Can Consumer-Centric Extension (CCE) Boost Animal-Sourced Food (ASF) Consumption?
On November 21st, World Fisheries Day, we reemphasized the role of fish in human nutrition and the livelihoods of the poor. All animal-sourced foods (ASF) are important for healthier human life. Focusing on nutritional wellbeing provides opportunities for establishing synergy between public health and equity, in line with the United Nations' (UN's) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. ASF should be accessible, available and affordable to people all over the world, all the time. How can Extension and Advisory Services (EAS) help ensure this?
Currently, EAS are mostly focused on farmers and producers, and recently there has also been an emphasis on value chains. If EAS promoted the consumption of ASF to boost immunity and healthier living, it would help boost production, productivity, consumption and the income of producers of animal products in developing countries like India. Making consumers aware and educating them on the importance of ASF consumption for their well-being will create demand for ASF. We also know that enhanced consumer awareness is closely linked to boosting animal productivity because, with higher demand, producers take better care of their livestock.
I wrote earlier on the importance of consuming ASF and the need to improve livestock production. In India, in spite of a huge livestock population, the availability of ASF to the poor is far less than what is recommended by the Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR). For instance, the annual per capita egg availability in 2018-2019 was just 79 eggs compared with the recommended 183 eggs. Similarly, annual meat consumption in India is just 5.6 kg compared with the recommended 10.95 kg (the global average is 33.2 kg per year). Also, India’s per capita consumption of poultry is at around 3.1 kg per year, which is low compared to the world’s average of around 17 kg per year. India's annual per capita beef and veal consumption in 2019 was only 0.5 kg and that of poultry, pork and sheep is 2.5 kg, 0.2 kg and 0.5 kg, respectively. Milk availability, however, has reached 394 grams/day/person, which is more than the required quantity, although there are huge regional variations. A lack of animal protein availability in human diets causes chronic malnutrition problems and serious health consequences such as stunting, wasting and anemia in India. India, Pakistan, Indonesia and Nigeria are home to roughly 50 percent of world’s stunted children. India alone has one-third of the world's stunted children, according to global nutrition reports. Women are the worst victims of malnutrition; nearly 50 percent of pregnant women are anemic in India.
India is among 88 countries likely to miss global nutrition targets by 2025, according to the Global Nutrition Report 2020. The report also identified India as one of the countries with the highest rates of domestic inequalities when it comes to malnutrition. The EAS can help by designing suitable interventions to effectively meet these challenges.
The EAS can design extension strategies that include consumers too. The extension programs, coupled with extension literature, can create awareness among consumers about the benefits of ASF consumption. This will raise demand for ASF. The supply side will cater to this need, which in turn will benefit both farmers and consumers. More demand will ensure producers can fetch better prices which will encourage them to boost animal production by improving breeding, feeding, health care and management practices. EAS strategies could be spread by radio and TV programs for consumers, and social media channels could also play a vital role in spreading nutrition awareness on ASF consumption. The EAS could also publish extension literature targeting consumers alongside producers.
One Indian state, Odisha, recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the international nonprofit organization World Fish for a pilot program which includes fish and fish-based products in the supplementary nutrition program for children, pregnant and nursing women, and adolescent girls at 50 rural childcare centers in the Mayurbhanj district. USAID India is supporting this two-fold program, which will also empower women's self-help groups (SHGs) and the local fishing communities to produce and distribute nutritious and safe-to-consume fish products such as small dried fish, fish powder and fish chutney. Some other states serve milk, eggs and fruit in schools as part of midday meal programs (MDMP). Such actions help improve the nutrition status of children and women, while creating demands for health-foods like ASFs and helping producers to get better prices for their goods.
Building the capacities of agricultural extension and advisory services (AEAS) is widely considered critical to the promotion of nutrition-sensitive agriculture and to the improvement of household food and nutrition security. Both the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO's) Food and Nutrition Division and Research and Extension Unit have worked with the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) to develop a Global Capacity Needs Assessment for Nutrition (GCNA) methodology, which is designed to assist countries in assessing their own capacity gaps in nutrition and AEAS. The GCNA methodology has been tested in Chile, Côte d’Ivoire, Malawi, Tajikistan and the state of Telangana in India by GFRAS member organizations and validated during a workshop held in 2020.
Consumers are the missing link in EAS schemes thus far and this needs to be fixed. By celebrating World Fisheries Day, we tried to fill this gap in a small way, while educating consumers and rewarding fish farmers.