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Improving food safety in Bangladesh

Delduar (Tangail) declared as – ‘Safe Food Upazilla’


The Food Safety Programme wants to “establish a food safety culture” in the community. With this objective in mind, the Bangladesh Food Safety Network (BFSN), consisting of five national NGOs, have been supported by FAO to create food safety awareness, to educate, to training, to advocate and to run food safety campaigns locally and nationally. This is the story of UBINIG, one of the members of BFSN, that has been working to declare Delduar as a safe food upazila.

  400px-DelduarUpazilaOn 15th September 2015, the Delduar Upazila Chairman declared Delduar as Safe Food Upazila, which will ensure food safety from production to marketing up to consumption. This declaration was in the presence and with the full support of a large gathering of government agencies, local NGOs, the FAO, and other private and public representatives. Delduar, one of the 493 upazilas in the country, is in Tangail district, about 86.6 km from Dhaka and can be reached in 2-3 hours. With a population of nearly 200,000 it has 8 unions and 166 villages. The literacy rate is about 43.1% and the main occupation is agriculture (47.9%). Within Delduar upazila Pathrail Union is famous for handloom craft weaving called Tangail Sarees and other cottage industries include pottery, bamboo works etc.

The story of Delduar as Safe Food Upazila begins back in 2014, when the Upazila Chairman S. M. Ferdous attended as a Special Guest in an Advocacy meeting organised by UBINIG/BFSN. The meeting was also attended by the representatives from various departments of GO, NGO and Civil Society with an expectation that they will take these messages forward and thus support in establishing Safe Food Culture in the community. The advocacy meeting was also attended by Dr. John Ryder, Prof. Shah Monir Hossain, Dr. Sridhar Dharmapuri and Dr. Rokeya Khanam of FAO-Food Safety Project. Mr. Ferdous in his speech expressed his interest and commitment to declare Delduar as safe food upazila. This was welcomed by BFSN and FAO. Within a year, this high level political commitment from the upazila chairman along with UBINIG technical support and intensive field work with farmers created a mass awareness, interest and pride among the community to declare Delduar as a Safe Food Upazila.

In order to realize Delduar as Safe Food Upazila, under the leaderships of Upazila Chairman and UBINIG, an implementation and monitoring plan has been developed and carrying out those tasks as per plan.

  • Monitor the weekly Hats in 8 Unions, daily markets for 2-3 villages in one place. Here farmers sell vegetables, rice, egg, milk, fish, fruit brought directly from their fields or households. There are no middlemen involved in selling.
  • Miking and a folk singer group are being used in the hats and markets to create food safety awareness and safe food production and selling.
  • Regarding safe food production, one important aspect in Delduar upazilla is the presence of over 34,000 Nayakrishi (NK) farmers who have been practicing biodiversity based agriculture production without using any pesticides, chemical fertilizers and most importantly using of local varieties of seeds to produce seasonal crops. UBINIG has initiated and has been organising the NK farmers since 1990.
  • In a workshop on 6th September, 2015, the NK farmers made proposals for Safe Food Upazila such as- farmer representatives from villages, selling spaces for NK farmers, buying from farmers directly, train more farmers in 8 unions in NK, create NK market, create special space for safe food, committee on Safe food, monitoring by administration, and support by the Upazila Chairman for safe food production and marketing. All these are under active consideration of Safe Food Upazila Committee and Upazila Chairman.
  • On 7th September, 2015, several upazila officials had a meeting and made proposals such as- joint monitoring by agriculture, fisheries and health departments, safe food selling at Union Parishad premises, discussion with food businessmen about food safety issues, awareness raising on use of formalin and other chemicals, and effective coordination and cooperation of all departments on safe food issues.

This is a very significant initiative and will continue to be actively supported by FAO and the BFSN. A small but important step for Bangladesh.