Bangladesh, a primarily agricultural society, has been plagued by poverty and malnutrition for many years. The 2010 USAID-funded Feed the Future training program, however, has empowered farmers to increase their yields. The program has improved economic status and given the Bangladeshi people the means to fight back against hunger. This can particularly be seen in the life of Taroni Kanto Shikari, whose economic status improved to the point where he could send his son to school and his daughter to college.
Hunger and food insecurity continue to plague many Asian countries, and Bangladesh is no exception. The country has a population of 160 million. Over 40 percent of that population lives on less than one dollar per day and struggles with food insecurity. A stagnating economy, rising inflation and unpredictable natural disasters all contribute to hunger in Bangladesh. As the nation’s population grows, so does its rates of hunger and malnutrition.
Malnutrition is extremely prevalent in Bangladesh, particularly among children and pregnant women. In 2015, worldhunger.org reported that 51 percent of pregnant women in Bangladesh do not consume adequate amounts of vitamin A. The site also reported that over 40 percent of adolescent girls are iron deficient and anemic. Bangladesh also has a high wasting and stunting rate, both of which stem from malnutrition and can permanently inhibit a child’s growth.
In 2010, USAID began the Feed the Future initiative, an ongoing program that fights back against hunger and malnutrition. The program operates by equipping farmers with the tools and the knowledge to increase their crop yields. The initiative consists of training seminars to teach farmers in Bangladesh better farming techniques and to equip them with better seeds and fertilizers.
Feed the Future has been very effective towards fighting hunger in Bangladesh, as can be seen in the life of Taroni Kanto Shikari, a rice farmer from the southern region of Bangladesh. As a rice farmer, Taroni’s income is dependent upon his yield. After all, Taroni says, “Rice is our life, rice is everything.” In 2010, Taroni attended USAID agricultural training, where he learned how to increase his rice yields with better seeds, fertilizer and techniques.
As a result of Taroni’s USAID-training, his rice production practically doubled and has increased steadily by 18 percent each season. His rice now requires one-third less fertilizer, reducing his production costs. He is also able to produce more vegetables with these new techniques, significantly increasing nutrient intake for his family. Taroni’s income has dramatically increased, and he can now afford to send his daughter to medical school and buy a bicycle for his son to attend school.
Hunger and malnutrition in southern Asian countries such as Bangladesh are rising issues. The problem will continue to worsen as populations rise and natural disasters ravage the region. Initiatives such as USAID’s Feed the Future program, however, are operating in countries around the world to give farmers like Taroni the tools to fight back against hunger and malnutrition.
– Chasen Turk