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‘Technical Symposium on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture’ at Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) – 10 April 2016

12/04/2016

Nutrition naturally comes with food. However, that food should be diverse, safe, filled with important nutrients and of the right amount for all the individuals in the household. The policy issues of availability and the price of food are as important as the food consumption itself" said Dr Anna Lartey, Director, Nutrition and Food Systems Division, FAO HQ during her keynote presentation at the “Technical Symposium on Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture in Bangladesh: Bringing Agriculture into the Dialogue for Improving Nutrition Outcomes” at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), Farmgate, Dhaka on Sunday, 10 April 2016

Highlighting the links between agriculture and nutrition, and the necessity of nutrition education, and diversified food production to fight under-nutrition in the country, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) partnered with the Government of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), Civil Society Alliance for Scaling up Nutrition, Helen Keller International, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the WorldFish Center, to organize this day-long event.

The symposium was funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through FAO project ‘Meeting the Under-nutrition Challenge (MUCH)’.

The UN General Assembly has designated this decade as the decade for fighting malnutrition. Bangladesh is a signatory to the 2014 International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2), and addressing malnutrition is currently high on the government agenda. The food people eat on a daily basis is one of the building blocks of nutrition. We are after all what we eat! If this diet is monotonous and suffers from lack of diversity, quantity or quality the effects will be negative. To overcome this, the agriculture system has to produce a wide range of foods in diverse food groups. The effort to do this is part of nutrition sensitive agriculture or NSA.

Mr Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah - Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr A M Badrudduja - Secretary, Ministry of Food, Mr Mike Robson - FAO Representative in Bangladesh, Mr Md Mosharaf Hossain - Additional Secretary (Extension Wing), Ministry of Agriculture, Ms Syeda Afroza Begum - Additional Secretary (Research), Ministry of Agriculture, Mr Michael Satin, Director- Office of Food, Disaster and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID and Dr Abul Kalam Azad - Executive Chairman, BARC were present during the event. Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman - Executive Director, Power and Participation Research Centre, Dr Md Abdur Razzaque - Former Executive Chairman, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council and Dr Akhter U Ahmed – Chief of Party, IFPRI contextualized NSA in Bangladesh based on the keynote speech provided by Dr. Anna Lartey.

In her keynote presentation, Dr Anna Lartey, Director, Nutrition and Food Systems Division, FAO HQ highlighted the contribution of food-based approaches to improving nutrition. She highlighted the pathways through which agriculture can improve nutrition, which include agriculture as a source of food, agriculture as a source of livelihoods and women’s empowerment. She also underlined the major challenges of enhancing nutrition through agriculture as presence of market distortions, data disconnect and weak evidence base.

Mr Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah – Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture mentioned that despite the fact the Bangladesh has been fairly successful in addressing food security issues, rates of malnutrition among women and children are still very high. Adding to this point, Mr A M Badrudduja – Secretary, Ministry of Food, stressed the need for a multi-sectoral approach to address malnutrition, with focused policy and programmatic measures in health, water, hygiene, and social protection, and agriculture.

Dr Zillur Rahman - Executive Director, Power and Participation Research Centre emphasized the aspiration to tackle undernutrition in Bangladesh, as the country develops towards Middle Income Country status. He pointed out that knowledge gap exists with regards to marketing, food processing and best practices.

While promoting nutrition education and good food habits with particular focus on milk and egg consumption, strong communication plays a major role. Consumer demand is key to sustainable intensification of production of various subsectors” said Mr Mike Robson, FAO Representative in Bangladesh.

Action on nutrition sensitive agriculture in Bangladesh has been taken independently by various organizations. The symposium brought together around 300 participants representing the government sector, development community, academia, private sector and media to increase awareness on NSA. The symposium triggered the crucial discussion on developing a common understanding of NSA in Bangladesh and identifying entry points appropriate in Bangladesh agriculture and food systems that will make them more nutrition-sensitive. The timing of the symposium is particularly pertinent as the Bangladesh National Plan of Action on Nutrition is currently being developed and to update the National Food Policy as the National Food and Nutrition Security Policy by the Government of Bangladesh with technical support from FAO. The Country Investment Plan for Agriculture, Food Security and Nutrition is also to be updated in 2016. The deliberations of this symposium will feed directly into these important plans.

A half-day long technical session followed the inaugural session. Proceedings and other publications will follow as outcome of the event. In the wrap up presentation by Mr Naoki Minamiguchi, Chief Technical Advisor for FAO’s MUCH project, he highlighted the major findings from the symposium.

The key findings from the symposium for improving nutrition through agriculture:

- Policies to promote better nutrition
- Role of women’s empowerment and gender sensitive approach
- Farming for dietary diversity
- Getting more nutrients into staples
- Productivity growth

FAO and its “Meeting the Undernutrition Challenge (MUCH)” project will continue to explore the Bangladesh specific definition of nutrition sensitive agriculture through a series of follow-up seminars addressing underlying causes of malnutrition.

Good nutrition begins with good food and this starts with agriculture and food systems.

Useful links

Download links for powerpoint presentations and documents

Media Links

"Non-cereal diets must for curbing malnutrition" - The Daily Star

"Nutrition sensitive agriculture to counter malnutrition" - The Financial Express

"Nutrition sensitive agriculture to face malnutrition: Experts" - Bangaldesh Sangsad Sangstha

পাঁচ বছরের কম বয়সী ৩৬ শতাংশ শিশু খর্বাকৃতির - The Daily Prothom Alo