Tackling climate change is an integrated approach as the impact of climate change falls under almost every sector including agriculture, food security, health, energy demands and economic activity etc. To tackle the impact of climate change, a series of policies have been tried. Additionally, ensuring Health and food security is one of the major targets of the Government of Bangladesh, whereas it is already recognised that for ensuring good health of the nation, it is important to put emphasis on sustainability. Sustainable health is a combination of sustainable food production, agriculture and health practices. Thus all major policies of Bangladesh have directly focused on both environment and wellbeing of the people, whereas concentration is given on nutrition and health, efficient food production through improving efficiency of water usage, reducing carbon food print etc. It is recognised that there is a need to create a “climate-smart food system”, which is more resilient to climate change with focus on food security and health.
It was found from the research that reducing energy-intensive agricultural practices lead towards improved dietary behaviours in favour of local, seasonal, fresh produce. Thus major agricultural policies of Bangladesh focused on climate smart food system by providing emphasis on modern technologies which are climate friendly.Government Initiatives on Integrated Climate smart agriculture:
National policies of Bangladesh are integrated and they have focus on climate change. National Environmental Policy 2017 addressed that for “sustainable production and consumption”- carbon footprint, water footprint, energy footprint, ecological footprint and food footprint should be reduced. All major agricultural policies have acknowledged “climate smart food system”, as they encouraged on using modern technologies in agriculture such as climate resilient HYV seed, water saving irrigation, reducing energy intensive agriculture etc. On the other hand, ensuring adequate nutrition and food security of the nation is the objective of many major policies of Bangladesh, such as National Agriculture Extension Policy 2015, National Agricultural Policy (2013), National Nutrition Policy 2015, National Livestock Extension Policy (2013), and National Food Policy Plan of Action 2008-2015 have addressed this issue. Besides, in health policies, climate change is also being incorporated.
Bangladesh’s own initiative on Climate Financing:
To tackle the impact of climate change, Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan (BCCSAP), 2009 was created by Government of Bangladesh which reflected national priorities in terms of adaptation and mitigation. This integrated work plan is considered to be the first among the developing countries. In 2010, the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust (BCCT) Act was formulated and consequently the government set up the Bangladesh Climate Change Trust Fund (BCCTF) for implementing urgent and immediate actions of the document. BCCTF is created from country’s own fund and it is the first time in the world where such type of fund has been created for tackling climate change so that the country doesn’t need to depend on foreign fund.
What more can be done for Sustainable Health and agriculture:
Incorporating water footprint of agriculture can be helpful for ensuring sustainability. National Water Policy (1999) of Bangladesh has given broad focus on the issue related to efficient water management. According to Hoekstra, “unfortunately no national water plan in the world addresses the issue that meat and dairy are among the most water-intensive consumer products” (2013). Moreover, Bangladesh is not an exception as none of these policies have ever addressed the issue of water or carbon footprint of animals. The probable rationale behind this is still now the meat consumption per capita is low in this country. However, the government is ignoring the fact that as both the GDP rate and the population of Bangladesh are growing and people’s food habit is shifting towards western diet, the demand for food, particularly protein will be higher and many people will include more animal protein in their diet. On the other hand, the mission of the National Livestock Extension Policy (2013) is to satisfy the national demand of milk, meat and egg for fast growing populace through increased productivity. Thus it is lucid that the policies are inadequate for ensuring sustainable environment, as they have failed to address that growing meat production, which is not environmentally sustainable.Furthermore, it is suggested to allocate more budget for health sector from BCCTF. As in our country, only 0.05 % of budget from BCCTF is allocated for health directly. Furthermore, no fund is allocated for livestock and fisheries projects in BCCTF.
Environment friendly Protein Source:
Traditional food which is consumed by Bengalis is healthy and it has higher nutrition value as it consists of different types of vegetables and fish. While interviewing Dr Sarah Banu, retired chief of Institute of Public Health (IPH), she gave special emphasis on consumption of fish instead of meat. She stated that the most important macronutrient for human body is protein. Animal based diet is considered as a complete protein. She compared between protein of fish and meat and stated that fish provides special health benefits. Unlike meat, Omega 3 and Omega 6 can be attained from fish consumption. Omega 3 contributes in lowering elevated triglyceride levels, DHA is useful for visual and neurological development in infants, it can contribute to controlling weight, and it works as a prevention against cardiovascular inflammatory disease, prostate and colon cancer, reducing muscle soreness. She has suggested taking flaxseeds, oils and nuts as they are good source of omega 3. Vegetables are considered as incomplete protein, which is a great source of minerals and vitamins too. Thus she has maintained that consuming vegetables and fishes can fulfill the need of human body for all ages which eliminates the need for consuming meat.
Traditional food habit of Bangladesh is based on mainly vegetable based diet and fish is one of the major sources of protein in this country. For ensuring sustainability, emphasis should be given on increasing fisheries; and “climate-smart food system” should be encouraged whereas less focus should be given on poultry and meat production. Additionally, it is important to encourage the people not to shift their diet and discourage meat consumption as it is neither healthy nor environment friendly. Moreover, it is advisable to focus on allocating more budget on projects related to health and fisheries projects, whereas less importance should be given on projects related to increasing unsustainable livestock.
The writer is a Senior Research Officer of Bangladesh Centre for Advanced Studies (BCAS)