In the ever-widening wake of the dual financial and food-price crises, and after decades of neglect, international attention again focuses on food security in developing countries and, more specifically, on the pivotal role that agriculture plays in achieving this end. The global development community proclaimed itself committed to agricultural development in the 2009 World Food Summit statement and the G8 L’Aquila Declaration, the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative, and the $22 billion pledge made at the 2009 G20 Summit. In order for this global momentum to take hold in any tangible way, however, it must be matched by the political and practical commitment of individual countries. As part of Bangladesh’s collective commitment to resolving issues of hunger and poverty, a National Food Policy Plan of Action carefully lays out the most up-to-date research and implementation methods for achieving countrywide food security.
The Government of Bangladesh considers agricultural development a major priority alongside food and nutrition security. While Bangladesh has experienced steady advances in food availability and security during the past several decades, including the tripling of its annual rice production, the country faces a number of persistent and emerging challenges. Future agricultural growth and food and nutrition security are threatened by population growth, worsening soil fertility, deteriorating access to increasingly scarce natural resources (such as water and land), increasing vulnerability of improved crop varieties to pests and diseases, and persistent poverty leading to poor access to food. In addition, the impacts of climate change—including an increase in the incidence of natural disasters, sea intrusion, and salinity as well as a decrease in crop output—compounded by minimal investments in agricultural research and deteriorating extension services, will exacerbate food and nutrition insecurity in the coming decades.
Bangladesh’s Ministry of Food and Disaster Management convened the Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum on May 26–27, 2010, to discuss and coordinate investment plans, priorities, and strategies to advance agricultural development and achieve food and nutrition security in Bangladesh. The Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, the International Food Policy Research Institute, and the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations provided technical support, while the United States Agency for International Development, the European Union, and the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development provided financial support. During the two-day meeting, more than 600 policymakers, government officials, donor-organization representatives, civil-society representatives, researchers, diplomats, and other guests gathered to help Bangladesh achieve its development goals in the years to come, focusing on the following six priority areas:
- Agricultural Growth and Productivity of Crops, and Adaptation to Climate Change
- Development of Fisheries and Livestock Sectors
- Agricultural Marketing, Price Stabilization, Value Chain, and Global/Regional Trade
- Income Growth, Social Safety Nets, and Public Food Distribution
- Food Utilization and Nutrition Security
- Cross-Cutting Issues: Governance and Gender
This Forum is regarded by many as a milestone in the history of country-led initiatives to identify and forge consensus on priority investment areas in each of the three dimensions of food security—availability, access, and utilization.