LANSA-BRAC research dissemination event

LANSA-BRAC seminar 12 December 2017

A half-day seminar on ‘Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in Bangladesh’ was held on 12 December 2017 at the BRAC centre in Dhaka. Findings from three LANSA-BRAC studies and one IFPRI-Bangladesh study were presented at the seminar.  Secretary of Ministry of Food, Md. Kaykobad Hossain was the chief guest on the occasion while Joint Secretary Balai Krishna Hazra represented Ministry of Agriculture as the special guest. The seminar was attended by 87 participants including policy influencers, experts, researchers, practitioners and others.

BRAC Agriculture and Food Security Programme's head Dr. Md Sirajul Islam, presented the paper ‘A study on milk value chain for the poor in Bangladesh’ to share findings of the case study under LANSA-BRAC’s research on agri-food value chains. The study mapped the existing dairy value chain in urban and rural areas and identified the quality and quantity of milk that households consume and also looked at the engagement of women in decision-making and households’ preferences for milk consumption. Study showed that large proportion of people in non milk- producing and urban slum areas are not consuming milk and women and children are consuming less milk than the national recommendation. The study recommended, among others, that it is necessary to increase awareness and convey information about the importance of milk consumption for improving diets, and at the same time increase national milk  production. Information dissemination and behavioral change communication may be the way to change the food habits of people and also proper marketing and pricing systems should be ensured. 

Salahuddin Tauseef, Research Analyst IFPRI presented a paper on ‘Dietary Patterns in Rural Bangladesh: What Influence of Agriculture?’ The study analysed data from Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS) conducted by IFPRI under USAID-funded Policy Research and Strategy Support Program (PRSSP). BIHS is the largest panel survey in the country and is the most comprehensive, nationally representative rural household survey to date. The paper looked into the influence of agriculture on diet quality, particularly the overwhelming dominance of rice in diet. The paper recommended different policy considerations like: 1) Improve diet quality by : developing value chains for nutrient-dense foods,  promoting nutrition knowledge among consumers, farmers, and women and men, and adding nutrition behavioural change communication to social protection programs; 2) Promote agricultural diversity by : reducing risk of high-value, high nutritive value food production via contract farming, agricultural credit, etc., and creating an enabling policy environment for the private sector for agricultural value chains development; 3) Support women’s empowerment through: empowering women in agriculture to  improve dietary diversity, increase agricultural diversity, and help households move out of poverty (IFPRI 2016).

Prof Abdul Bayes, Director of BRAC's Research and Evaluation Division, and Team lead of LANSA-BRAC presented the findings of the LANSA study titled 'Crop Diversity, Dietary Diversity and Nutritional Outcome in Rural Bangladesh: Evidences from VDSA Panel Household Surveys' by Uttam Deb and Abdul Bayes. The study revealed that crop and dietary diversification in rural areas has positive impact on nutritional outcomes.

Using the VDSA panel data from 2010/11 to  2014/15 on 500 households of 12 villages located in 11 districts of Bangladesh, the study showed that underweight population declined by 4.5 per cent while normal weight population increased by 2.3 per cent, overweight population by 1.9 per cent and obese population from 0.9 per cent to 1.2 per cent. Prof. Bayes said that low weight reduced due to dietary and crop diversification. Dietary diversity score has gradually increased over the years from 8.2 in 2010-11 to 9.3 in 2014-15. Crop diversity contributed strongly to dietary diversity. Average daily consumption level was more or less same over the five years. Consumption level of vegetables, potato, pulses, and eggs increased substantially.  Modern variety adopters had grown more crops than non-adopters and education level of the household head (years) had increased diversity in crop production.

More than 99 per cent of the total cropped area in the rainy season was under rice cultivation. More than 45 per cent of the total cropped area in the post-rainy season was under cultivation of non-rice crops, the study said. Prof Bayes said per capita income of the household had highly significant positive association with dietary diversity at one per cent level of significance. Crop diversity has provided the growers and other households in the area with more options to choose their food from.  Income level has provided necessary purchasing power to buy diversified diet. Crop diversity and income have contributed positively towards dietary score of the same household members.  Asset ownership and remittances contributed significantly to dietary diversity of the households at one per cent level of significance.  The study said specialisation in crop production at the household level and diversity in crop production at the combined level were observed. 

Barnali Chakraborty, Senior Research Fellow of BRAC and LANSA researcher presented the paper on ‘A capability approach to child nutrition: Parents’ stories in context of haor’. Earlier LANSA studies demonstrated that the odds of being stunted were significantly higher among children from the Haor Basin in comparison to other parts of Bangladesh, and highlighted the importance of bringing back seasonal thinking in explaining the reasons.  From that, the present study was set to understand how the seasonal setting of haor shape the capabilities of the parents towards achieving their children’s multidimensional linear growth.  The qualitative study was conducted in 2 selected sub-districts: Derai (from Sunamganj) and Baniachang (from Habiganj) within the haor areas.

The study used group discussions and interviews with selected parents having children less than 2 years of age who agreed to give time to participate in the study and mainly asked what kind of capabilities a mother or father needs to have to take good care of children/to keep them healthy and well-nourished. Amartya Sen’s capability approach was used to analyse the data. The found that functioning of the caregiver and the children are simultaneous. Also, an aggregated outcome is essential in reducing malnutrition. Addressing the resource gaps and creating a supportive environment is required in enhancing the capabilities and further work can be done to find out ways to create an environment for haor dewellers in improving their resilience in adverse situations.

Addressing the seminar, Food Secretary Md Kaykobad Hossain said it is difficult for Bangladesh to mitigate the challenges including that of increasing the nutritional intake for the 160 million people with limited resources. As part of its efforts, the government is giving emphasis on distribution of nutritious food items besides rice under its VGD (Vulnerable group development) programme.

“Rice cannot fulfill our daily need of food intake. So, the government is now motivating the farmers to produce new crop varieties apart from rice,” he said.

Emphasising crop diversity, the chief guest said, the importance of balanced nutrition is being recognised in the policy sphere. It has been included as one of the core objectives in the 2006 National Food Policy and is embedded in the associated Plan of Action 2008-2015. The government plans to invest in improving the nutrition situation with community based nutrition activities through livelihood approaches, which are complemented by health oriented awareness campaign, he added. He mentioned that besides food crop production, we have to increase our focus on building quality storage system.

Finally, the Food Secretary hoped that inputs from the findings and discussions of the seminar would be able to give some feedback to the national food policy.

Expressing concern about the excessive use of chemicals in various crops, vegetables and poultry and meat, special guest joint secretary of the agriculture ministry Balai Krishna Hazra said that studies also need to look into the quality of agro products and food. He mentioned that the government is giving highest priority towards agriculture production and horticulture as means to improve malnutrition across the country.

Experts and researchers from DFID, IFPRI, Helen Keller International, GAIN Alliance, SNV, Save the Children, World Vision Bangladesh, WorldFish, FHI 360, Breast Feeding Foundation, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Food, IPHN, DGHS and various relevant divisions of BRAC attended the seminar.

The event was widely covered by the press media.

Links to media:

English: The Financial Express, Daily Observer,   The Independent 14-12-17The Independent 16-12-17, New AgeDaily SunThe Bangladesh Post , Bangladesh Sangbad Shangstha (BSS)  , United News of Bangladesh (UNB)BangladeshInfo

Bangla: Ittefaq 13-12-17Ittefaq 12-12-17 , Sangbad , BonikBarta, Jugantor , Samakal , BDNews24 , Manab Zamin, SylhetToday24, RisingBD, JagoNews24, Amritbazar, NatunSamay71Sangbad

Date: 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

South Asia Focus

Funded by UK DFID

This research has been funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policies

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