Research Summary

Dietary diversity and nutritive value of indigenous foods in addressing food security and nutritional status of vulnerable tribal communities of India

Indigenous tribal people retain knowledge of their land and indigenous food systems rooted in historical continuity within their region. Indigenous foods are usually not purchased but obtained locally from the natural environment and utilized based on traditional wisdom and knowledge. We will explore indigenous food environment of vulnerable tribal communities of Jharkhand, India and study nutritive value, availability, access and utilization of indigenous foods in these communities. Contribution of indigenous foods to current nutrient intake and nutritional status of communities will be estimated, reasons for gap in consumption will be identified and strategies for promoting these foods will be developed.

Study Design: A cross sectional surveys and interviews with a longitudinal component on dietary intake assessment of individuals belonging to selected tribal communities to account for seasonal variations in dietary intake pattern.

Study Setting and Population: Selected districts of Jharkhand with a high concentration of tribal populations. Three of the most populous tribal groups namely Santhal, Ho and Munda and one primitive tribal community called Sauriya Pahariya will be studied.

Study Procedures: Mixed methods approach will be used. Quantitative methods will be used for assessment of nutritive value of foods, estimation of dietary intake and estimation of nutritional status by anthropometry and biochemical estimations. Qualitative methods for assessment of food environment, biodiversity inventory, community perceptions regarding indigenous food production and consumption; policy analysis for understanding multisectoral involvement for promotion of production and consumption of indigenous foods.

Impact: The chief impact would be an increased knowledge of nutritive values and possible strategies to improve usage of indigenous foods by the communities. This impact would be achieved through:

  1. Development of a prototype for a multi-level approach incorporating an environmental assessment followed by development of an evidence-based, nutrition-sensitive agricultural and BCC interventions for encouraging production and consumption of these indigenous foods
  2. Compilation of a compendium of nutritive value of newly identified indigenous foods
  3. Preparation and publication of policy briefs and manuscripts for advocacy and dissemination purposes.