Major Programs under

Grand Challenges India (GCI) - the flagship program

Grand Challenges India (GCI) program is the flagship program managed by the PMU at BIRAC for the Department of Biotechnology and Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation partnership.

GCI is the Indian arm of the Global Grand Challenges program launched by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Foundation launched Grand Challenges, as Grand Challenges in Global health in 2003, to focus on 14 major scientific challenges that if solved, could lead to improving the health of people in the developing world. Today, Grand Challenges has awarded 44 grants with a total funding of over $450 million across 33 countries for research projects during the course of its existence. The scope of the program has also expanded over the last decade to include challenges to global development along with global health.

Grand Challenges India was launched with the aim of fostering Indian innovation and research to develop affordable and sustainable solutions to improve health, in India and across the globe.

The ambit of Grand Challenges India is varied and includes health and development priorities. These include; maternal and child health, infectious diseases, vaccines, point-of-care diagnostics, agricultural development, food and nutrition, among others.

GCI is committed to seeking and rewarding both established researchers and young entrepreneurs, and other innovators, with the overall goal of expanding the pipeline of ideas for developing new preventive and curative therapies, piloting new technologies, and researching new ideas.

GCI supports projects under specific calls or programs by providing financial support in the form of grants, cooperative agreements and contracts, which are co-funded by the partner organizations or funded individually. PMU-BIRAC is responsible for managing these projects and providing technical and financial oversight.

The following are the three Grand Challenges India calls managed by the PMU at BIRAC. Please click on the individual links for more details on each. 

AGN- Achieving Healthy Growth through Agriculture and Nutrition
RTTC- Reinvent the Toilet Challenge
ACT- All Children Thriving
Immunization Data: Innovating for Action (IDIA)
Grand Challenges India call on Antimicrobial Resistance
Grand Challenges India call on ki (knowledge integration) Data Challenge

Nutrition Sensitive Agriculture

With the Government’s renewed focus on nutrition, and launch of the National Nutrition Mission in 2018 by the Honorable Prime Minister, a program focusing on a food-based approach to eradicate malnutrition and bringing nutrition focus to farming systems from the MS Swaminathan Research Foundation is being supported through Grand Challenges India.

The program is focused on developing and demonstrating location specific several common and rare nutri-rich plants garden at local Krishi Vigyan Kendras (KVKs) to enrich the farming systems and enhance human nutrition in four different agro-ecosystems (KVK Palghar District, Maharashtra; KVK Kanpur Dehat, Uttar Pradesh; KVK Thiruvallur District, Tamil Nadu; BPMPGRC, MSSRF Jeypore, Odisha). The selected districts are highly malnourished or vulnerable districts.

The State Agricultural Universities (Chandra Shekhar Azad University of Agriculture and Technology, Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh; Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT), Bhubaneswar, Odisha, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore, Tamil Nadu; Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth, Dapoli), Maharashtra along with KVKs will analyse the impact and outcome and use the learnings to address the issues affecting the cultivation of nutri-rich plants in the farming systems, eliminate gaps in the nutrition literacy programs and providing the desired and demanded materials to the participants as a part of adaptive research.

The project is supporting the implementation of the approaches of ‘diversification of the diet’ and ‘Biofortification’ in the Farming System for Nutrition (FSN) model for developing nutrition responsive agriculture among 2000 small-holders (500 farmers in each location) by providing quality planting material of nutri-rich plants with related actions for adoption in the farming systems and on behavioural changes communication through nutrition education for practice. The nutri gardens would also provide opportunity for landless families and small holders to access diverse, nutri-rich foods.

The strategic importance of establishing garden of nutri-rich plants is to take up an integrated pathway to eradicate malnutrition by providing quality planting materials to the farmers to add nutrition dimension to the farming systems and create nutrition awareness among farmers and consumers on the horticultural remedies for nutritional maladies.

The proposed innovation will contribute to developing and integrating novel solutions to improve agriculture and nutrition linkage in public health in India in the following ways.

  • Increase year-round supply of nutrient rich foods by way of demonstrating planting of seasonal, annual and perennial plants and crops specific to each micronutrient and vitamins adopting farming systems approach.
  • Provide access to plants and crops that will address specific nutrient (vitamins and minerals) deficiencies by providing quality planting material to the farming community. The proposed garden will be one stop shop for procuring nutri-rich crops that can be added to their farming systems.

The key outcomes from the programs are as follows:

•     In each proposed garden at least 100 nutri-rich plants and crops including their varieties specific to an agro-ecological zone will be collected and planted.

•     In each location the garden will be established in 5 acres of land.

•     The propagation centre within the garden will produce seeds and propagation material of suitable germplasm and supply it to the kitchen garden, homesteads, and farming community.

•     2000 small holders diversified their farming system with nutri dense crops/varieties

•     It will generate awareness among different stakeholders on food based approach through Community Hunger Fighters (CHF) – in each garden five  CHFs will be trained and they will specifically address the nutrition requirement of 200000 undernourished families around the garden area.

•     Developing a communication plan and materials for different stakeholders.

The project will compare the Benchmark and Baseline data with the malnutrition indexing at project closure of (3 yrs.) at the participating Farm Households (FHH). The project will also analyse the impact of nutri-rich plant garden in terms of nutrition availability soil-plant-human continuum.

The program intends to improve Diet Diversity Score of the undernourished farm household’s upto 60% from base level.