Poshan Vatikas

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    In News

    • The Ministry of Women and Child Development has been promoting the establishment of ‘Poshan Vatikas’ across the country.

    About Poshan Vatikas

    • Aim: To provide a fresh supply of fruits, vegetables and even medicinal plants, especially in aspirational districts
    • Ministry: The Ministry of Women and Child Development 
    • Meaning: It literally translates to nutri-gardens.
    • Atmanirbhar Bharat: With Prime Minister’s clarion call for “Atmanirbhar Bharat”, the conceptual foundation of this programme builds on self-reliance and the adoption of sustainable food systems to address nutrition security amongst women and children. 
    • Convergence: Pointing towards the importance of multi-ministerial convergence, the guidelines emphasise the need for collective action by the Ministry of AYUSH, Ministry of Environmental Affairs, the MGNREGA scheme, Poshan Panchayats and mother groups
    • Incentivising Moringa Plantation: The government has been incentivising a drive for the plantation of moringa at all anganwadi centres. Moringa, also known as sahjan or drumstick, is a native Indian plant, rich in beta carotene, iron, vitamins A, B2, B6 and C5 and exhibits multiple health benefits, including antioxidant, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, anti-cholesterol, anti-diabetic and even anti-cancer properties.

    Significance

    • Addresses Multiple Goals: Nutri-gardens by themselves represent an exemplary global best practice which has the potential to address the multiple goals of diet diversity, nutrition security, agri-food cultivation, local livelihood generation and environmental sustainability.
    • Bridging Gap: It can help bridge the nutrition gap in women and children.
    • Increases Self-reliance: It encourages community members to grow local food crops in their backyards and secure them with an inexpensive, regular and handy supply of fresh fruits and vegetables.
    • Sustainable Utilization of Spaces: The guidelines identify potential land spaces that can be utilised to set up the Vatikas, including anganwadi centres, panchayat areas, government schools, vacant lands or any other patch of community/government land available in the locality. 
    • Maintaining Food Culture: The guidelines also mandate retrofitting these gardens with backyard poultry and fishing as per the prevalent food culture, which can be particularly useful in addressing the protein requirements.
    • Educating by Example: It is also hoped that the nutri-gardens may act as a demonstration site to educate children about the need for the consumption of fresh food produce and promote messaging for healthy dietary behaviours amongst women.

    Examples from other Countries

    • US: Experiences with school-yard gardens in the US have demonstrated an increased dietary intake of vegetables and fruits amongst children. 
    • South Africa: Similarly, research from South Africa shows that the setting up of nutri-gardens can increase the likelihood of fresh food consumption. 
    • Nepal: In Nepal, some trials were complemented with sensitisation modules on nutrition education and sustainable agriculture, though lack of parent involvement and access to fresh food produce were cited as key gaps that prevented the uptake of fresh food produce in children’s diets.

    Expected Barriers for Implementation

    • Access to cultivable land;
    • Availability of a water source;
    • Protection against grazing;
    • Bandwidth and skill sets of anganwadi workers; 
    • Supply of seeds and inputs; and 
    • Coordination between diverse stakeholders for the translation of technical know-how on setting up of nutri-gardens etc.

    Way Ahead

    • Success of the national strategy depends on how the Poshan Vatika programme is implemented. 
    • The ministry has an opportunity to promote Poshan Vatikas as a platform to increase convergence between its agriculture and nutrition policy.
    • Poshan Vatikas could help build capacity of anganwadi workers, including raising compensation for their expected labour, 
    • These have potential to bridge the gap between production and consumption of fresh fruits, vegetables and animal produce, disseminate messages on the importance of diet diversity. 
    • Poshan Vatikas could scale up a best practice that can contribute towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.

    Source: IE