Love is Like a Cauliflower

Savings groups in Rajasthan, India, are learning how to combat malnutrition and keep their children healthy.

The green leaves that hug a cauliflower are nutrient-rich, and now Surekha, who grows the vegetable in her garden, never throws them away.  She knows how to prepare them--and so much more--to maximize their health benefits for her two small children.

It’s vital information for Surekha and her neighbors, who live in the Indian state of Rajasthan, where over half of women and adolescent girls suffer from anemia and more than one-third of children under the age of five are stunted. Good nutritious food is an ever-pressing necessity.

Freedom from Hunger (now part of Grameen Foundation) has been working to help meet this need.  With their partners, PRADAN and VAAGDHRA, they have trained more than 2,500 Community Nutrition Agents in Rajasthan. These agents have worked with 8,000 members of women’s savings groups, using their intimate meetings as opportunities to teach the women how to fight malnutrition and give their children the best chance possible of a healthy future.

Now, new research by Freedom from Hunger points to the important role that savings itself can play in achieving food security. The study was conducted in Rajasthan with 403 savings group members who were either pregnant or mothers of children under two. It found that households that failed to save money for food purchases were more food insecure.

“This makes sense, but financial practitioners don’t often talk about saving for food needs,” says study co-author Bobbi Gray, now Research Director at Grameen Foundation.  “Knowing this, we can design financial products that help families plan and save for food needs, especially during lean seasons.”

The study also found that food insecurity for women was greater when husbands made decisions about how money earned by a woman would be used.

“When women have greater decision-making power—not just regarding food but also income earned—she and her children are more food secure,” Gray says. “To improve household food security, women must be empowered.”

Empowerment has many dimensions--social, economic, political and personal--which makes love and marriage like a cauliflower. When every part is treasured, the good unleashed is greatest.

The study, “Factors associated with food insecurity among women and children in rural Rajasthan, India,” was recently published in Journal of Gender, Agriculture and Food Security.

With your support, we can help more women feed their families. From now until December 31, every dollar you give to Grameen Foundation will be doubled up to $275,000, thanks to Jane Pauley and the Grameen Foundation Board of Directors.