This is a very important topic to discuss especially the debate about the growth elasticity of poverty. Developing countries are lagging behind from distributing the fruits of impressive growth which fostering the inequality and poverty. Nutrition is also a very important analysis in this regard. The definition of poverty is multidimensional; feeding the 2100 kilocalorie per day is also a misleading idea. However, I think improvement is possible by making awareness among the societies and how to live better with limited resources.
I can share some field experiences that I have got from North-western Part of Bangladesh. In this region of Bangladesh, poverty was severe in the last decades because of the seasonal unemployment which generated seasonal food deprivation for months. To mitigate this crisis, some microfinance institutions (MFIs) were supported by the DFID funded project to reduce this seasonal crisis of the households. After the intervention of this program like flexible microcredit, supporting Income generating activities (IGA), agricultural loans, training for IGA, primary health service etc. the impact is huge. These vulnerable people become self-dependent later on and also most of them graduated from this chronic poverty. The success of this program came by the proper scrutinizing of the member households. They were informed about the health and nutrition value of their food also. This group of people performed better than the other people who were not offered this program. So I think the challenges of nutrition can be faced by improving the mass communication media and involving the community leaders. Besides government infrastructure like community health clinic and community awareness week is necessary.
I can also share another awareness movement of the residents of Dhaka city. It is very common now days that most of the vegetables, fruits, fishes are contaminated because of formalin which is very bad for health. But there is nothing to do from the consumers’ side to stop this contamination. Social media and electronic media reported it several times in the national media like TV, newspapers but nothing happened. But recently there is a change making progress. Some Community of the Dhaka city declared their market Formalin free, i.e. no food will be contaminated by formalin and other additives. They spread this news to the media and the response from the buyers is enormous. Following this success some other markets are also declaring formalin free. So the change is coming from the micro-level. Government tries several times but failed to handle this crisis. Last week government declared that importing formalin would be strictly handles by the government authorities. But there is also a question here also, how efficiently government can handle this with its inefficient administration. So I believe movement should start from micro-level to make the market work. Other-wise success will not come up.
Economic growth can only reduce poverty by increasing inequality if no redistribution takes place. Special action should be taken into consideration to reduce the poverty and malnutrition.
Mohammad Monirul Hasan
Institute of Microfinance (InM)
Related links and resources:
The State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012
Millennium Development Goals
The World Food Summit 1996
Food Security Governance and the Right to Food
From Protection to Production