New Delhi, Aug. 7: A community-managed meal scheme that has shown encouraging results in improving the nutrition level of pregnant women and lactating mothers in Andhra Pradesh may be replicated across the country.
Rural development minister Jairam Ramesh told The Telegraph that Andhra’s Nutrition cum Day Care Centre (NDCC) scheme was being studied and could be replicated in rural areas under the Centre’s Aajeevika scheme.
“The NDCC scheme is being implemented by self-help groups in Andhra Pradesh. We may replicate the same scheme with the help of SHGs in other states,” Ramesh said.
The scheme, which is the first of its kind, was started in 2007 to address malnutrition among pregnant women and children. A World Bank-supported scheme, it has shown the potential to improve the nutritional status of pregnant and lactating women and their children in the long term.
Lakshmi Durga Chava, the director of the Society of Elimination of Rural Poverty under Andhra’s department of rural development, said over phone from Hyderabad: “It is a self-sustaining scheme under which poor women and their children up to two years are provided two complete meals and breakfast everyday. The beneficiary and the SHG contribute money from their income for this programme.”
The local women, who are part of the SHGs, perform a major role in implementation of the scheme. Although the state government had a scheme for providing dry rations to pregnant and lactating women, it was not helping much in arresting malnutrition.
“The women would take the ration but they hardly consumed it. As they are from poor families, the food stuff was shared among members most of the time,” Chava said.
However, under the NDCC scheme, the women and children are provided meals at the nutrition centres everyday. The women are given light work such as packaging spices, deseeding tamarind, making leaf plates etc. They earn about Rs 40-50 every day, from which they contribute Rs 10 for food.
The SHG contributes around Rs 20 towards food for every beneficiary. The government gives an initial grant of Rs 3 lakh for kitchen and utensils.
The nutrition centres get rice, dal and oil from the public distribution system at the actual procurement price, which is much less than the prevailing market price, Chava said.
Nearly 4,200 nutrition centres have been established in villages across Andhra, reaching out to nearly 2.2 lakh women in the last six years. The Andhra government has decided to extend the scheme in another 1,000 villages this year.
The Aajeevika scheme, which harps on providing skill-training to rural women, can emulate the NDCC model to arrest malnutrition of women and children, Ramesh said.