Seminar on Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in Bangladesh Held
A seminar titled ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in Bangladesh’ held at BRAC Centre Inn auditorium on 23 July 2018 revealed that Children living in coastal and ‘haor’ regions of Bangladesh are 1.5 times more likely to be stunted. The study was conducted by Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA), an international research partnership of which BRAC is a partner. BRAC also explored agricultural innovations to fight malnutrition in Bangladesh.
Chaired by Dr Imran Matin, executive director of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development, BRAC University, the seminar was addressed by Mr Md Fazle Wahid Khondaker, additional secretary, Research, of the Ministry of Agriculture, Government of Bangladesh, Dr Samir Kanti Sarker, director, Institute of Public Health and Nutrition, and line director, NNS,DGHS, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of Bangladesh, Dr Lalita Bhattacharjee, senior nutritionist Much-FAO and Prof Abdul Bayes, former director of BRAC Research and Evaluation Division and team leader of LANSA BRAC.
A synthesis of LANSA research studies was presented by Ms Barnali Chakraborty, senior research fellow of BRAC Research and Evaluation Division while Dr Lalita Bhattacharjee, senior nutritionist of FAO presented a paper on Agriculture and Nutrition: Lessons learned from FAO Projects on Food-based nutrition strategies and Dr Mahfuza Rifat, programme head of BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme also presented a paper.
According to the study, presented in the seminar, haor and coastal belts in Bangladesh are geographically distinct from other parts as these are pockets of malnutrition. The analysis showed that overall prevalence of stunting ranged from 46.6 per cent in the haor basin to 30.9 per cent in other parts of Bangladesh whereas prevalence of underweight ranged from 44.5 per cent in the haor basin to 34.1 per cent in other areas. The research also revealed that there is a strong interrelation between crop diversity, diet diversity and nutritional outcomes. It was found that number of people with malnutrition will decrease if we increase production of diet-diverse and nutrition-rich food items.
Speakers at the seminar emphasised that there is a need to increase public awareness on these issues while they also called upon the government to take more initiatives to encourage farmers for cultivation of diverse crops in order to increase nutritional outcomes. Speaking at the seminar, Mr Md Fazle Wahid Khondaker said that the government is working towards attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. Agriculture remains the most important tool to achieve the targets and overall development. But, right now agriculture in the country is facing major challenges with adverse effects of climate change, non-availability of labour shortage, floods and flash floods, severe storms, tidal surges, and other natural disasters. He said that agriculture is directly related to our food and nutrition. So, we are working towards sustainable agricultural practices/systems and food security. To achieve the goal, all sectors need to work in close collaboration with each other.
Dr Samir Kanti Sarker said, “There is a need for health education along with regular education system.” “Knowledge regarding food is necessary to ensure nutrition outcomes, he said, adding that we need to have an integrated approach towards building this knowledge.
Dr Imran Matin mentioned that to achieve better nutrition, three things should be focused among others: the role of access to information, the role of agriculture incentives and the role of food consumption behaviour. “It is time to go for interventions and identify cost-effective approaches to address malnutrition through agriculture,”