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Moringa: Poor man's produce, rich man's food

Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  14 Sep 2016 12:00 AM GMT

Kolkata, Sept 13: Known largely as a poor man's crop and rich man's food, the leafy moringa, or drumstick tree, is an important tool to fight nutrient deficiency in the wake of climate change, says noted development practitioner Basanta Kumar Kar, terming it a turally-occurring bio-fortified crop suited to India's climatic conditions.

Moringa is included in the array of such nutrient-enriched produce as oranges, sweet potatoes, minor millets, amla and others which are key to combat micronutrient deficiency in the climate change scerio, said Kar, opining that genetically modified foods are not sustaible solutions.

Kar is a 2016 Global Transform Nutrition Champion for South Asia and senior advisor at The Coalition for Food and Nutrition Security (India).

He believes in a food-based approach and sustaible climate-smart agriculture to tackle problems of malnutrition triggered by climate change.

This includes bringing out a comprehensive and mandatory food fortification regulation with a focus on bio-fortification, a process by which the nutritiol quality of food crops is improved turally through agronomic practices, conventiol plant breeding, or modern biotechnology.

"We are arguing with the government to bring out a comprehensive food fortification regulation with an emphasis and focus on bio-fortification," Kar explained.

Bio-fortification differs from conventiol fortification in that it aims to increase nutrient levels in crops during plant growth rather than through manual means during their processing.

"We are urging the government to establish a bio-safety authority, map our flora and fau and promote awareness about nutrition-rich crops and species. Genetically modified food is not a sustaible solution for the future. There is a gold mine of turally enriched crops and species which are invisible and often ignored," Kar said.

And the humble moringa, described as a "miracle tree", extolled for centuries for its medicil properties in India, could make a big splash in that direction, in the country where the nutrition scerio for children remains bleak, Kar contended.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are highly prevalent throughout the developing world and 90 per cent of the developing world's chronically under-nourished (stunted) children live in Asia and Africa, according to Unicef data. In India, 18 per cent of children under five years of age suffer from wasting due to acute under-nutrition.

"It's happening because of climate vulnerability. At the same time, carbon emissions because of pesticide and fertiliser use has gone up. We have pitched the idea of promoting climate smart organic agriculture and bio-fortified crops to the Indian government and they are positive about it," Kar added. (IANS)

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