Deakin University

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The role of dairy in healthy and sustainable food systems: community voices from India

journal contribution
posted on 2023-02-22, 22:27 authored by K A Brown, Nikhil Srinivasapura Venkateshmurthy, G Potubariki, P Sharma, J M Cardwell, Dorairaj Prabhakaran, C Knai, Sailesh Mohan
Background: Managing the role of dairy foods in healthy and sustainable food systems is challenging. Milk production is associated with greenhouse gas emissions and milk-based processed foods can be high in fat, sugar and salt; yet, milk production provides income generating opportunities for farmers and dairy foods provide essential nutrients to young children, with a cultural significance in many communities. This is particularly relevant to India, the world’s largest producer of milk. The aim of this study was to use Photovoice, a participatory research method, to explore the experiences and perceptions of communities in India on the role of dairy products in local sustainable and healthy food systems. Methods: Purposive sampling recruited two women’s self-help groups in Visakhapatnam, Andhra Pradesh: one in a rural area and one in an urban area. A total of 31 participants (10–17 urban group and 12–14 rural group), produced photographs with captions to represent their views on how dairy was produced, sold, and consumed in their community. A discussion workshop was held in each area, with prompts to consider health and the environment. Workshop transcripts, photographs and captions were analysed qualitatively using thematic analysis. Results: A range of experiences and perceptions were discussed by the two women’s self help groups. Participants had an awareness of their local food system and how stages of dairy food supply chains were non-linear and inherently interconnected. Three main themes were identified: 1) Quality and value matters to producers and consumers; 2) The need to adapt to sustain dairy farmer livelihoods in water scarce areas; 3) It’s not only about health. Conclusions: Moderate milk-producing states such as Andhra Pradesh will continue to develop their dairy industry through policy actions. Including communities in policy discussions through innovative methods like Photovoice can help to maximise the positive and minimise the negative role of dairy in evolving local food systems.



BMC Public Health