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174 STUART GILLESPIE AND SUNEETHA KADIYALA But one part of the puzzle surely relates to the role of the agriculture sector.


Although declining in its share of India’s overall GDP (at 16 percent in 2007), agriculture and allied sectors employ 52 percent of the total workforce in India, and the sector continues to play a major role in the overall socioeconomic development of the country. Through agriculture policy (including price policy), agriculture technology (including irrigation and research and development), and food market- ing systems (including the creation of value chains), the agriculture sector has the potential to influence poverty reduction and the conditions under which people are employed (including time-use patterns, child labor, and exposure to hazards). It also has the potential to improve the availability of and access to diverse foods and, thereby, food consumption patterns. Agriculture research and technology development in India have dramatically


increased food production and aggregate food availability—rendering large-scale famine a rarity—yet the crisis of chronic undernutrition persists. This chapter examines this phenomenon by summarizing key nutrition outcome trends and patterns in agricultural growth and development in the country; presenting a conceptual framework for pathways between agriculture and nutrition; and using an empirical literature review to highlight the evidence for these linkages in India during the past two decades.


Trends in Nutrition Outcomes The three rounds of the National Family Health Survey (undertaken in 1992–1993, 1998–1999, and 2005–2006) show that the prevalence of stunting (low height for age) among children under three years old dropped 8.1 percentage points in the 13 years between the first and third round of surveys, while underweight (low weight for age) prevalence declined by 7.1 percentage points. The proportion of wasting (low weight for height) in children declined only marginally over the same period—in fact, it actually rose significantly between NFHS-2 and NFHS-3. Among adults, both undernutrition and anemia prevalence rates increased


among women between NFHS-2 and NFHS-3, and more than one-third of mar- ried women and men in India were too thin, according to the body mass index (BMI) indicator. More than half of women and about one-quarter of men suffer from anemia. To meet the first Millennium Development Goal, India needs to achieve an


average decline of about 1 percentage point per year in the prevalence of child underweight between 2000 and 2015. Although there are substantial interstate variations in nutrition outcome trends, according to NFHS data the actual national rate of decline in underweight children in the most recent survey period has been around 0.5 percentage points per year—only half of what is required.


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