Stories tagged: IFPRI 2020

Prabhu Pingali: Women’s Groups as Conduits Towards Resilient Communities

Our guest author, Prabhu Pingali, Professor of Applied Economics & Director of the Tata-Cornell Agriculture & Nutrition Initiative at Cornell University, continues our series of blog articles on resilience published in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) ahead of the conference Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” 15-17 May 2014.

Women’s Self-Help Groups (SHGs) are becoming ubiquitous across rural India.  There are currently around 3 million registered women’s SHGs in the country. These groups are becoming integral to the lasting resilience of its rural food systems and communities, and can provide some useful lessons for the rest of the developing world.

Initially set up for facilitating microfinance, SHGs are now playing an important role as conduits of overall empowerment of rural women in India, giving women the strength to create change that they could not have been able to achieve individually, in terms of access to finance, environmental stewardship, and even political empowerment.


This year I have visited many groups that demonstrated the impact women’s SHGs are having on building a resilient community. In Gufu for example, a village located a few hours outside of Ranchi, Jharkand, we visited an SHG that was helping women break their dependence on local moneylenders and stop selling valuable assets (often land) when they needed access to credit. It began life as a savings and loans group and is now operating a cooperative store selling seed and fertilizer and has helped its members purchase irrigation pumps for their land.

The leader of an SHG in Kunti, a neighboring area to Gufu, told us proudly, “We now have a bank account and I go to the bank to manage the account. I never went into a bank before I started with this group.  I always thought banks were for people with money. We have money now.” This new sense of confidence has women increasing their participation in village-level meetings and talking about their aspirations to run for local government offices.

In Jharkand we visited PRADAN, an NGO that has a long track record of working with women’s groups. PRADAN was helping one rural community improve the supply of water to its drinking water wells by changing the way it uses land on the upper watershed. The women in the community participated in mapping the watershed, in making decisions on cropping pattern changes, and in implementing the change.  Today perennials have replaced annual crops in the upper watershed, soil erosion has reduced significantly and well water is available throughout the year, even during the peak summer months.


The evolution of SHGs from savings and loans groups to become an access point for political decisionmaking and natural resource management is truly astounding – but not all groups are able to step up to taking on the broader development and local governance challenges.  So what makes an SHG flounder or flourish?

Many of the groups we visited lacked leadership or managerial skills, or exhibited poor group cohesion.  In many cases, the leaders were overburdened by numerous and competing demands from the various development projects that are trying to use the SHGs for accomplishing their objectives. All too often, external organizations, eager to see change, have elected to channel projects through SHGs. They are perhaps unaware of how the splintering of limited time and resources of SHG women might undermine the capacity for SHGs to manage their own affairs, a fundamental dimension for change.


Institutions, donors, and organizations looking to leverage the power and potential of SHGs should be optimistic, but keep in mind the ultimate goal of enhancing women’s empowerment and opportunity. Individual ”buy-in” and group ownership of decisions are vital to ensuring that SHGs are a platform to facilitate transformative change that will build a more resilient community.

As development agencies, researchers, or practitioners, we need to proceed with caution so as not to undermine the potential of SHGs. Equipping SHGs with the financial and managerial resources they need to meet goals determined by the group and forgoing projects that could highlight the differences amongst women (educated versus non-educated, young versus old) will remain critical principles of practice.

Certainly, it will require a more nuanced view of SHGs, one that looks at them as organizations on a pathway to determining their own future rather than simply vehicles for project implementation that can provide heartwarming stories about women.


This blog article is part of an ongoing series on resilience being published ahead of an upcoming IFPRI conference to be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in May 2014. Building resilience means helping people, communities, countries, and global institutions prevent, anticipate, prepare for, cope with, and recover from shocks, not only helping them to “bounce back” but also to become better off. This conference aims to help set priorities for building resilience, to evaluate emerging threats to resilience, and to draw lessons from humanitarian and development responses to previous shocks.

IFPRI 2020 Conference on Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security

15 – 17th May 2014

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Farming First is partnering with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) on their upcoming international conference “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” which will be held on 15-17th May 2014, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference is the centerpiece of a two-year global consultative process that will evaluate emerging shocks that pose significant threats to food and nutrition security; determine key approaches and tools for building resilience to shocks of varying levels and set priorities for action by different actors and in different regions.

For more information on the event, visit the conference website.

#2020Resilience Twitter Chat Summary

To warm up for the global conference “Building Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security” taking place in Ethiopia in a few weeks time, Farming First and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) held a lively and informative Twitter Chat on the topic of “resilience”.

Our expert panelists from IFPRI and Farming First supporter organisations Fintrac and Farm Africaopened the debate by sharing their views on what resilience has to do with agricultural development.

Read the summary of the Twitter Chat here

New Photo-infographic Series “Resilience in Action” Launches

Agricultural resilience is about equipping farmers to absorb and recover from shocks and stresses to their agricultural production and livelihoods. Some shocks are short-term, others long-term.  Some come suddenly while others are predictable.  And some are more severe while others slowly erode farmers’ ability to farm.

The photo-infographic series below has been produced by Farming First in partnership with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and aims to showcase solutions for building resilience with the end goal of sufficient, nutritious and diverse food being accessible now and into the future. Explore the full series by clicking the image below.


IFPRI’s Way Forward for Agriculture, Nutrition and Health

Screen shot 2011-02-09 at 12.07.28Today, the IFPRI 2020 international conference on the linkages between agriculture, nutrition and health begins in New Delhi. Over two days, delegates at “Leveraging Agriculture for Improving Nutrition and Health” will discuss what might seem an obvious connection, but one that is not given due attention. Patterns of food production and consumption vary widely around the world, as do levels of under-nutrition, over-nutrition and micronutrient deficiencies. Those working in agriculture, nutrition and health sectors continue to work in isolation, despite the parallel activities in their initiatives.

IFPRI have published a working document offering “the way forward” for policy concerning agriculture, nutrition and health, promoting the idea of the three sectors working together to maximise the positive synergies between them.

Here are the key points made:

Fill the Knowledge Gaps

  • Learn more about how different patterns of agricultural growth affect nutrition and health
  • Invest in research, evaluation, and education systems capable of integrating information from all three sectors.
  • Fill the gap in governance knowledge at the global, national, and community levels

Do No Harm

  • Mitigate the health risks posed by agriculture along the value chain.Screen shot 2011-02-09 at 12.07.21
  • Design health and nutrition interventions that contribute to the productivity of agricultural labour.
  • Look carefully at the downstream effects of subsidies for production or consumption on consumers’ nutrition and health.

Seek Out and Scale Up Innovative Solutions

  • Scale up successful interventions.
  • Design agriculture, nutrition, and health programs with cross-sectoral benefits.
  • Incorporate nutrition into value chains for food products.
  • Use all available levers for change.
  • Increase consumers’ nutrition literacy and highlight the consequences of dietary choices.

Create an Environment in Which Cooperation Can Thrive

  • Focus on partnerships among agriculture, nutrition, and health.
  • Develop mutual accountability mechanisms among the three sectors.
  • Correct market failures
  • Use communication and advocacy to bring about change.

Follow the IFPRI 2020 conference on the IFPRI blog or on Twitter by using the hashtag #agnutrhealth.

For more on nutrition, visit our NUTRITION PAGE.