Forests as Source of Food in Rural India : IV

Households sourcing from CPRs contribute significantly to dietary diversity; this is especially true for households that consume a greater number of food groups. In addition to contributing to dietary diversity, these NTFPs contain various macronutrients and micronutrients. While forests and CPRs as sources of food may not be able to eradicate food and nutrition insecurity, they can significantly contribute towards mitigating them. One such policy that provides food security to the poor in India is the Public Distribution System (PDS) that provides food grains such as rice, wheat, etc. at highly subsidized prices. PDS has come a long way in mitigating food insecurity. That said, the challenges of malnutrition and nutrition insecurity that continue to beset India are among the highest in the world. In such conditions, forests and common resources provide access to nutrients, thus, mitigating the financial costs of procuring these resources at market prices. Importantly, they may also contribute significantly towards addressing food and nutrition insecurity.

The graph below presents average proportion of nutrients (Protein, Iron and Zinc) consumed out of total nutrients consumed (in percentages) using NSS data from 2011-12 and Indian Food Consumption Tables for the year 2017. It can be seen that forest foods contribute more towards greater consumption of protein and iron in case of households that consume any form of food from forests and CPRs. These numbers are an under-representation as we could not estimate the nutrients accruing from wild fruits and vegetables that are the most consumed foods from CPRs (as documented in part II), due to the insufficiency of such information in the available data.

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