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USD 13.4 million Gates grant to help combat India malnutrition

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Washington: The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has provided a grant of USD 13.4 million to the Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative (TCi) to help combat malnutrition in India.

The funding would allow the Cornell University project to scale up its work promoting a more nutrition-sensitive food system aimed at bolstering the diet of the rural poor, particularly for women and children, a release said today.

As a result of the four-year grant, the Tata-Cornell Agriculture and Nutrition Initiative on December 1 launched Technical Assistance and Research for Indian Nutrition and Agriculture (TARINA).

A consortium linking Cornell with university and non-governmental organisation partners, TARINA aims to fund research and enact policy changes that enhance the availability and affordability of nutrient-rich food.

Prabhu Pingali, professor of applied economics and management and director of TCi, in a statement said the project has three core missions: to collect data and evidence that informs policy reform related to diet quality; to redesign agricultural projects with a focus on nutrition; and to help build capacity to make reforms possible.

Led by the TCi, TARINA links the evidence-generating capabilities of the International Food Policy Research Institute, the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Emory University and Cornell with the implementation and technical capacity and experience of leading NGO partners BAIF and CARE.

The Tata Trusts, India’s leading philanthropy, will support the consortium through their convening power and influence with policymakers at the national and state levels, Cornell University said in a statement.

According to the university, the grant will also establish a Centre of Excellence to be located in Delhi to serve in part as a data and information hub, as well as a source of technical expertise on nutrition sensitive food systems.

Pingali said the dilemma of Indian malnutrition isn’t about the amount of food grown but rather the diversity of available foods.

The consortium plans to influence the design of ongoing and future agricultural projects and policies with an eye on increasing the rural poor’s year-round access to an affordable food system replete with fresh fruit, vegetables, livestock products and pulses – the high-protein, micronutrient-dense legumes such as beans, peas and lentils essential to a predominantly vegetarian population.

“The push toward staple grains has inadvertently crowded out micronutrient-rich food. To enact meaningful reform it’s not enough just to say, ‘let’s produce a more diverse diet’. You need a behavioural change,” Pingali said.