We are very pleased to announce the launch of the India Food Security Portal.

The aim of the regional portal being launched today is to improve the effectiveness of policymaking at national and state levels in India in addressing food insecurity issues through strengthened policy research, analysis capacity, and active and inclusive food security policy networks . The India-FSP will be a food security knowledge hub that combines information, indicators and tools, and a network of individuals to directly contribute specifically targeted policy processes relevant for India. Finally, this portal, which will include all the elements of the definition of food security, will be directly linked to the Global Food Security Portal, receiving daily, weekly, and monthly data inputs. While the project will not focus on the collection of new raw data, we will expend considerable effort to compile, synthesize and process all the available information to meet food-policy stakeholders’ demands and to develop demand-driven indicators and policy tools readily available to food-policy stakeholders in a single space. Such indicators and tools will be determined through a participative process with potential end-users of the portal from all sectors: central and local governments, academic institutions, NGOs and the private sector.

The India FSP incorporates a comprehensive scope of food security issues specific to India and global issues and trends impacting the region, utilizing a robust definition of food security which includes food availability, food access, food stability and food consumption and utilization.

Food availability is achieved when sufficient quantities of food are provided through production, stock levels, net trade, and food aid (FAO 2006b), and incorporates the role of climate change and water availability as drivers of food production. Food access is achieved when individuals have the adequate resources to obtain appropriate food for a safe and nutritious diet (FAO 2006b). Inequality both at the national level, and at the level of intrahousehold distribution, might prevent individuals from accessing adequate food even though food availability is achieved at the national or household level. (Smith et al. 2003). Food utilization reflects the ability to use food efficiently such that all physiological needs are met and is achieved through a nutritious and safe diet, the availability of clean water, adequate sanitation and proper health care. Finally, food stability links back to all three above mentioned determinants and it refers to their temporal dimension. In this respect, a key distinction is between shocks (transitory) and cyclical events (chronic), both affecting food security (FAO 2006b).

The India FSP will particularly focus on states from three regions in India: Andhra Pradesh in southern India, Bihar in eastern India, and Gujarat from western India. These three states were chosen because they can provide important regional variation in initial conditions and institutions geared towards mitigating food security concerns. For instance, Gujarat and Bihar have been among the fastest growing states in recent times though at very different levels of income. Bihar has the lowest income per capita level, and the highest per capita income growth. In spite of high growth, Bihar has been facing severe hunger problems, and based on National Family Health survey (NFHS-3) from 2005-06, incidence of malnutrition among women in Bihar was highest among all states in India at 45.1 percent. The same index showed that Gujarat was among states that performed worse than what would have been expected given its poverty level. In addition, the incidence of anemia in the state of Andhra Pradesh is over sixty percent, with almost a quarter of the women population suffering from moderate and severe anemia. On the other hand, among children both Bihar and Gujarat had an incidence of anemia of more than 80 percent. Studies have shown varying and large exclusion and inclusion errors in the country's public distribution system and other programs, prompting states to launch their own initiatives.

Designing a successful food security information system requires a combination of reliable data, up-to-date and easily accessible visualization tools, relevant research and analysis, and open discussion and collaboration among all stakeholders. While the accuracy and relevance of information in the India-FSP is of utmost importance, it will not translate into policies without dissemination, appropriate training or synergies between users. Thus, we propose to create a network of users of the project’s information and tools. Rather than fostering an association of organizations, we propose to create a network of individuals engaged in the international, national and local policy-making process in India. Such an approach will considerably reduce bureaucratic delays and will provide a more dynamic framework for interaction among stakeholders.

Tools and expertise are required to address the multitude of challenges that confront policy makers. Only when the development of these tools go hand-in-hand with in-country policy dialogues and learning from key regional initiatives will they significantly contribute to improving capacity for the identification, design and implementation of appropriate policy actions that mitigate the risks of food crises and take advantage of the opportunities presented. Ultimately, India-FSP should strengthen the capacity for improved food security policy research and analysis through in-country networks in India.

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