height [m])2

Nutritional Conditions Low Birth Weight is when newborns weigh less than 2,500 grams, which can lead to a reduction in educational attainment.

Kwashiorkor or Nutritional oedema is a is an acute form of malnutrition that occurs when there is not enough protein in the diet.

Anemia is a lack of healthy red blood cells resulting in decreased oxygen uptake, energy, and health. —————————————

*Stunting is an indicator or chronic malnutrition. **Wasting is an indicator of acute malnutrition, such as during a famine or during periods of food insecurity.

Agricultural Education

SAFANSI Knowledge Brief Series

Malnutrition (underweight)

TURNKEY SOLUTIONS Developing Human Capital to act as local advocates and institutional resource persons




likely to initiate nutritional improvements that can in-

Investments in Nutrition Count:

crease the productivity of

An investment in nutrition now can produce significant human capital returns that benefit the Agricultural sector

agricultural labor.


Percent of Rainfed Cultivated Land

1. IFPRI, Public Agricultural R&D in South Asia, Greater Government Commitment, Yet Underinvestment Persists, 2012 2. ASTI Global Assessment of Agricultural



Developing Countries Accelerate Investment, 2012 3. Pal, Suresh; Derek Byerlee;

Agricultural Growth in Cereals is Necessary, but Not Sufficient:

India: The Funding and Organization of Agricultural R&D -

Diversification to High-value & High-nutrient Crops, Fish and Livestock is just as important, but sustained investments in research and human capital will be needed to achieve these productivity gains.

Evolution and Emerging Policy Issues, Chapter 7, IFPRI 4. The World Bank, ARD, Agricul-

tural Innovation Systems: An Investment Sourcebook, 2012. 5. The World Bank, ARD, Gender in




Supported by:

The World Bank This volume was created by staff of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank for the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative. The findings, interpretations, and conclusions expressed in this paper do not necessarily reflect the views of the Executive Directors of The World Bank or the governments they represent. The World Bank does not guarantee the accuracy of the data included in this work. The boundaries, colors, denominations, and other information shown on any map in this work do not imply any judgment on the part of the World Bank concerning the legal status of any territory or the endorsement or acceptance of such boundaries. This material has been funded by both AusAID and UKaid from the Department for International Development; however, the views expressed do not necessarily reflect these departments’ official policies.

REDUCING MALNUTRITION IN SOUTH ASIA: The Role of Agricultural Research, Education & Extension  

REDUCING MALNUTRITION IN SOUTH ASIA The Role of Agricultural Research, Education & Extension

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