Global Food Policy Report

Bangladesh improving in rural development, food security

Staff Correspondent

19 April, 2019 12:00 AM printer

The Global Food Policy Report-2019 has highlighted Bangladesh as one of South Asia’s leaders in improving rural development indicators and food and nutrition security.

It has pointed to the need for bridging persistent rural-urban development gaps by continuing to design and implement innovative development programmes that address rural needs.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) launched the 2019 Global Food Policy Report (GFPR) on Thursday at a hotel in the city.

Marked by a deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities, and environmental degradation, rural areas continue to be in a state of crisis in many parts of the world, the report says.

This rural crisis threatens to slow progress towards the Sustainable Development Goals, global climate targets, and improved food and nutrition security, it adds.

“Bangladesh’s sustained focus on rural development over several decades has made the country a global model for how to transform the lives of millions of poor rural men and women,” said Akhter Ahmed, Country Representative for IFPRI in Bangladesh.

“The government has made important commitments to continue these improvements by investing in roads, electricity, healthcare, nutrition, and gender equality in rural areas,” he said.

According to the report, in Bangladesh, as in many developing countries, rural areas remain underserved and face a wide array of challenges, including severe environmental degradation, agrarian crises, and an acute shortage of jobs for a growing youth population.

To overcome the challenges, the report calls for revitalising rural areas, highlighting policies, establishing institutions and making investments that can transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work, and raise families.

“Revitalizing rural areas can stimulate economic growth and begin to address the crises in developing countries, and also tackle challenges holding back the achievement of the SDGs and climate goals by 2030,” said Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI.

“Rural revitalization is timely, achievable, and, most important, critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” said Fan.

Most of the world’s poor live in rural areas: rural populations account for 45.3 per cent of the world’s total population, but 70 per cent of the world’s extreme poor.

The global poverty rate in rural areas is currently 17 per cent, more than double the urban poverty rate of 7 per cent.

The report emphasizes that revitalization could make rural areas premiere hubs of innovations in just under a decade.

It recommends revitalization through a focus on five building blocks: (1) creating farm and non-farm rural employment opportunities; (2) achieving gender equality; (3) addressing environmental challenges; (4) improving access to energy; and (5) investing in good governance.

Agriculture minister Dr Md. Abdur Razzaque said the national commitment to revitalizing rural areas during the event: “The Government of Bangladesh is working diligently to promote rural regions as viable habitats and economic areas where livelihoods are secured, economic growth is enhanced, and natural resources are used efficiently and sustainability.”

The Ministry of Agriculture is committed to implementing rigorous evaluations and updating our policies to integrate evidence-based research that may increase women’s decision- making power, well-being, and access and rights to resources as a way to strengthen the linkages between agriculture and nutrition, said the minister.

The report notes the great strides Bangladesh has made towards such a holistic revitalization of its rural areas, specifically highlighting the success of the country’s investments in rural infrastructure, social protection programs, and gender equality.

The report cites evidence that improving rural roads helped Bangladesh reduce extreme poverty by 3 to 6 per cent and boost secondary school enrollment among both boys and girls.

Programs that increased the availability of health workers and supported women’s political, social, and economic empowerment were also highlighted as key to the country’s success.

High-level decision makers in Dhaka emphasized the importance of women’s empowerment on the rural revitalization agenda.

Still, the report also underlined several areas in need of improvement. Bangladesh has low access to basic sanitation in rural areas, hovering just above 40 per cent.

Limited access to sanitation in rural Bangladesh may help explain why child stunting in the country, which experienced the fastest, most prolonged reduction in the world, has now plateaued to affecting slightly over one-third of children under-five, which remains too high. Progress in these and other areas of development remain critical to improving rural livelihoods.

In the event, distinguished speakers from the government, policy think tanks, and academia also discussed Bangladesh’s track record of success and ways to carry it forward.