Diversifying agriculture and food key to ending persistent undernutrition

Despite improved food security and nutrition status in Bangladesh, undernutrition due to poor diet quality lingers and this could end with a more diversified agricultural sector producing nutritious food for everyone.

A new strategic review of Food Security and Nutrition in Bangladesh by the World Food Programme (WFP), co-authored by icddr,b’s Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, has therefore called for investing heavily and effectively in food security and nutrition in Bangladesh.

Food production in Bangladesh kept pace with the growing population since Bangladesh has recovered from its chronic food deficit prevalent during the 1970s, according to the review led by Professor Siddiqur Osmani, a professor of development economics at Ulster University, UK. The report was recently launched at an event of the National Economic Council in the presence of the Finance Minister Mr AMA Muhith.


However 1 in 3 children still experiences stunting, while food insecurity and hunger affect 40 million people or a quarter of the population, of whom most do not have a sufficiently nutritious and diverse diet.

“Bangladesh has seen a dramatic increase in rice production but the persistence of an overall poor diet calls for the need to improve nutrition in social safety nets,” says Dr Tahmeed Ahmed, Senior Director of Nutrition and Clinical Services at icddr,b.

“This report also raises the importance of scaling up both nutrition-specific interventions, such as breastfeeding as well as nutrition-sensitive agricultural interventions that promote cultivation of pulses to deal with these concerns,” adds Dr Ahmed.


Infographic from page 24 of the WFP strategic review.


In today’s world, climate change and other socioeconomic changes affect food security and nutrition, notes the report, further emphasising the need for a resilient agricultural sector.

Other factors such as the quality of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) massively influences nutritional status of children and adults alike, stressed the report. The report also recommends ensuring a social protection system that leaves no one behind and recognising women as the key to achieving sustainable food security and nutrition.

The report also raised monetary concerns as undernutrition already costs Bangladesh more than US$1 billion in lost productivity every year and even more in health costs. Investing in food security and nutrition is a must for Bangladesh if it aspires to be a developed country by 2041. According to the report, these attempts would align the country to achieve the sustainable development goal to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.