An economics professor from The University of Western Australia has co-authored a book examining India's chronic food security problem and the lessons it holds for the rest of the world.
Feeding India: Livelihoods, Entitlements and Capabilities reveals how rapid economic growth has failed to provide the expected panacea for persistent hunger and malnutrition in India - a country which accounts for approximately a quarter of the world's under-nourished people. With India recently adopting legislation giving legal rights to food to 70 per cent of its one billion population, the book's release last month was timely.
Co-written by five authors including Professor Anu Rammohan, from UWA's Business School and Institute of Agriculture, it examines the major challenge food insecurity poses to public policy and democratic practice in India.
It contends that under-nutrition and hunger are lagging components of human development in India precisely because the links between these aspects of the food security problem have not been adequately understood in policy-making.
"Only through an integrated approach spanning the social and environmental sciences are the full dimensions of this problem revealed," Professor Rammohan said.
"The book articulates the need for a well-rounded appreciation of the problem, informed by the Food and Agriculture Organization's concept of food security as encompassing availablility (production), access (distribution) and utilisation (nutritional content)."
The book is the outcome of a collaborative research initiative between Mumbai's Tata Institute of Social Sciences, The University of Sydney, The University of Western Australia and funding support from the Australian Research Council.
Going beyond issues of food and nutrition, the authors argue that food insecurity is not just a problem of food production or distribution, but a larger concern of livelihood insecurity, compounded by the social and political conditions that underlie India's economy. They maintain rapid economic growth does not necessarily translate into food for poor households - a development concern that needs to be addressed.
"Food security is one of the 21st century's key global challenges, and lessons learned from India have particular significance worldwide," publisher Routledge said.
Reviews by eminent international scholars have described Feeding India as timely, important, insightful and sobering; and a "must-read for any serious student of Indian development".
"The intriguing and immensely important question that motivates this book is: ‘How can a fast-growing country like India have such a large part of its population that is still malnourished?'" reviewer Professor Ashok Kotwal, of The University of British Columbia, said.
Professor Rammohan's fellow authors are:
- Bill Pritchard, Associate Professor of Human Geography in the School of Geosciences at The University of Sydney
- Madhushree Sekher, Professor and Chairperson of the Centre for Social Exclusion and Inclusive Policies, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
- S. Parasuraman, Director, Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai
- Chetan Choithani, doctoral candidate in Human Geography in the School of Geosciences, The University of Sydney, and a holder of the Prime Minister's Australia-Asia Endeavour Fellowship.