Food Security in the Thar Desert

Food security is a condition related to the supply of food, and individuals’ access to it. Following the World Food Forum in 1996 it exists when “all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. The complexity of food security is reposing on several dimensions which are: DSC01229

  • The availability of food
  • Economic, physical and social access to food
  • Food utilization: how well people are using food they can access. It concerns the knowledge they have about nutrition, the repartition inequalities between genders etc…
  • The stability of these 3 dimensions over time

But the focus has long been made on the availability of food therefore on the capacity to produce more. Due to that productionist approach and modernization of agriculture more food than ever is now available. Despite population growth, food production per capita increased by nearly 22% in India between 1961 and 1997. More calories are also available per person. However available does not mean accessible, sustainable or nutritious that are the main pillars of food security. In Rajasthan where GRAVIS operates agriculture mainly remains traditional so that food producing crops are still preferred which enable access to the food produced but the region faces other challenges. The harsh climate of the Thar Desert and the high probability of drought make it really hard to achieve sustainability and good nutrition levels. GRAVIS use different actions to enhance the situation since adapted crops as well as good management of the water supply and seeds can make the difference.

Water collect and storage

The region suffers from a lack of water which compromise basic agriculture, so GRAVIS first aim is to enable the production of the grains and cereals that are essential for farmer’s lives. GRAVIS promote the building of Khadins that are traditional, earthen bunds on the runoff side of the field. They prevent runoff and contain rainfall so that they increase soil moisture therefore crop yield. It is both an effective and sustainable method to adapt the land to the weather condition. In 2015 GRAVIS built 120 khadins to the benefit of 360 families.

Nutrition and the quality of food

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An AHU’s or kitchen garden

The formation of seed bank also ensures the quality and the maximization of harvests. It prevents seeds to get deteriorate by bad storage, and make sure that  pure species are kept as they are and not mixed. To achieve the nutrition requirement of food security, we fosters the plantation of Arid Horticultural Units (AHUs) which are small gardens providing extra source of nutrition.

  We also develop farmers’ Clubs community. This consists in network of farmers sharing their resources, technologies, and knowledge. It facilitate local agriculture therefore access to the production.The focus is made on suitable fruits for the desert like pomegranate, lemons or desert plums as they required minimal irrigation from domestic water. The vitamins and nutriments provided ensure a more balanced diet and prevent malnutrition. In 2015 GRAVIS set up 331 AHU’s. Though the challenge is still that little awareness is put on the importance of nutrition. As a consequence GRAVIS staff still has to regularly visit the households and motivate the villagers to maintain their kitchen garden.

Through all that small steps, GRAVIS tried to create sustainable production that is accessible and nutritious enough to empower community and make them less dependent on local and bigger markets. The benefits are not only in term of hunger, it also leads to healthier life, and more capabilities to develop their self. By improving food security, GRAVIS wish to settle a virtuous cycle of development.

 

*by Mathilde Serange, Volunteer

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