Addressing Malnutrition Among Korku Children and Food Security in Madhya Pradesh, India

Case Studies
Agriculture, Food Security, Nutrition
Spandan Samaj Seva Samiti
South Asia
Publication Dates:
July, 2013
Content Formats:

This is one of 50 Harvesting Nutrition project case studies. Harvesting Nutrition was a contest held in 2012 and 2013 that showcased active projects working to improve the impact of agriculture and/or food security on nutrition outcomes. Co-sponsors were SecureNutrition, Save the Children UK, and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN). Learn More.

Project Description: ​

The major objective is to reduce the malnutrition among under-5 Korku children through ensuring the household food security of poor by assisting them access more food and nutrition.  

The program tries to establish a community based malnutrition management system and, alongside, emphasizes household food security through access to food entitlements by the poor and facilitates revival of traditional crops and tribal millets that once were the mainstay of community nutrition. The project also addresses the peak hunger times through establishment of grain banks and helping families access more employment in public employment scheme. A stress is also laid to revamp the Anganwadi Centers and manage community crèches for wage earning tribal mothers.

Impact of project: ​

A couple of years ago we tried to alert the Korku farmers of the pitfalls of their neglect of traditional crops and millets at the expense of cash crops like soybean and cotton and wheat. Ironically they grow soybean but don't eat it. This has led to spread of migration and is seen in nearly half of the Korku children stunted, underweight or wasted. This change, due to acculturation of Korku tribe, led to this unsavory situation.  We continued with our behavior change communication (BCC) efforts through multiple methods. Over the last two years, the desperate failure of major soybean crop has  led as many as 400 farmers in the region to revert back to maize, sorghum and tribal millets like  Kutki (small millets) and Sawa (India barnyard millets).

Prior to sowing, a group  of enlightened farmers undertook a campaign across a dozen villages, discussing and requesting families to voluntarily contribute the traditional seeds. With project assistance, they set up a seed bank that small and marginalized farmers can resort to with a pledge to repay and add to in order to scale up the bank. The families of severe and acute malnourished children have been given a priority to avail this benefit. The women (mothers of malnourished children) have been assisted to grow backyard vegetable gardens. It is certain that now more nutrition and micro nutrients will reach the family plates.

Why this project is a Good Practice example:

​The food culture plays a role in determining the present nutritional scenario and its effect on vulnerable children. This stands true for tribal communities that witness rapid acculturation. The phenomenon of stunting is evidence that nutrition support of the community in question has been declining. This is primarily due to divorce from traditional food and farming culture. We realized that alternatives do not work but revival will for a long term and sustainable food and nutritional security. The thorough understanding of food culture of a community in historical time line and the changes it witnessed and affect it wrought helps a lot in designing and implementing the sensitization strategies. This has to be layered with other efforts at assisting food insecure families to access more food and nutrition entitlements.  Therein, malnutrition is demystified, grass roots service agencies work well, and institutions retain children with outreach of maximum benefits they are entitled to. Of course the paradigm should have immediate SOS mechanism so that children already victims are treated and restored to normalcy and many precious lives are saved.

Impact Evaluation:


Lessons Learned:

​The main lesson learned is that intervention design should be layered and it should address the issue of malnutrition from a wider angle, not restricted to its public health aspect but with consideration of larger issues of food insecurity and the ways to restore the general community mainstay of food and nutrition. This is essential for efforts to ensure micronutrient health.

The process to persevere with the message about revival of traditional crops and millets using a designed behavior change communication (BCC) campaign that considered culturally sensitive methods and reliance on aboriginal language in oral tradition was effective. Secondly the process was layered with other efforts at system strengthening, fostering larger discussion and participation and innovations, such as child-friendly Anganwadi and community crèches Our efforts at promotion of one of the tribal millets, namely Kodo (paspalum scrobatum), didn't work as Korku tribe farmers believe that now it has turned intoxicating. They also have a myth that, if a snake crosses a Kodo field, it gets intoxicated.

Funders: Sir Dorabji Tata Trust and EdelGive Foundation

Primary Contact: Prakash Michael, Founder Member

Country: India

Project Dates: began in 2011 and continuing

Interventions: Assess the context at the local level, Target the vulnerable and improve equity, Facilitate production diversification, Incorporate nutrition promotion and education,

Target Population: Children under 5, Women, Tribe farmers,

Project Stage: Ongoing activities

Geographic Coverage: Village/Municipality