With an aim to improve nutritional outcomes and economic opportunities for women from socio-economically disadvantaged families in Assam, USAID Advancing Nutrition is implementing a two-year USAID-supported multi-sectoral nutrition project in three districts – Tinuskia, Goalpara and Barpeta – of Assam state in the northeast part of India.
The project prioritizes the inclusion of all relevant stakeholders from the government, private sector, community-based organisations, institutions and community to build strategic alliances around goals and develop synergies to address malnutrition in the state by promoting increased agricultural productivity that enables women to operate increase their incomes, as well as increase the availability, accessibility and consumption of safe, nutritious food.
The status of nutrition in Assam
The latest National Family Health Survey reported that 35 percent of children under the age of five are stunted (too short for their age) and 22 percent are wasted (too thin for their height). Approaches to address malnutrition may focus on the women’s empowerment and transformation to the food system and to increase the availability, accessibility, and consumption of safe, nutritious foods.
Building strategic alliances
In July 2022, the project signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Assam State Rural Livelihood Mission (ASRLM). The established partnership supported the identification of community cadres and beneficiaries from the Self-Help Groups (SHGs). Adopting a cascade training model, the training was conducted on agriculture for nutrition training module, focusing on improved aquaculture and horticulture practices. The trainings were implemented by USAID Advancing Nutrition’s local implementing partner, SeSTA (Seven Sisters Development Assistance) to the community cadres who will continue imparting the knowledge to selected women beneficiaries from SHGs in the region.
An MoU was also signed with WorldFish, a consortium member of the International Agricultural Research Centres, to provide capacity-strengthening support on improved aquaculture practices. Partnerships with the Department of Agriculture and Horticulture and Department of Fisheries, Government of Assam were sought for thematic expertise and overall guidance relating to horticulture and aquaculture approaches to ensure the inclusion of women beneficiaries in their existing networks to improve economic opportunities. Engagement with the private sector, particularly tea management committees and Farmer Producer Companies/Organisations were essential to strengthen the linkages between women farmers in the WSHGs and increase access to markets for selected commodities.
Characterised by empowerment, strategy, experience and knowledge-sharing and consensus-building, these collaborations contribute to increasing the participation of women farmers in decision-making within their families through agricultural knowledge and economic independence, strengthening the capacity of local NGOs (non-governmental organisations) and opening channels of communications among government, community, institutions and organisations.
Over the course, the project will train 25,000 women in commodity-specific horticulture practices and 10,000 women in aquaculture practices with synergistic coordination and active engagement of stakeholders.