Household approaches to factors affecting nutrition: a study of two Indian districts

Household approaches to factors affecting nutrition: a study of two Indian districts

A number of factors affect a household’s nutritional status: food production; access and availability of food; care in the home; health, water, sanitation and hygiene practices; women’s agency and empowerment; and women’s role as primary caregivers. This paper explores these factors at the household level by interviewing 100 women across four rural villages in Bijapur, Karnataka and Sabarkantha, Gujarat. This study seeks to improve our perception of how women and their families understand nutrition and whether some of the factors affecting nutrition are given less importance compared to others. The authors find that households think of nutrition primarily as healthy food that provides energy for physical work.

Access and availability of food depends on climatic conditions, and in both districts, there has been a general decline in agricultural production that has affected the quantity and quality of food consumed. Households recognise the links between food they eat and the subsequent nutrition they derive from it, and hence pursue foods that they think are nutritious. However, there are challenges in terms of poor hygiene, sanitation practices and water purification practices in most households.While lack of supporting physical infrastructure is just one part of the problem, behaviour change campaigns highlighting the importance of good hygiene habits in these villages have not yet taken root, or in some cases have not had the desired result yet.

In terms of their role in these communities, women have a key role to play on the family farms and in the household as caregivers. However, their decision-making capacities are limited, more so in Bijapur than in Sabarkantha. For any nutrition intervention to be successful at the household level, it has to incorporate all these factors and ensure that they are aligned and synchronised to meet the nutritional needs of the household. Solving challenges related to any one factor alone is unlikely to create any long-lasting impact on a household’s nutritional status.

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