States need to think again on the green drive to curb malnutritionNovember 20, 2018
To curb malnutrition, the ministry of ayurveda, yoga and naturopathy, unani, siddha and homoeopathy (Ayush) plans to promote desi superfoods, as reported by this paper on November 10.
These superfoods include ashwagandha, drumstick, amla, haldi, giloy and dry ginger. This initiative of the Ayush ministry is laudable.
One challenge will be to make them accessible to everyone at low cost, with public awareness. To do this, local governments and smart cities have to rethink what greening is.
You don’t have to set up plantations, because they often have other ecological consequences.
Let me offer an example. What stops us from planting moringa (drumstick) instead of all kinds of ficus (tree) along our roads? In Delhi, do people not eat affordable jamuns entirely because someone once planted the trees?
We know from our experiences that the public, including the poor, forage for foods on trees that are in the public space. Changing what we plant in the public domain is one thing and not guarding it like gold is another. Let people take the yield if they want to. Not treating it theft is another aspect.
Parks too, should mainstream such plants that can be harvested, instead of only flowers and ornamental plants.
Plantation drives should include plants that will never become trees, but will fight malnutrition.
Smart cities, in fact, must grow locally appropriate species across their greening plans. These are the only few ways forward in this direction– we need many more.
But to give India’s children the nutrition they deserve, the Ayush ministry will need support from panchayats, urban local bodies and all manners of actors you’d never associate with food.