Crop diversification helps increase the intake of nutritious food by giving households more options to choose from food items in the country, said a study released on Tuesday in the city.
Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA), an international research body and BRAC, a development organization, jointly conducted the study from 2010-11 to 2014-15 with 500 participating households in 12 villages of 11 districts.
The study titled ‘Crop diversity, dietary diversity and nutritional outcome in rural Bangladesh: Evidence from panel households’ revealed that underweight population among the participants reduced by 4.5 percent over this period.
The findings further show that over the study period the normal weight population among the participating households increased by 2.3 percent. Also the underweight male population reduced by 4.4 percent, while female population of the same category reduced by 5.3 percent.
“Econometric analysis revealed that crop diversity level has direct influence on dietary diversity and, thereby, on the nutritional status of the individual,” the study said.
The findings of the study were presented at a seminar styled ‘Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Bangladesh’ on Tuesday at the BRAC Centre Inn. The event was supported by UK AID.
Addressing the seminar, Agriculture Secretary Md Kaykobad Hossain said it is difficult for Bangladesh to mitigate the challenges including that of increasing the nutritional intake for the 160 million people with limited resources.
As part of its efforts, the government is giving emphasis on distribution of nutritious food items besides rice under its VGD (Vulnerable group development) programme.
“Rice cannot fulfill our daily need of food intake. So, the government is now motivating the farmers to produce new crop varieties apart from rice,” he said.
‘Besides food crop production, we’ve to increase our focus on building quality storage system,’ the Agriculture Secretary added.
Director of BRAC’s Research and Evaluation Division Prof Abdul Bayes who along with LANSA-BRAC consultant Dr Uttam Kumar Deb led the study said, “It’s true that Bangladesh has made better progress in increasing people’s nutritional intake than some of the disadvantaged African nations, but to make further progress our farmers need to reduce their dependence on rice cultivation.”
Prof Bayes in his presentation pointed out that during the study period, 99 percent of the farmland was under rice cultivation throughout the monsoon, which changed outside the rainy season to bring more than 45 percent of farmland under non-rice crops.
BRAC Agriculture and Food Security Programme’s head Dr Md Sirajul Islam, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) research analyst Tauseef Salahuddin, BRAC’s senior research fellow Barnali Chakraborty presented three separate papers at the event.
WorldFish country director Dr Malcolm Dickson and Agriculture joint secretary Balai Krishna Hazra, among others, spoke at the seminar.