Making Nutrition Attainable
There are roughly 15.2 million children under the age of 5 in Bangladesh, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Malnutrition affected about half of this population for years. However, there has been some success in lowering this amount by making nutrition attainable. The WHO records that growth stunting reduced from 41 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2014. The percentage of underweight children also dropped from 36 percent to 33 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Although Bangladesh’s economy has progressed and the country has experienced a reduction in poverty, food insecurity remains a concern for about 35 percent of its citizens. The International Food Policy Research Institute recommends that children who consume at least four different food groups a day will be 22 percent less likely to experience stunting. In spite of the food insecurity, each day there are more possibilities for making nutrition attainable for poor countries.

Processed Foods

A very common misconception among big companies and corporations is that poor countries would not be able to purchase their food. Therefore, many companies do not venture to sell to these countries in fear of failure. However, in countries like Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, people purchase over 80 percent of the food rather than relying on home-grown. In Bangladesh, 75 to 90 percent of low-income urban consumers and about 40 percent of low-income rural consumers purchase their food. Fifty to 70 percent of the food people purchase in these countries is processed.

Although there are many unhealthy packaged foods, there is also a market for nutritional processed goods. A study in Nepal found that 80 to 90 percent of the country’s children of 6 to 23 months of age ate commercially-produced packaged foods. In Nigeria, people buy 80 million MAGGI bouillon broth cubes every day. These bouillon cubes carry essential nutritional qualities such as iron and other key micronutrients. There is a need for more similarly packaged and processed foods that provide nutritional density and quality.

Making Nutrition Attainable

In an effort to improve the situation, Groupe Danone and Grameen Bank collaborated to make a fortified yogurt factory in Bangladesh. Danone is the world’s largest yogurt maker with more than $21 billion in annual sales. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer and founder of Grameen Bank, first suggested making baby food, however, a yogurt factory became the ultimate choice.

The company is successfully putting enough vitamin A, iron, zinc and iodine into the 60 and 80-gram cups of yogurt to meet 30 percent of a child’s daily needed diet. Overall, the local children who are often poor and malnourished benefit from the yogurts the factory produces. There is still a lot of work to do. The consumer demand increasing in the U.S. leads many businesses to cut sugar out of their products by at least 20 percent. However, for countries in Africa and Asia, there has yet to be this kind of motion.

The Danone and Grameen Factory Help People

The Danone and Grameen factory’s main goal is not to make large revenue, but rather to provide nutrition and education. Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank hopes to share a lesson in manufacturing, business and humanitarian efforts for the developing world and the West. He believes that in starting this project, “You don’t see the money-making aspect, but how you can help people.” The project has employed the rural community through its links with the farmers which serve the factory. The yogurt company pays the local workers and farmers more than any customer does. Many employees are earning $60 a week, a substantial amount for rural Bangladesh.

Many private sector companies are hesitant to step into this effort because of the misinformation that affordable nutrition cannot be profitable. Professor Yunus hopes to educate these companies by challenging them to begin thinking about running their businesses in a different manner. For Danone, this project provides a clearer understanding of marketing food in South Asia and entering in a more profitable market in India.

The Impact

Danone and organizations like Feed the Future strive to make nutrition attainable in Bangladesh. As of January 2018, the U.S. Government selected Bangladesh as one of the 12 Feed the Future target countries. Feed the Future, under the U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy, is a global hunger and food security initiative. It has established a strategy for making nutrition attainable. Feed the Future aims to intensify production while diversifying agriculture. It uses high-value, multi-nutrient products. Feed the Future’s target beneficiaries include rice farmers, the landless poor who are net purchasers of rice, small and medium-size farmers who can diversify production, agricultural-based enterprises and people employed in the fishing and aquaculture sector. In poor countries, companies such as Danone make nutrition attainable by placing more importance on those in need than on the profit it makes. Government organizations like Feed the Future also help in providing food security to poor countries like Bangladesh.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: USAID

Natural Disasters in Bangladesh

The people of Bangladesh face great risks from natural disasters. Given the country’s geographical position, cyclones, earthquakes and floods are not uncommon. Natural disasters in Bangladesh are more prominent because of the country’s entirely low-lying, flat landscape. This topography puts more than 80 percent of the inhabitants at higher risk of “floods, earthquakes and droughts, and more than 70 percent to cyclones.” This is why it is so important to have a preemptive system in place for the preparation of natural disasters.

The Impact of Climate Change

The Asian continent accounts for more than half of the cities at risk of experiencing the effects of a changing climate. Among the impacts of a changing climate are frequent droughts, fierce heat waves, intense cyclones and severe flooding. The “World Bank predicts climate change could force tens of millions of people to migrate within their own countries by 2050, including some 13 million in densely populated Bangladesh alone.” Nnatural disasters in Bangladesh leave the people of suffering on a large scale on an annual basis.

An article posted by The New Humanitarian delves into the torrential rainfall that came down on Bangladesh in 2017. It had a severe and negative impact on the fertility of the land and damaged the crops, which is what Bangladeshi people rely on to grow and sell every year. The warm winters and dry summers have brought tremendous flooding.

Even worse, farmers are continuing to move away from their homes and farms, migrating to Bangladesh’s cities. Many families have relied on farming as a sustainable way of life for generations; however, due to weather extremes, they are migrating within their countries by the thousands. Not only does the migration create a sort of refugee crisis as well as overcrowding in the urban areas within the nation but the destruction of crops may ultimately lead to a food security issue.

Moving Forward

It is imperative that the government create better systems of preparation for natural disasters in Bangladesh in order to prevent more issues. In a stride toward environmental public health, efforts to adapt and minimize damages due to the changing climate are underway. Bangladesh has allocated more than $400 million into its Climate Change Trust, which is a “state body that finances adaptation and mitigation projects by government agencies.” Hopefully, some of the projects that come out of this organization will show improved disaster preparation techniques.

The Haor Infrastructure and Livelihood Improvement Project within the Rural Development sector has set a goal to “improve road infrastructure, build local capacity and expand access to natural resources, technology and markets.” The five targeted districts of this poverty-reducing project are Sunamganj, Kishorganj, Brahmanbaria, Habiganj and Netrakona.

Among many projects is the Coastal Embankment Improvement Project (CEIP), which was approved by the World Bank in 2013. This project has helped Bangladesh improve emergency response to the impact of cyclones and flooding in the coastal areas.

Natural disasters in Bangladesh are both inevitable and a public health emergency for a host of reasons. However, the preparations and emergency response protocols already underway signal a more stable future for the promising developing country.

– Karina Bhakta
Photo: Flikr

Blue Economy in Bangladesh

Whether it is through the network cables across the ocean floor on which global communications rely, the oil and gas exploration on the ocean floor or the availability of fishery resources, the ocean has been an integral part of the global economy for a long time. Since the government of Bangladesh resolved its maritime boundary disputes with Myanmar in 2012 and with India in 2014, it has been engaging in research to promote and take advantage of blue economy in Bangladesh.

Four Facts About Blue Economy in Bangladesh

  1. The economy in Bangladesh derives more than $6 billion annually from the ocean with the potential to increase. In the 2014-15 fiscal year, the gross value addition (GVA) of Bangladesh’s ocean economy was around $6.2 billion, which is 3.3 percent of the country’s total GVA. Yet, while settling disputes has given Bangladesh the right to explore resources within 118,813 square kilometers of the Bay of Bengal, the country has not yet seized the opportunity.
  2. Almost 90 percent of Bangladesh’s trade is done by sea. Approximately 17 million people are employed in the fisheries and the agricultural sector with even more people depending on the sea for income, food security and nutrition. So, if realized to its full potential, blue economy could have a major positive impact on the country.
  3. Because of poor initiative in Bangladesh, much of the potential in the 26 sectors identified for a blue economy has not yet been realized. In 2017, the Blue Economy Cell (BEC) was established under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, but that is the extent of the actions taken by the Bangladeshi government. So far, this cell has only held a few meetings.
  4. On October 25, 2018, the Bangladeshi government and the World Bank signed an agreement to finance a $240 million project. “The Sustainable and Marine Fisheries Project will help improve the fisheries management system, necessary infrastructure and value-chain investments and it will encourage the private sector to invest more towards the availability and quality of sea fish.” The project will also assist in reforming policies and regulations for fisheries. Since the fisheries sector is the second largest export earning sector of the country, this project should add more to the initiatives for blue economy in Bangladesh.

Uses of Blue Economy in Bangladesh

  • Marine Biotechnology: The opportunity to apply marine biotechnology in Bangladesh is very promising. Marine organisms can be used as a source of new materials in healthcare, including antibiotics, anti-cancer, bioactive compounds, nutritional supplements and other pharmaceutical drugs.
  • Carbon Sequestration: Bangladesh is blessed with mangrove forests, saltmarsh and seagrass beds. While the carbon stored by these ecosystems still needs to be researched, it could provide carbon trading mechanisms.
  • Oil, Gas & Minerals Mining: There is potential for oil, gas and mineral resources that have yet to be explored within the boundaries of the Bay of Bengal. Managed correctly, these resources could be used to create more jobs, infrastructure and improvements in public service.
  • Policy Reforms: Developing this sector would require different policy scenarios, taking into account the costs and benefits of the different paths that Bangladesh’s blue economy could take. Once that is done, the government could set targets and goals accordingly.
  • Coordinated Planning Process: A coordinated planning process for the sustainable development of blue economy in Bangladesh would need the active participation of ministries and public organizations. At present, the Ministry of Environment and Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, Ministry of Shipping and Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism are reviewing or designing policies that could impact some of the sectors under blue economy.

Despite the many challenges ahead, blue economy in Bangladesh could serve as an important path for sustainable development in the country. More research, policy reforms and collaboration among different organizations could help the country realize the true potential of this economy.

Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Flickr

Bangladesh Winning the War Against Diarrhea

Despite being a developing country, Bangladesh has made exceptional progress in its health sector. It is reducing its infant mortality, increasing life expectancy and working to maintain control over diseases. Its progress in reducing life-threatening diarrhea is yet another triumph for the country’s health sector and its various interventions. Below are some indicators of Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea.

Reduction of Diarrhoeal Deaths for Infants

Between 2000 and 2016, Bangladesh had managed to reduce the number of diarrhea-related deaths for children under five by 81.8 percent from 38,877 to 7,062 deaths. Oral Rehydration Therapy (ORT) has had a significant impact on reducing diarrhea in children in Bangladesh. In 2011, the country had a 90 percent reduction rate from the last 30 years after an increase in ORT.

From 1993 to 2014, the proportion of children diagnosed with diarrhea receiving either Oral Rehydration Salts (ORS) or Recommended Homemade Fluids (RHF) increased from 67 percent to 89 percent in urban areas and 58 percent to 83 percent in rural areas. As of 2015, diarrhea accounted for only 2 percent of under-five deaths, compared to around one-fifth in the 1990s.

As the pioneer in effective diarrhea control, The International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research, Bangladesh has been saving lives since the 1960s. It strongly promotes the use of ORS. Through a national program, Bangladesh became the first country to increase oral rehydration therapy. It treats more than 100,000 people each year for diarrheal diseases and related nutritional and respiratory problems.

The center was also involved in research that showed how zinc supplements could not only reduce the duration of diarrhea but also lessen the risk of recurrence. It has increased its efforts in providing more zinc tablets to children in need.

Ending Preventable Child Deaths by 2035

This initiative was launched by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW) of Bangladesh, along with other civil society organizations and professional associations. The goal of this initiative has been to reduce child deaths to 20 per 1,000 live births by 2035 largely by cutting down under-five mortality and reducing the neonatal mortality rate.

Bangladesh has performed very well before the target date. Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in maternal, newborn and child survival interventions. Other than providing vaccines and skilled birth attendants, interventions under this initiative also include changing social norms like open defecation given the role it plays in causing diarrhea. This further contributes to Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea.

Integrated Management of Childhood Illness (IMCI)

Adopted in 1998, the IMCI program finally launched in 2002. This program focuses on the major causes of child mortality such as diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria, measles and malnutrition. As of 2015, the facility-based IMCI program has been implemented in 425 of the 482 sub-districts across the country, including community clinics.

By 2013, more than “4000 doctors, 17,000 paramedics, 8,500 basic health workers and 15,600 skilled birth attendants” were trained under this program. The number of trained healthcare workers providing quality care for sick children increased from 8 percent to 24 percent between 2002 to 2009 as a result of this program.

Strong Network of Community Healthcare Workers and Volunteers

The government’s strong network of community healthcare workers and volunteers has played an important role in Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea. These healthcare workers and volunteers have been able to quickly identify and treat diarrhea cases at the community level and send the most serious cases to local clinics for more intensive treatment. This allows for quick identification of symptoms, and as a result, it enables fast responses that can help prevent epidemics.

Other than these interventions, improvements in access to clean drinking water and sanitation have also immensely contributed to Bangladesh winning the war against diarrhea. Despite the level of poverty, it is commendable how far Bangladesh has come in terms of vanquishing diarrhea.

Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Flickr

Agriculture in Bangladesh

The agricultural sector in Bangladesh has been performing extremely well, despite its vulnerability to climate shocks. The rural economy has been a remarkable source of economic growth. This further proves the strong role of agriculture in Bangladesh poverty reduction. However, this notable transformation mostly remains underappreciated and unexplored.

Additional statistics about the agricultural sector of Bangladesh:

This growth trend has become less volatile. This is partially due to fewer natural disasters hitting the country since 2000, compared to the past decades. In addition, increased resilience in the sector through irrigation and other technology also played a role in that growth.

Role of Agriculture in Bangladesh Poverty Reduction

According to a 2017 study by BRAC’s research and evaluation division, a 1 percent rise in agricultural income has the potential to reduce poverty by 0.39 percent when keeping other factors constant. This is compared to the 0.11 percent reduction contributed by non-agricultural income.

Bangladesh is facing a shortage of labor in the agricultural sector. This is due to the growth in the industrial and service sectors in the economy over the years. Between 1971 and 2014, value added to GDP from the service sector increased from 34.2 percent to 56.1 percent. Comparatively, value added to GDP from the industrial sector was almost double, from 13.2 percent to 27.2 percent. The share of agriculture in GDP decreased from 62 percent to 16.3 percent from 1975 to 2014.

However, it should be noted that the agriculture of Bangladesh mainly consists of crops. This has not declined much with the share of crops, only decreasing from 73 to 68 (out of 100) from 1971-80 to 2011-14.

Most of the growth in the service sector stems from the marketing and processing of agricultural goods. This is primarily due to increased commercialization and diversification of the agricultural sector. As a result, an estimated 10 percent increase in agricultural income leads to a 6 percent rise in non-agricultural income. This reveals agriculture to be a catalyst in Bangladesh’s economic growth.

Factors such as extensive irrigation, developing technology using high-yielding rice varieties, efficient markets, mechanization, proper policy reforms, investment in agricultural research, human capital and necessary infrastructure have led to the growth of this sector.

Future Investments to Enhance the Role of Agriculture in Bangladesh Poverty Reduction

Developing new technology and reducing the yield gaps for non-rice crops are necessary for Bangladesh to diversify its crop yields. Active participation of the private sector in developing new technology is also important, to leave room for more innovation.

Investments in livestock, fishery and necessary infrastructure are needed so the country can shift toward high-value agriculture. According to Madhur Gautam, Team Leader for the study “Dynamics of Rural Growth in Bangladesh: Sustaining Poverty Reduction” by the World Bank:

“The market operates smoothly in Bangladesh. The country now needs upgraded market facilities, increased investments in roads to connect secondary cities, improved rural logistics and access to finance to move to the next level, with more modern and efficient supply chains.”

Another way that agriculture in Bangladesh can play a role in poverty reduction is by developing water reservoirs. This leads to increased surface water for irrigation. Reducing the use of groundwater and adopting water-saving technology is essential.

Comprehensive facilities for marketing, storage and information are also needed. This is because Bangladesh has the potential to earn more than 1.8 billion in 18 years from exports of fresh and processed food items.

Finally, given the right opportunities, women can make great contributions to the agricultural sector. Therefore, access to agricultural knowledge can help open a new window for women. Furthermore, this access has the potential to increase the productivity of this sector, enhancing the role of agriculture in Bangladesh poverty reduction.

Agriculture is an important engine of growth for the Bangladesh economy. This is why changes in some of the conventional agricultural practices are essential for this sector to contribute more to alleviating poverty in the country and improving the lives of its people.

– Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Flickr

Floating SchoolsFloating schools are exactly what their name suggests, they are schools floating on water, typically on a boat. They are essential to providing year-round education in regions where rainy seasons and flooding often disrupt the school year for the most vulnerable children. Floating schools have proved to be incredibly effective in providing an uninterrupted education in places like Bangladesh, Nigeria and Colombia where extreme weather often makes getting an education more difficult.

Bangladesh

Bangladesh is located in the massive delta created by the Ganges, the Meghna and the Brahmaputra Rivers meaning that the majority of the country is below sea level. The monsoon season, from June to October, can leave up to two-thirds of the country under water. Naturally, this extreme flooding makes it impossible for children to get to school for a significant part of the year which can be very harmful to a developing mind.

Enter the nonprofit Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha and its 23 floating schools. The floating schools usually take the form of large boats and use solar panels to provide electricity and power computers. These schools bring the classroom to Bangladeshi children when they cannot get to it themselves. In addition to the school boats, Shidhulai Swanirvar Sangstha operates a flotilla of boats acting as libraries, adult education centers and solar workshops. In 2012, the organization won the U.N. Prize for Inspiring Environmental Action.

Nigeria

The neighborhood of Makoko in Lagos, Nigeria spans across the Lagos lagoon making the region at perpetual risk of flooding and waterlogging. Around 250,000 people live in Makoko in crude housing that often deteriorates because of heavy rains. These conditions make it especially difficult to give children in this community a consistent education. The Nigerian architect, Kunlé Adeyemi, in collaboration with the Heinrich Böll Foundation and the United Nations, designed and built Makoko’s prototype floating school. The school was three stories, used plastic drums to stay afloat and housed around 100 students.

Unfortunately in 2016, after the school had been decommissioned, the structure collapsed during heavy rains after what Adeyemi described as “three years of intensive use and exceptional service to the community.” The Makoko community and the international community alike welcomed the school. In 2014, the floating school was shortlisted for the design of the year award and an improved version of the school is already in the design process to replace the collapsed one.

Colombia

In northern Colombia, in the town of Sempegua, the rainy season invariably brings flooding and disruption. Andres Uribe and Lina Catano, in partnership with the United Nations Development Fund and Colombia’s National Disaster Risk Management, constructed and inaugurated the first floating school in Latin America in 2014. The architects behind the project designed the school so that it could float during the rainy season and function on ground during the dry season, making it operative year-round. The schoolhouse can fit 60 children and around 400 underprivileged families will benefit from the floating structure. The school is also part of a loftier project that Uribe outlined, “and when we talk about floatable housing solutions, we are not just imagining schools, but houses, health centers, sports centers, or commercial zones, so the town can continue to be productive.”

These floating schools provide consistent access to education to children who otherwise would not be able to get to school on a regular basis, but also provide viable infrastructure solutions to places where persistent flooding has been disruptive for decades. Floating schools are just the beginning; the future leaders educated inside these schools are sure to continue developing the full potential of floating infrastructures for their communities.

– Isabel Fernandez

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Energy Poverty in BangladeshBangladesh was recently promoted from a lower income country to a lower middle-income country as per the World Bank’s GDP per capita benchmark. Bangladesh’s economic growth rate remained around 6.5 percent in 2012 to 7.3 percent in 2017.

The demand for electricity rose, as a result, thrusting the government into focusing on eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh. However, misuse and improper management of energy contributed to the shortage of electricity and load shedding became a daily phenomenon.

Here are some additional facts about energy poverty in the country:

Only around 59.60 percent of the people in Bangladesh have access to electricity with 180 kilowatt-hours of energy per capita in use, which is very low compared to other countries. Rural areas tend to suffer more as they face more load shedding than urban areas.

Bangladesh heavily relies on natural gas and furnace oil, followed by coal, for electricity generation. As of February 2017, the installed power capacity shows the reliance on natural gas is of 62 percent.

This raises concerns over energy security due to the increasing fuel imports and high dependence on coal and gas for electricity generation. Yet, the country has been failing to meet its electricity demand. Therefore, it is trying to focus on meeting its energy needs and providing access to electricity all over the country.

Progress in Eradicating Energy Poverty in Bangladesh

In September 2018, there was significant progress in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh when the country managed to meet its energy production target of 20,000 MW. Bangladesh also set a new target of generating 24,000 MW of electricity by 2021, 40,000 MW by 2030 and 60,000 MW by 2041.

As of 2018, the number of power plants amounted to 108, a significant increase from the 27 power plants in 2009. Bangladesh ranked 90th among 115 nations on the global Energy Transition Index (ETI) which benchmarks countries on how well they balance their energy security and access with environmental sustainability and affordability.

Bangladesh made progress due to a strong political commitment, a stable policy regime, the use of grid expansion and generation sources and an investment-friendly environment in the infrastructure sector.

Some Upcoming Projects for Eradicating Energy Poverty in Bangladesh

  • Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant – Bangladesh’s first nuclear power plant, the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) project, is being constructed in Rooppur, a remote village on the western side of Bangladesh in the Pabna District. The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) implemented the project under the Ministry of Science & Technology. The project is apart of an intergovernmental agreement between Bangladesh and Russia. The nuclear power plant of 2,400 MW capacity, with two reactors of 1,200 MW each, is one of the major efforts in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh. The project’s expected completion is by 2024.
  • Matarbari Coal Power Plant – The 1,200 MW Matarbari coal-fired power plant project, implemented by the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Ltd (CPGCBL) and assisted by the Japanese International Cooperation Agency, will use imported coal to generate power. The plant will have two units, each having a production capacity of 600 MW. The project will also include a deep sea-port.
  • Rampal Thermal Power Plant – This 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant in Bagerhat district of Khulna is a joint venture between India’s National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh Power Development Board. It is expected to be the country’s largest power plant.

Expansion of Renewable Energy

On March 1, 2019, the World Bank approved $185 million to add up to 310 MW renewable energy generation capacity and also to mobilize around $212 million from the private sector, commercial banks, and other sources to meet the increasing demand for electricity. The Scaling-up Renewable Energy Project in Bangladesh by the World Bank will build the first 50 MW segment of a large solar panel energy park in the Feni district. This project should provide better access to clean energy and cut emissions by an equivalent of 377,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year.

With the rapid economic growth in the country, Bangladesh has made some notable progress in addressing its growing electricity demand. Through increased diversification of its energy mix and more ambitious projects on the way, major accomplishments are expected in eradicating energy poverty in Bangladesh.

Farihah Tasneem
Photo: Creative Commons

Bangladesh’s Food Processing IndustryBangladesh, a small country in South-East Asia about the size of Arkansas, has the seventh-largest population in the world. With over 1,115 citizens per square kilometer, Bangladesh is also one of the most densely populated and poorest countries. Like many overpopulated nations around the world, Bangladesh has experienced a huge spike in poverty over the last thirty years. Lack of resources and capital causes a decrease in food production and sales. However, there has been a breakthrough in Bangladesh’s food processing industry.

Bangladesh and Agriculture

Bangladesh is a country heavily-reliant on agriculture to boost the economy and support the people. The agricultural sector makes up 30 percent of the total GDP and 60 percent of the total labor force. As a result, agriculture is the largest source of capital in Bangladesh.

Even with a large value, the agricultural sector alone wasn’t enough to fully support the economy and alleviate high levels of poverty. This is particularly due to the fact that farming is dependent on the climate. Heavy rains and flooding lead to a poor harvest of rice, tea and jute, Bangladesh’s greatest exports. To prevent an economic crisis from agro-production failure, farmers and officials came together to revolutionize Bangladesh’s food processing industry to increase production and overall profit.

Transition to Agro-Processing

The Bangladesh Agro-Processors’ Association (BAPA) has been dedicated to establishing a sustainable agro-processing and food exporting system to improve harvests and monitor financial trends throughout the region.

Established in 1998, the BAPA began as a small nonprofit organization with few members. The organization has a goal of increasing food production and export value in the agricultural sector. By training local farmers to use advanced technology and techniques, the BAPA could see improvement in the amount of crops harvested. Additionally, they could see the reduction of crops lost to insects and weather.

The process was a slow start. The beginning of the 21st century was mostly spent training farmers to adopt modern agro-processing techniques, conducting experiments and gathering data. Studies show that, without agricultural reform, poor farmers only had food security during the good harvest years and even less in the bad ones.

With productive agro-processing training and innovation local farmers were able to increase their market output throughout the region. In fact, profits also increased. Poverty was decreasing now that the food and labor industry was increasing. Within ten years, the benefits began to spread.

Improvement of Bangladesh’s Food Processing Industry

By 2013, Bangladesh’s’ food processing industry was generating over 150 million dollars in revenue from food exports each fiscal year, with no signs of slowing down. In the 2017-2018 fiscal year, this number sky-rocketed to 372 million dollars. Consequently,  Bangladesh’s economy became one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

With the economy improving, citizens of Bangladesh are earning more money and seeing prosperity even in the poorest neighborhoods. The food processing industry has had a significant impact on the level of poverty in South-East Asia. For example, the number of people living below the poverty line in Bangladesh dropped from 44 percent in 1991 to 13 percent in 2017.

With the agro-processing industry striving to generate $1 billion by 2021, there is hope to completely eliminate poverty in what was once a seemingly hopeless community. With improvements being made every day, there is a bright future for Bangladesh’s food processing industry.

– Becca Cetta
Photo: Flickr

children with disabitiesThere are approximately 1.5 billion people around the world living with a disability. These individuals face significant barriers to receiving an education, particularly in developing countries. Children with disabilities in Bangladesh, for example, are often misunderstood by their parents, community members and educators, making it difficult for them to attend school. Showing links between poverty and disabilities helps make this issue a priority of the Bangladesh government and other organizations working in the nation.

Poverty and Disabilities

In developing countries, poverty and disabilities often reinforce each other. According to the World Bank, 15 to 20 percent of the poor in developing countries are disabled. Many disabilities are created by conditions caused by poverty, including lack of healthcare access, poor hygiene and sanitation, dangerous living conditions, war and violence, insufficient nutrition and natural disasters. These conditions improve the likelihood of people developing disabilities in the first place, of which 50 percent are preventable.

Being disabled is an additional disadvantage for the impoverished, one that makes it even less likely for an individual or their family to rise out of poverty. When access to education for children with disabilities is low, these children are not able to learn the skills needed to work and earn money for themselves or their families. As a result, they tend to be dependents their entire lives, creating an additional economic burden for those who care for them.

In Bangladesh, husbands and wives in impoverished families often both need to work. With a disabled child, however, mothers are often prevented from working, eliminating that source of income. Additionally, medical care for the child is expensive and generally inaccessible to impoverished families in Bangladesh. While it is not the child’s fault that they are disabled, their disability can be difficult for impoverished families to bear and may make it impossible for them to break the poverty cycle.

Barriers to Education

As of 2010, there were approximately 1.6 million children with disabilities in Bangladesh, and fewer than 5,000 of them were enrolled in education programs designed for the disabled. Special education programs are not present in many Bangladesh schools. As a result, most educators are not trained to effectively work with children with disabilities.

Many schools deny admittance to children with disabilities, and those who do go to school often drop out within a short period of time. In addition to lack of adequate programming, the school buildings themselves are often inaccessible to those with disabilities. They lack elevators, automatic doors, handicapped toilet facilities and more.

Furthermore, the impoverished parents of children with disabilities in Bangladesh are often illiterate and do not have access to information about the rights of their child. They may not know that their child has a constitutional right to an education. Furthermore, even if they do know, they lack the funds needed to fight for their child.

Families and communities sometimes also lack information about what it means to be disabled, particularly if they are poor and illiterate. Children with disabilities are sometimes neglected and ignored and are often kept inside the home to prevent ridicule from the community. Abuse is also common, particularly for girls. Females are at an increased risk of physical and sexual abuse.

Improving Access to Education

The government is working to implement reforms that will increase education access to children with disabilities in Bangladesh. Many of these reforms include ensuring knowledge about the disabled is more widely disseminated. Community awareness programs are needed to teach people about disabilities, reduce stigma and generate more support for improving education for children with disabilities.

Additionally, knowledge of disabilities must be included in the basic training of teachers, and it can be reinforced or introduced to current teachers through in-service training. While it is also beneficial to have some teachers who can specialize in working with children with disabilities, all teachers need to be trained so that disabled children have a better chance of succeeding in any classroom.

Programs for Children with Disabilities

As of 2011, the government opened 13 primary schools specifically for people with disabilities. They are also implementing 64 integrated programs within high schools for the disabled. These efforts are undoubtedly making an impact, but many children with disabilities may not have access to these locations. There is a definite need to significantly expand these programs, creating more schools focused on disabilities around the country and ensuring all schools have programs for children with disabilities.

In the absence of widespread disability programming at public schools, BRAC has been working to expand education for children with disabilities in Bangladesh. More than 30,000 non-formal education centers have been established across the nation over the past two decades, and currently, 43,000 children are using these education centers. BRAC is committed to ensuring that the impoverished children and those in remote areas have access to schools.

Overall, efforts by the government and outside agencies, including BRAC, are an important step forward, but further growth and expansion are needed to ensure that all children with disabilities in the nation are able to access high-quality education. This will reduce the economic burden on their families and, hopefully, allow them to find work once they reach adulthood, helping them and their families escape poverty.

Sara Olk
Photo: Flickr

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable AgricultureThe Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) is a huge non-profit organization established in Switzerland by the company Syngenta, a multinational chemical and agriculture business. Founded in Switzerland in 1999, Syngenta was acquired by the government-owned Chinese company ChemChina in 2017 for $43 billion, which is reported to be the largest corporate acquisition by China to date. To some, this may sound like e a conflict of interest, all for optics and profit. However, with backers such as the United Nations, several governments and charities such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has legitimate support.

What the SFSA Does

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture helps small farmers across the developing world on many fronts. It offers insurance programs for small farmers with affordable premiums to help them if the weather turns foul or their livestock gets sick. This is an enticing and helpful deal for farmers, especially in areas where the weather can be inconsistent. The SFSA also helps farmers plant crops that are more likely to weather the storms and produce a higher quality product at a higher yield.

To take full advantage of their new product, the SFSA teaches marketing and other business strategies to their farmer partners. With a surplus of crops, these farmers can now make a profit whereas before they barely made a living. One of their partners is Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh. Normally, Venture Investment Partners Bangladesh specializes in capital gains, but they also have a social outreach program that focuses on improving working conditions, pay and other social policies including improving nutrition in Bangladesh.

Failure and Success

In the United States, specifically in the State of Kansas, the Syngenta had a rocky start. In 2011, Syngenta introduced GMO corn seeds to Kansas farms before it had the approval to trade with China. This oversight closed off an entire market to these corn growers and processors, causing the price of corn to drop and resulting in the loss of profits. A class-action lawsuit followed. In 2018, a Kansas federal judge ordered Syngenta to create a fund to pay $1.5 billion in damages to companies and farmers in the corn business.

Since 2014, Syngenta and the United Nations have been working together in Bangladesh. This program was initiated to educate farmers on better farming techniques and to get their opinion and input about the issues they face. To do this, the SFSA held townhall-style meetings where they met and listened to these farmers. Since the SFSA started working in Bangladesh in 2001, 30 of their farming hubs have been created. Farmers who have participated have seen a 30 percent increase in productivity per acre and a 34 percent increase in household income.

Though it may have had a rocky start, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture has since proven itself to be an asset to a farmer around the world. Looking at joint projects with other organizations around the world, it is easy to see a lot of benefits. It is providing humanitarian aid around the world in the form of agricultural aid and education. Increasing sustainable agriculture and crop yields will go a long way to helping alleviate poverty around the world.

Nicholas Anthony DeMarco
Photo: Flickr