Bangladesh grappled with a severe famine shortly after its independence, in 1974. For decades, its agricultural policy was managed to ensure such an event did not occur again, focusing on increasing rice production and distribution at all costs. Only after the government was sure rice would be in surplus did it begin to shift its policy to also consider diet diversity.
In recent years, since grain is in surplus, policy in Bangladesh has turn to promoting more diversity, and indeed the country as made substantial progress toward both food and nutrition security. The gains have not been enjoyed by everyone, however, and some of these gains are being threatened by increasing availability and consumption of processed foods, which can contribute to increasing incidence of another form of malnutrition, overweight and obesity. To help identify ways the country can move forward towards food and nutrition security for all, the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health’s (A4NH) Food Systems for Healthier Diets (FSHD) research flagship has conducted a study analyzing Bangladesh’s food system.
The study, titled “Food Systems for Healthier Diets in Bangladesh: Towards a Research Agenda,” supports the government’s commitment to address hunger and malnutrition, outlined in the multi-sectoral Country Investment Plan. Researchers convened meetings with key national stakeholders from a variety of sectors and studied at the interactions across different aspects of the food system, including diet quality, the food environment, consumer behavior, agricultural production, and more. Looking at each of these pieces individually, as well as how they interact, enabled the researchers to identify key questions for future research into how to improve the food system in Bangladesh towards ensuring healthy diets for all.
Their findings, recently released as a discussion paper, draw attention to several key points:
“The food system in Bangladesh is still in a state of evolution,” noted Alan de Brauw, Senior Research Fellow at the International Food Policy Research Institute and lead author of the study. “It’s a critical, and exciting, time to be identifying ways to ensure this evolution provides healthy diets for all Bangladeshis.”
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