The World Bank and the Department for International Development (DFID) supported the South Asia food and nutrition security initiative (SAFANSI), which in part was used to fund the promotion of good nutritional practices among farming communities in Bihar. The Bihar Rural Livelihood Promotion Society (JEEViKA) and Digital Green, as noted in the FSP previously, have been working in the area on sharing agricultural knowledge, involving more than 2000 villages in the State. With funds from SAFANSI, JEEViKA and Digital Green also conducted a pilot in 42 villages in three Bihar districts to analyze if and how to integrate nutrition information exchange in the already existing agricultural program.
For the project, Digital Green produced 15 videos where best practices on nutrition where showcased; health workers active in the community were chosen by their peers to be featured in the videos. These videos were then showcased around the villages and screening at community forums (including women-focused self-help groups) and fostered productive discussion and exchange of opinions.
The final videos produced included subjects such as family planning, prenatal care, postnatal care, kitchen gardens and diet diversification. The topics were chosen based on work developed under SPRING, a partnership between Digital Green and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in Odisha with similar objectives. Topics were identified that aligned with JEEViKA’s work in the field on Community and Nutrition Care Centers.
The heavy involvement of community social workers (cooks, midwives, health activists and general members) in the filming not only empowered the village members, but also served to breach the barrier of literacy given that the delivery is purely audiovisual. The usage of local dialects also helped the recall and comprehension of the key messages according to the audiences. Technology advancement has permitted Digital Green’s approach at the same time to be less costly over time and reach more remote populations since it’s highly portable: only requiring a small camera, a projector and a speaker in order to display the films.
A second objective of the project, beyond the production of content-sensitive videos, was thus, to enhance knowledge exchange through a wider platform, involving universities, local non-governmental organizations and the public sector. A workshop was then developed jointly with IFPRI and the World Bank and IFPRI. IFPRI has been partnering with SAFANSI to explore how to integrate nutrition information in the existing curricula in three agricultural universities (Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Chennai; Rajendra Agricultural University, Bihar; and P.J.T.S. Agricultural University, Hyderabad). In the workshop, the experience was shared among experts and policy makers to discuss the pilot results to develop tools that can improve the dissemination of best practices through media as well as influence relevant curricula and the knowledge among decision-makers.
Several recommendations arose from the exchange. There was a need to redesign the information system in order to facilitate top-down communication with grassroots organizations to effectively reach the population of interest, namely rural communities in this case. It was also highlighted the lack of knowledge on expenditure patterns of the households to be able to understand and improve nutrition spending. Useful platforms and policies that should be promoting nutrition were identified at local and national government level. At the University level, IFPRI experts noted the importance of enhancing the nutrition focus of agricultural-related curricula, with focus at both micro and macro levels.
By Florencia Paz, MTID