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WASHINGTON: As India gears up to providefood security cover to 67% of its population, a report compiled by Global Development Network says that the challenges to food security and rural livelihood is fast growing not only in India but in entire South Asia.

The report says that the problem can be addressed by investment in agriculture and rural livelihoods on a priority basis. "Financial investment in agriculture research and development with a special focus on improving the nutritional value of rice crops is needed," the report says.

The report is part of a project sponsored by Bill and 
Melinda Gates Foundation spreadacross 10 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. The research also emphasised on enabling smallscale producers to participate in markets - allowing them to manage risk more effectively by taking advantage of index-based insurance and investing in information and communication technology to support access to market.

According to the research, 
South Asia may fare better than Sub-Saharan Africa in terms of levels of poverty, per capita income and per capita dietary energy supply but it has a higher level of malnutrition.

"Almost half of South Asian children under five years are underweight compared with 31% of the same age group children in Sub-Saharan Africa, and there are four times more underweight 
women in South Asia," the report says.

The report says that food production in South Asia has benefitted from the green revolution, growing from 157.6 kg per person in 1971-73 to 176.3 kg per person in 1988-90. "Level of food consumption per person showed a corresponding increase, yet even with per capita income showing significant growth in recent years, the level of food consumption has stagnated," the report highlights.

According to the report, the emerging challenges to food security are demographic changes, climate change, constraints on availability of land and water and food price volatility.

"Urban populations in South Asia are demanding high-value products, which may require smallholder farmers to diversify. Projections up to 2025 indicate that consumption of meat, eggs, fish, fruit and vegetables will almost double, while cereal consumption across countries will stay more or less the same," the report says.