Food Security

, Volume 4, Issue 1, pp 87–102 | Cite as

Agriculture’s role in the Indian enigma: help or hindrance to the crisis of undernutrition?

  • Derek HeadeyEmail author
  • Alice Chiu
  • Suneetha Kadiyala
Original Paper


In recent decades India has achieved one of the fastest economic growth rates in the world, yet its progress against both child and adult undernutrition has been sluggish at best. While this Indian variant of the so-called Asian enigma presents many puzzles, one of the puzzles pertains to agriculture’s role. Many researchers and policymakers have high expectations of agriculture’s potential to reduce undernutrition, despite a lack of substantive evidence. In this paper we assess this tenuous evidence base by exploring two key channels by which agricultural production conditions can influence nutritional outomes: a food consumption pathway and a maternal employment–time use pathway. We conclude with an appraisal of some possible entry points for pro-nutrition agricultural policies.


Adult and child undernutrition Agricultural growth Rural development India 



The authors wish to thank the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for their support for the project upon which this research was based, Tackling the Agriculture-Nutrition Disconnect in India (TANDI).We also wish to thank other TANDI project members, particularly Stuart Gillespie, Purnima Menon, Akhter Ahmed, Marie Ruel, and HPS Sachdev.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. & International Society for Plant Pathology 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)Addis AbabaEthiopia
  2. 2.Hong Kong Monetary AuthorityHong KongPeople’s Republic of China
  3. 3.International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)New DelhiIndia

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