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UEA reveals project turns lens on nutrition and food security
Monday, 22 August, 2022, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Our Bureau, New Delhi
A unique initiative is helping Indigenous people in India exchange knowledge about locally available foods to improve dietary diversity – part of the UN Sustainable Development Goal related to food security and nutrition.

The project, coordinated by the University of East Anglia (UEA), is raising the visibility of the Santhal community, enabling the most marginalised to voice their own perspectives using cameras and filmmaking skills.

With support from UEA through the Global Research Translation Award entitled ‘Meeting the SDGs’ and a local NGO partner (PRADAN), 10 Santhal youth were trained to make films about locally available foods and other issues of concern.

The nearly 50 films they produced were broadcast on a YouTube channel and screened in their local villages. The group also took part in interviews and discussions with viewers who attended the screenings.

Prof Nitya Rao, professor of gender and development in UEA’s School of International Development, is the lead author of ‘Cameras in the hands of Indigenous youth: Participation, films and nutrition in India’, published in Current Developments in Nutrition.

Prof Rao said: “These young filmmakers are voicing a critical issue, whether endemic malnutrition or vast deforestation, as a call to policy-makers for remedial action.

“The role of self-expression, especially for Indigenous communities, is important given their historical marginalisation. By enabling their participation in governance and the political space, transformative change alongside improved health and nutritional outcomes will be more achievable.

“The use of the YouTube channel as a digital ‘space’ created by the participants gave them an opportunity to set the agenda where they can speak without interruption about their everyday needs and the challenges they confront.”

The young filmmakers are from the Jamui district of Bihar, among the worst-off districts in India for meeting the SDGs.

While residing near forests, where they have access to highly nutritious foods, these communities are nevertheless more vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity compared to their rural counterparts. Forty-four per cent of indigenous children under the age of 5 years are stunted, 45 per cent are underweight and 27 per cent are wasted. Less than 6 per cent of young children, women and migrating men have a diet that fulfills their minimum nutritional requirements.

A majority of the films drew on intergenerational and Indigenous knowledge about edible plants, insects, and rodents; skills in foraging and preparing food; awareness of the benefits of the food; and sustainability issues across the traditional food systems.
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