has announced a four-year, $13.4 million grant from the to scale a project that promotes access to nutritious food in India among the rural poor.
The (TCi) will use the funds to establish Technical Assistance and Research for Indian Nutrition and Agriculture (TARINA) — a consortium of university and NGO partners — with the goal of advancing research and policy changes that improve the availability and affordability of nutrient-rich food, particularly for women and children. Led by TCi and supported by the , TARINA will bring together the evidence-generating capabilities of the , , , and Cornell with the implementation and technical capacity and experience of the and . The grant also will establish a Center of Excellence in Delhi that will serve as a data and information hub and source of technical expertise.
The consortium hopes to influence the design of agricultural projects and policies, with an eye to increasing year-round access among the rural poor to fresh fruit, vegetables, livestock products, and high-protein micronutrient-dense legumes such as beans, peas, and lentils. "The push toward staple grains has inadvertently crowded out micronutrient-rich food," said TCi director Prabhu Pingali, who served as deputy director of the Gates Foundation's agriculture development division until founding TCi in 2013.
Efforts to improve rural diets will center on the role of women, who supply much of the labor on homestead farms that grow staple grains on two to four acres of land and who eat after the men are done, in a custom that reinforces malnourishment, said Pingali. The project will work to empower women by strengthening their access to leadership roles in producer groups and promoting labor-saving techniques such as mechanical rice-planting technologies. "To enact meaningful reform it's not [enough] just to say, 'Let's produce a more diverse diet’ Pingali added. "You need a behavioral change."