Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Trend setter — just needs little fixing

Safety Net Schemes
Trend setter — just needs little fixing
Int’l policy workshop sees land scarcity, huge poverty-struck population as major challenges to ensure food security
Bangladesh spent 2.8 billion dollars last year on social safety net programmes (SSNPs) and is a global leader in dimensions of social protection.
But with 27 million of its population still in abject poverty, and no fallow land remaining for further expansion of farm acreage, the country requires viable long-term investment to fight food insecurity.
Experts from home and abroad made the observations at a two-day policy workshop titled “Enhancing Food Security in Bangladesh: Evidence for Action” that began at a hotel in the capital yesterday.
The workshop is organised by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) with support from the US Agency for International Development (USAID).
Nearly 250 high-level policymakers including a couple of ministers, ex-caretaker government advisers, leading researchers, and representatives of development organisations gathered at the workshop to discuss investment plans, priorities, and policies to advance agricultural development, and achieve food and nutrition security.
Presenting a paper at the workshop, Deputy Director of Poverty, Health and Nutrition Division of IFPRI Dr John Hoddinott said Bangladesh’s SSNPs have got relatively high coverage by developing country standards and relatively good targeting performance.
John, however, expressed concern over leakage and inefficiency in delivery, and lack of coordination among many SSNPs.
Dr Akhter Ahmed, IFPRI senior research fellow and chief of party of its flagship programme in Bangladesh, the Policy Research and Strategy Support Programme (PRSSP), stressed the needs for proper targeting of the poor, and streamlining of too many safety net programmes to get maximum benefits.
Referring to the “chronically poor” people who cannot afford enough food on a daily basis in Bangladesh, Dr Akhter noted that 60 percent of rural people are landless in the country and there remains no fallow land to expand farm acreage, so “future production increase will have to come from higher yields.”
“Bangladesh’s past successes highlight the importance of combining investments in agriculture with well-functioning institutions, policy reforms, social safety net programmes, and market incentives to achieve food security,” said Dr Akhter.
Inaugurating the workshop as chief guest Food and Disaster Management Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque stressed the need for developing new technologies in agriculture with higher yield potential including hybrids and biotechnology, and disseminating them among farmers through effective extension systems.
“Recognising and strengthening the links between agriculture, nutrition, and health has great potential to reduce malnutrition and enhance human well being,” said Marie Ruel, Director of IFPRI’s Poverty, Health, and Nutrition Division.
State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury, ex-caretaker government advisers Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman and Dr AMM Shawkat Ali, Director General of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) Dr Mustafa K Mujeri, Executive Director of BRAC Dr Mahabub Hossain, and USAID Mission Director
Richard Greene also spoke at different sessions of the workshop on the first day.
They observed that with the highest population density in the world, little arable land, and frequent natural disasters, Bangladesh often struggled to feed its population. However, the country has achieved some important successes. Bangladesh tripled its annual rice production in a span of only three decades, its infant mortality rate declined dramatically, and its homestead food production programmes have been effective in tackling malnutrition by providing food rich in key vitamins and minerals.

-With The Daily Star input

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