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What’s there to eat?

  • Published at 12:00 am March 15th, 2019
Food shortage  is a great concern
Food shortage is a great concern / MAHMUD HOSSAIN OPU

When it comes to food security, we can do much better

Bangladesh is now being considered the “New Asian Tiger,” because of the various measures we have taken to maintain a balanced GDP growth rate, political stability, democracy, and terrific macro-economic performance.

The country’s economy is continuously growing while development is also going unabated.

To that end, ensuring food security is an important factor -- a factor that we, unfortunately, have not done enough over the years to improve upon.

Food security encompasses factors such as the availability of food, affordability of food, how nutritious food is, etc. Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, in addition to being one of the countries most vulnerable to the effects of climate change. All of these factors tie into the dire situation of food security in Bangladesh.

Right before entering the SDG global agenda for 2030, Bangladesh achieved remarkable progress with the MDGs. We have achieved remarkable progress in eradicating poverty and reducing the under-five mortality rate -- which is now lower than that of India and Pakistan.

To achieve food security and zero hunger, the UN has set up eight targets which seek to achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. According to the Global Food Security Index 2018, Bangladesh came 83rd out of 113 countries -- which is not up to the mark at all. 

In terms of food security, we are still struggling to ensure safe and quality food to all stages of people -- especially to children. As a result, there is a prevalence of “wasting” among children under the age of five.

Wasted children are children who have low weight compared to their height, reflecting acute manutrition.

Based on FAO data, the trend shows that there has been an imbalance in the last two decades. In 2005, the rate of wasted children under five years of age was 11.8% which increased in 2010 to 15.7% and, after five years, it again improved to 14.3%.

Our problems with food security have widened due to reasons such as unequal income and savings. 

Bangladesh is in a good position when it comes to per capita income but the income and savings gap is still a matter of great concern.

Factors such as these create a wide imbalance in sustained economic growth, which in turn has a negative impact on food consumption and food security. Therefore, to achieve food security, ensuring equal distribution of capital and keeping a sustainable economy, internally and externally, along with balanced economic growth (which is already being met) are the key challenges for the government.

Corruption is yet another factor that negatively affects food security. According to the last global corruption index, prepared by Transparency International, Bangladesh now stands at 149 out of 180 countries. Corruption creates economic degradation which is one of the major causes of food insecurity.

To support food security and to ensure food supply to the ultra-poor, a number of social safety net programs have been introduced in Bangladesh. The present government has given high priority to these programs.

Apart from these measures, the ruling government is planning to provide easy access to new agricultural technologies to farmers in order to increase food production. Recently, Bangladesh has significantly improved its conditions on food grain production.

The current government has taken several initiatives for quality seed production as well, which is the primary step in increasing food production. According to the data from FAO, Bangladesh has 24.8 million people whose caloric intake is insufficient.

It’s clear that Bangladesh needs to have a holistic approach, by collaborating with private sectors, international agencies, and local institutions to ensure food security. It is also essential that we ensure strong institutions to manage a corruption-free ecosystem which would work to maintain sustainable economic growth and equitable distribution of wealth. 

Md Zaki Faisal is with the a2i Programme of the ICT Division, Dhaka, supported by UNDP Bangladesh. Besides, he is a freelance researcher focused on governance and development.

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