Dear FSN Moderator,
I would like make the contribution provided below.
Akhter Ahmed, Ph.D.
Chief of Party
Bangladesh Policy Research and Strategy Support Program
Positioning Agriculture toward Improved Nutrition and Women’s Empowerment
How can Bangladesh’s agriculture policies and interventions be designed and implemented to increase positive impact on nutrition? Agriculture provides a source of food and nutrients, a broad-based source of income, and affects food prices. It also has a range of effects on women’s health, nutrition, empowerment, and time allocation, which, in turn, affects the care of infants, children, and other family members. Given these links, agriculture has the potential to be a strong driver of women and children’s nutrition and health. That potential, however, is not being fully realized in Bangladesh.
From production to consumption, women are key actors within the food system but are historically less empowered in Bangladesh, according to a recent study by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The lack of women’s empowerment weakens the links between agriculture and nutrition. In spite of playing an important role in agriculture growth in Bangladesh, women face persistent obstacles and societal and economic constraints that limit their further inclusion in agriculture. By empowering women, ensuring their nutrition status, improving access to clean water and sanitation are all vital for nutrition security. In the absence of such circumstances even nutrition-sensitive agricultural growth will not fully achieve its potential impacts on nutrition status.
IFPRI researchers at the Policy Research and Strategy Support Program (PRSSP) in Bangladesh have designed a pilot study to identify actions and investments in agriculture that can leverage agricultural development for improved nutrition and stimulate pathways to women’s empowerment within agriculture. The pilot project focuses on strategic choices in high-value agricultural production (high-value food commodities are also usually rich in essential nutrients such as vitamins and minerals) and in developing “nutrition-sensitive value chains” that enhance or help maintain the nutritional value of agricultural commodities along the value chain, while also focusing on empowering women.
The pilot project implements and evaluates the impact of three alternative modalities for nutrition and gender sensitive agriculture. The modalities are:
1. Agriculture Production: Facilitating the production of the high-value food commodities that are rich in essential nutrients. The focus would be on diversifying agricultural production (fruits and vegetables; pulses; oilseeds; and poultry, dairy, fish, livestock)
2. Nutrition BCC: Conducting high-quality behavior change communication (BCC) training to improve nutrition
3. Gender Sensitization: Undertaking gender sensitization activities that lead to the improvement in the status/empowerment of women.
The Agricultural Policy Support Unit (APSU) of the Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), Government of Bangladesh, and the Department of Agricultural Extension of the MOA will implement the pilot project from mid-2015 to 2017. Using the randomized controlled trial (RCT) method of evaluation, the IFPRI-PRSSP researchers will evaluate the impact of the project on farmers’ incomes, household food security, women’s empowerment, and child and maternal nutrition. The evidence gathered will be used to inform the design of a national program.