FAO in Bangladesh

Creating a safe, sustainable, and resilient food system for Dhaka


Dhaka has become extremely densely populated and one of the fastest-growing megacities in the world. Rapid and sustained population growth, combined with unplanned urbanization, have created issues regarding food security, nutrition, obesity levels, food safety, and the affordability of food.

The Dhaka Food System (DFS) project, funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands (EKN), aims to create a safe, sustainable, and resilient food system for the Dhaka Metropolitan Area. DFS has been working with all four city corporations (Dhaka North, Dhaka South, Gazipur, and Narayanganj) to improve the city’s food system.

As part of a mid-term project evaluation, DFS organized a debriefing yesterday (4 March) at the city’s InterContinental hotel.  The Chief Executive Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, Mr. Md. Selim Reza, graced this occasion as the Chief Guest. Abu Md. Mohiuddin Quaderi, Joint Secretary of the Local Government Division was also present at the event. Mr. Folkert de Jager, First Secretary, Water Management and Food Security of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, FAO Representative of Bangladesh, Mr. Robert D Simpson, Mr. A.B.M. Amin Ullah Nuri, Chief Executive Officer of Dhaka South City Corporation chaired the meeting, and Brig. Gen. Md. Zobaidur Rahman, Chief Health Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, presented opening remarks in this meeting. Mr. Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Secretary of Gazipur City Corporation, Mr. Dr. Fazle Shamsul Kabir, Health Officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, and Mr. K.M. Faridul Miraj, Chief Social Welfare and Slum Dev. Officer of Narayanganj City Corporation, and Dr. Nur Ahamed Khondaker, Assistant Country Representative of FAO also attend this event. Staff members from Wageningen University & Research, FAO’s partner in DFS project, virtually participated in this meeting. Mr. John Taylor, Chief Technical Adviser of the DFS project conducted the event. 

While discussing the ways to improve Dhaka’s food system, Mr. Md. Selim Reza suggested a holistic approach with support from all food relevant stakeholders. He said, “If we fail to address food adulteration, it will be difficult to achieve our national goals. This situation will eventually affect the next generation.”

The CEO of Dhaka South City Corporation, Mr. Amin Ullah Nuri, also emphasized the importance of involving many stakeholders in the food system. He suggested replicating the existing pilot projects of DFS in the other areas of the city to ensure safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all citizens.

Mr. K.M. Faridul Miraj, Chief Social Welfare and Slum Development Officer of Narayanganj City Corporation, shared that together with the DFS project the city corporation is piloting the management of street food vendors of Naryanganj to promote better food hygiene and safety, as well as more effectively manage public spaces.

"DFS has supported the establishment of a farmer's market in Gazipur, where farmers come to sell their vegetables and fruits directly to the consumers." - said Mr. Md. Mostafizur Rahman, Secretary of Gazipur City Corporation, while talking about some of this project's milestones. The Chief Health Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, Brig. Gen. Md. Zobaidur Rahman shed some light on a severe public health issue. He said, “There are more than 100 food-borne diseases. If we want to serve 20 million people of Dhaka city with safe food, we need to train 100 to 150 thousand food system actors. We must ensure health education for all types of food actors to protect peoples’ health and save them from many diseases.”

DFS focuses on the following food system issues:

• Ensuring public health and food safety

• Reducing and managing food waste

• Establishing farmers’ markets

• Managing street food vendors

• Strengthening food system governance

• Ensuring safe and functional food markets • Malnutrition and food security of the urban poor.

FAO has progressed in addressing several food issues by providing training, piloting urban gardening, and implementing awareness-raising campaigns.  The project is working with private sector stakeholders to address the efficiency and food safety issues in the food value chains, that stretch from the city all the way back to food producing regions. The DFS project has also provided COVID-19 safety training to vendors, cleaners, and market association members from fresh markets in four city corporations. To address the food insecurity of the urban poor, DFS has piloted urban agriculture and provided training and agricultural inputs to more than 400 underprivileged people, of whom 90 per cent were women. The project has already helped to establish a farmers’ market in Gazipur and is working towards starting more in other city corporations. DFS will help to modernize the city’s slaughterhouses and will support the city corporations in implementing awareness campaigns for promoting safe slaughterhouse practices. This is also a priority for the honourable mayors of Dhaka North and Dhaka South.

All of the city corporation officials agreed on their common goal – delivering a more sustainable, equitable, and safe food system for the city by working with national and local government, development organizations, the private sector, and UN agencies.