Mobile approaches to nutrition-sensitive agriculture interventions are feasible and acceptable in rural India, but equity issues remain
14 May 2024

A new study explored adapting a nutrition-sensitive agriculture (NSA) intervention (from the ‘UPAVAN’ trial) into a mobile-based intervention (m-UPAVAN) during the COVID-19 pandemic.   

UPAVAN
UPAVAN: Fortnightly women's self-help group members viewed and discussed pico-projected videos on nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive agriculture topics.

Since the UPAVAN interventions ended in 2019, the COVID-19 pandemic provided the impetus to learn how communities can continue to benefit from NSA interventions whilst keeping socially distanced. Mobile interventions emerged as a promising solution. Mobile interventions could also increase access to and efficiency of health services and overcome barriers related to in-person intervention approaches, such as women’s time-related barriers, restrictions to their physical mobility, and the ability to engage family members. The UPAVAN interventions appeared promising for adaptation to a mobile intervention because they were effective at improving maternal and child dietary diversity and because they use locally made videos on key nutrition and agriculture behaviours – giving a set of tried, tested, and popular digital media that could potentially be shared via smartphones and as audio messages through an voice response system. 

UPAVAN2
m-UPAVAN: Weekly dissemination of modified (shortened) UPAVAN videos to mobile phones using WhatsApp groups and audio messages via an interactive voice response line.

The study shows that mobile phones can provide a feasible and acceptable way to deliver NSA interventions among those with good phone access and can overcome several barriers to in-person group-based approaches. Yet, the mobile intervention did not adequately replace several components of the UPAVAN interventions, particularly the participatory activities designed for collective problem-solving and action. Further, despite phone coverage growing in rural India, mobile interventions risk being inequitable as digital inequality remains high. The authors emphasise the ongoing importance of participatory face-to-face NSA interventions and that, when possible, mobile intervention provide important complementarity – not replacement – of in-person approaches.  

Read the study here.

Lead institution: London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine 

Collaborating institutions: Development Corner (D-COR), VARRAT, Digital Green, EkjutJSI, UCL Institute for Global Health 

 

 

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