Digesting agricultural development: critical nutrition analysis of paddy promotion in central India

Authors: Carly Nichols*, University of Arizona - Geography & Development
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Asia, Agricultural Geography
Keywords: agriculture development, feminism, food, nutrition
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Grand Couteau, Sheraton, 5th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Despite rapid economic growth, India has seen less improvement in malnutrition compared to other countries with similar economic indicators. In response, agricultural development programs are increasingly being modified to become “nutrition-sensitive”. While traditional agricultural development focused on improved crop productivity, nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) combines agronomic practices, crop diversification, and a focus on women’s empowerment to create a supply of more nutritional foods. In this paper, I draw on qualitative research conducted in multiple sites across rural India to argue that although development professionals and community members agreed with the tenets of NSA, the central barrier to these practices being embraced is the sometimes contradictory promotion of paddy production. I present preliminary evidence to argue that this is due to both material changes in the ways resources and labor are allocated, as well as a distinct identity politics through the emergence of the ideal ‘progressive farmer’ as one who uses chemical inputs to grow improved paddy for the market. Despite new aspirations to be connected to markets, participants also frequently report diminished levels of bodily health and wellbeing, which they directly link to the use of new crop varieties and chemical fertilizer. Building on previous work, I argue these notions of diminished health as indicative of the complex and always incomplete processes of subject formation. Taking these insights, I conclude that unless NSA directly confronts both the incentive structures as well as the identity and knowledge politics of green revolution agriculture it will not move from program discourse to rural reality.

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