Food Insecurity is Rising
Matthew Jay Yang
The agricultural revolution is the name given to a
number of cultural transformations that initially allowed humans to change from
a hunting and gathering subsistence to one of agriculture and animal
domestications. Today, more than 80% of human worldwide diet is produced from
less than a dozen crop species many of which were domesticated many years ago.
When we talk about Agricultural Revolution we refer to
improvements in agricultural techniques. To feed the ever growing population of
a country the agricultural system must adapt to various innovations and tool
technologies. Good governance ensures
adequate productions and surplus of food.
Scientists are in continuous pursuit of increasing food
production within the limited farm land. Today’s agricultural
revolution is largely driven by the advances in biosciences. Modern
biotechnology applications are speeded up by plant cross
breeding process with respect to conventional plant breeding approaches as
well as land management. Today hybrid and genetically modified crops are grown
in fields at a commercial, global scale.
In a country like Bangladesh with high density of population
requires the dependence on plant and animal domestication entailing a number of
other environmental adaptations including deforestation, irrigation, and the
allocation of land for specific crop cultivation. Overpopulation along with
decrease of the land-to-human ratio has made the need for food security of
topmost priority of the nation. About 32 percent of people in this country
still live below the poverty line and do not have sufficient access to
affordable food. It is worth mentioning that of recent years Bangladesh has
made tremendous improvement in ensuring the food availability but in spite of
it, the shocking reality is that even with the sufficient food production, 26
percent of people are still chronically food insecure.
Bangladesh is still predominantly an agrarian society. Being
self sufficient in food production is the biggest challenge for the country. With
limited agricultural land, proper utilization of the farm land is crucial to
adequate food production. Being able to produce large quantities of farm crops
alone is not the solutions to food security. Food storage and food
preservations techniques are just as important.
Despite making tremendous success in food production,
Bangladesh is still experiencing limited access to sufficient food. Although 60
percent of people living in the rural areas are directly or indirectly engaged
with agriculture, land distribution inequalities led to people’s
disproportionate access to food. Small farmers, those owning 0.5-1.49 acres of
land, are the major population of Bangladesh, who consist of 44.6 percent of
the farming communities. These small farmers mainly have access to cereals but
other basic food items are not sufficiently available for them. Poverty is
another factor that makes access to food difficult and ultimately creates food
insecurity. Bangladesh has made significant progress in reducing poverty rates and
improved its extreme poverty situation with the passage of time but changes
were not significant.
Since 2002 food production has actually been keeping
slightly ahead of demand but that does not keep room for errors. The down side
is that the size of arable land has decreased due to many factors like removing
of the topsoil for brick making, river erosion, housing and industrial
development, etc. On the upside the country has been spared from major natural
calamities, like flooding, storms, earthquakes, etc. If statistics should been
taken for its scientific values, Bangladesh should not be complacent of its
good fortune. With inadequate food reserve should the country be struck with
any sudden misfortune in the disruption of food production the country will
face an insurmountable challenge in resolving the crisis.
As the graph above shows food production has almost kept
pace with the size of the population, however should the food production reach
its point of diminishing returns there will be catastrophic consequences.
In normal times Bangladesh’s food prices fluctuates
tremendously. This volatility is an indication of the country’s unpredictable
food production and food distribution management. Although the Consumer Price
Index (CPI) for the past five years has been pretty stable with the acceptable
inflationary rate of around 5.9%, but the food inflation rate fluctuates as
high as 20% for grains and 150% for farm produce. The unpredictable food prices
are a constant threat to the majority of the population who are on a fixed
income bracket. Bangladesh ranked 83rd, is the lowest among South Asian
countries in the Global Security Index - 2019.
Bangladesh is not food secure and the probable future
challenges may make the situation more critical. However, climate change is
considered as one of the key challenges for food security. Food security is
directly dependent on the agricultural sector and climate change influences the
agriculture rigorously. The changing patterns of hazards and natural calamities
such as irregular and untimely rainfalls, uneven temperature fluctuation,
salinity rise, ill-timed drought, river erosion, and floods have made
Bangladesh more vulnerable to food insecurity in the coming days. An expected
estimation counts that climate change may cause up to US$26 billion loss to
Bangladesh’s agricultural sectors during the 2005- 2050. This loss may be more
in rice production and leads to 3.9 percent reduction in rice production per
year. The effect of climate change is harsher with regard to the majority of
farmers, since they belong to the smallholding farming community.
Besides, the increasing conversion rate of agricultural land
to nonagricultural land could have adverse impacts on food security. One-third
of the agricultural land was lost in the last 30 years due to the unplanned
urbanization in this country. This losing pace does not seem to slow down
considering the overpopulation and tendency of people to convert into urbanized
citizens. The population of Bangladesh is predicted to reach about 260 million
in the mid-21st century, which will bring about severe food shortage in the
Investment in sustainable agricultural and fisheries’
productivity growth should be ensured to get sustainable supply of food over
the long term. This includes investment in innovations, such as
climate-resilient varieties that can enable the sectors to respond to the
challenges posed by climate change
If global warming is something to be taken seriously and the
rise in water level will inevitably inundate a good portion of the country then
adaptability is the solution for Bangladesh. More commercial farming of aquatic
plants should be introduced as well as growing from soil planted vegetables to
growing from water surface. Closer to the shores in the Bay of Bengal the
ubiquitous “Sea Weed” the high nutritious plant used in Sushi and snacks can be
As rice is the main staple diet contributing to over 63
percent of the caloric intake for urban consumers and over 71 percent for the
rural population, with a much smaller percentage wheat or maize in the form of
flour consumed, more than 73% of the arable land is utilized for the plantation
of these crops. That leaves about a quarter portion of the land for cultivation
of other basic essentials so Bangladesh must tackle not only proper land
management but also crop management to ensure food safety net for the country.
Also Bangladesh household and income expenditure for food accounted for nearly
54 percent of total consumption expenditures, a share approaching 60 percent in
rural areas. These data underscore the predicament not only of the 60 million
Bangladeshi still struggling to climb out of poverty, but of the millions more
that soaring food prices are dragging below the poverty line.
Contemporary technologies should be developed and
disseminated to the farmers. Farmers should be encouraged to cultivate
diversified crops. Besides, more studies should be conducted on the climate
change and the strategies to cope with it.
Bangladesh goes through periods of bumper farm harvest
without benefitting much on the windfall due to poor infrastructure support for
the farmers. Middlemen are the biggest hurdles to the farmer’s interest. As
logistics are the main determining factors in the profitability of the farmer’s
product, other solutions can be implemented to provide solutions to seasonal
uncertainty of market price of their product.
In the last decade Bangladesh has managed double and even
triple the productions of fruits and vegetables. But in spite such bounty
farmers could not really capitalize on the efforts as most of the time their
product has no means to reach the market. World Food Program estimates that
every year about 35% fruits and vegetables are discarded by the farmers because
of their inability to market them in a gainful manner.
To tackle food security and promote agro based economy the
country need to focus on the following ideas:
of innovative farming methods
new breed of fruits and vegetables
of Agricultural mechanization
on Food Processing and Preservation
Agricultural Production Efficiency is how farmers can
produce the maximum harvest from a limited amount of land.
Innovative Farming means adapting to newer cultivation
method as humans constantly discover better ideas to growing better crops.
Planting Diversified Crops will enable farmers to leverage
their risk in the dependency of a sole crop. Different types of crops can also
revitalize the soil conditions.
Agricultural Mechanization is the trend in human evolution
since animal draught power has gradually been supplemented by the use of
two-wheel tractors. However, there are opportunities to use these machines more
widely for transport, for threshing and other agricultural tasks.
Food Processing and Preservation not only extends the life
of perishable farm produce but can also convert them to Value Added Products.
Food Storage ensures the availability of continuous food
supply year round especially in times of national calamities.
In Bangladesh the following percentage of crops are planted
in the Cultivated Area:
All types of Rice 67%
Other Oilseed 1%
The purpose of this report is to identify the imminent food
security threat and finding solutions to it. As Bangladesh is experiencing
significant reduction in per capita farm size due to factors like growing
population, conversion of farm lands to non-farm use and land erosion, all
aspects of farming deficiencies are addressed here and proposals are suggested.
MUJIBNAGAR is first seat of governing power of independent
Bangladesh. Currently known as Meherpur, it came into being as one of the
smallest Upazilla in 1983. This place is recognized famously where the first
Sovereign Bangladesh government was convened. Meherpur is basically an agro
based district where 68.95% of the local population earns their livelihood
through agriculture. Bangladesh’s Public Private Partnership Authority (PPPA)
has proposed a PPP model to initiate a pilot project for Equipment based
Agricultural Farm Revolution. For this purpose they are soliciting Foreign JV
Partners to help make this plan a reality. Should this pilot project be
successful then the idea is to duplicate the model nationwide.
Sino Bangla SilkRoad Company Limited, a consultancy firm,
shares the idea of the PPPA and has already worked on constructing the model of
this pilot project. We have a comprehensive study and proposals will work
exactly to a successful outcome of project. We have also contacted Chinese
Agricultural institutions and government departments and have received
favorable response to which we hope we can arrange cooperation according to the
As the name suggest, Equipment based Agricultural Farm
Revolution, emphasis is given on the mechanization of farming for the pilot
project in Meherpur. Along with the transfer of technology to be introduced in
modernizing the farming method will revolutionize the agricultural development
China and Bangladesh share much similarity in the type of
farmland available. Unlike western countries where farms are typically of mega
size in hundreds or thousands of acres at a stretch, but farms in this region
are mostly family owned subsistence farmers with land size ranging from half an
acre to an acre. For such types of farm land specially designed farming tools
are needed. When we talk about mechanized farming we typically mean large farm
machinery cultivating large expanse crop land for as far as eyes can see.
Whether it is soil tilling, planting, irrigation are harvesting wev have
watched videos of machinery at work in the great plain of America, Argentina or
Ukraine but these equipments are of no use to a country like Bangladesh. China has been leading the way in many
innovative small scales farming machinery that are perfectly suited for
Bangladesh. So we believe a PPP plan can be structured involving both the
governments of Bangladesh and China and private agricultural machinery
companies of China and participate with their equipments and expertise to a
business model for a win win objectives for all parties.
Sino Bangla SilkRoad Company Limited (SBSCL) a consultancy
firm, has communicated with many farm machinery manufacturer having patents to
many innovative technologically advanced farm equipments that are ideally
applicable to Bangladesh agricultural community. SBSCL has also conducted
meetings with Agricultural Research Institute of China for extending support
from the government level in developing and growing the agriculture sector of
Bangladesh. SBSCL believes that a concerted effort from multiple participants
like Local, Provincial and Central Chinese government along with Chinese agricultural
machine manufacturer and Chinese food product importers can participate in some
form of cooperation with the Public Private Partnership Authority of Bangladesh
to strategize a plan to completely revolutionize Bangladesh’s farming technique
and business model of marketing their products from farm to consumers both
domestically and internationally. As China has recently opened their market for
Bangladesh’s product tax free, it is high time Bangladesh gear up its
production capabilities to access that market. Agriculture product
manufacturing is a labor intensive industry so Bangladesh will stand to benefit
in the near and long term. The objectives are to help the farmers understand
and learn the greater benefits in preserving their farm perishables and
ultimately converting them to Value Added Products. A new farming model and
marketing system will be designed and implemented and for that a qualified
farming community will be selected as a pilot project.
These are the objectives of the revolutionary farming
or efficient consumption of farm resource like water, fertilizers.
the farm output.
use of labor.
or eliminating the use of harmful pesticides.
of new varieties of cash crop.
how to operate farm equipments to maximize efficiency in planting and
farmers how to process and preserve the perishable crops for storage.
farmers how to convert their crops to Value Added Products.
Several scenarios of farming model can be adopted to ensure
a successful outcome. The following plausible method can considered.
will run as cooperatives under the directives of the Chinese partners.
Farm will remain independent but they will participate in
Farm will be contracted to PPPA and partners and farmers
will work as business partner.
otherwise known as farming crops under solar panels) can boost food production,
electricity, and save water. Building resilience in renewable energy and
food production is a fundamental challenge in today’s changing world,
especially in regions susceptible to heat and drought. Agrivoltaics, also known
as solar sharing, is an idea that gained traction in recent years. Few studies,
however, have monitored all aspects of the associated food, energy, and water
systems, and none have focused on dryland areas—regions that experience food
production challenges and water shortages, but have an overabundance of sun
energy. Many of us want more renewable energy, but where do you put all of
those panels? As solar installations grow, they tend to be out on the edges of
cities, and this is historically where we have already been growing our food,
So which land use do we prefer? Food or energy production? This challenge
strikes right at the intersection of human-environment connections.
Agrivoltaics is the answer to balancing both.
Research has found that the Agrivoltaics system
significantly affected three factors that affect plant growth and
reproduction—air temperatures, direct sunlight, and atmospheric demand for
water. The shade the PV panels provided resulted in cooler daytime temperatures
and warmer nighttime temperatures than the traditional, open-sky planting
There was also a lower vapor pressure deficit in the
Agrivoltaics system, meaning there was more moisture in the air. It is also
found that many of our food crops do better in the shade of solar panels
because they are spared from the direct sun. In fact, total crops like pepper,
jalapeno, and cherry tomato plants production was three times greater
under the PV panels in an Agrivoltaic system, and tomato production was twice
as great. Jalapenos produced a similar amount of fruit in both the Agrivoltaics
system and the traditional plot, but did so with 65% less transpirational water
loss. It is found that the Agrivoltaics system significantly affected three
factors that affect plant growth and reproduction—air temperatures, direct
sunlight, and atmospheric demand for water. The shade the PV panels provided
resulted in cooler daytime temperatures and warmer nighttime temperatures than
the traditional, open-sky planting system. Its been found that each irrigation
event can support crop growth for days, not just hours, as in current
agriculture practices. This finding suggests we could reduce our water use but
still maintain levels of food production. It is noticed that soil moisture
remained approximately 15% higher in the Agrivoltaics system than the control
plot when irrigating every other day.
Combining Solar Power Generation and farming is becoming
very practical and efficient use of land and resource. This project is one
which uses available space in the most effective possible manner. Taking
advantage of space under solar panels is an innovative way to create a good
environment for mushrooms to grow. The environment needs to be dark and humid
for mushrooms to spawn. This idea is suitable to create environment for farming
by making use of vacant space under the solar panels. The newest developments
in solar technology is to discover how mushroom farming and solar power are
being combined to make improvements for farms. Beside mushrooms many other
vegetables can be grown under the solar panels that require partial shade to
grow. Most importantly for remote or far flung areas from main power grid, the
power generated from this Solar Power can be utilized locally.
Climate change is already disrupting food
production across the globe so this methodology is an innovating and game
changing solution to our two very basic challenges, growing food and producing
Examples of a few exportable Value Added Products:
Preserved White Cabbage
Preserved Green and Red Chillies
Fermented Bean Curds
Flash Frozen Precut Mix Vegetables
Dehydrated Seasonal Fruits
Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
Licorice Sweetened Fruit Snacks
PPPA’s vision of revolutionizing the agricultural sector can
be realized with a well founded plan, a bold move and the right partners. As
mentioned earlier, all participants willing to come together for a win win
cooperation in a true public private partnership of bringing economic
emancipation for the farmers while supplying safe and wholesome and farm
products that are free from harmful chemicals to consumers domestic and
international. Farm production will increase significantly by means of adopting
best seeds, implementing innovative planting techniques and utilization of
mechanization for efficient and speedier harvesting.
Teaching the farmers how to convert the farm perishable to
non perishable Value Added Products will finally bring the farming community of
Bangladesh into the 21st century. Procurement of farm machinery and other major
investment like cold storage and climate controlled warehouses can be
structured with the participation from JICA or World Bank and Bangladesh Bank.
Government can also help by initiating a special regulatory order to waive most
taxation for this program. Chinese government will provide all training and
transfer of agricultural technology free of cost and Chinese food product
importers will in some form facilitate the exports of these farm products to
China and elsewhere including the handling of logistics.
Realizing a true Greener Sustainable Bangladesh.
Matthew J Yang (Matt) a Chinese-American researcher has a
Masters of Business Management from the USA and has worked in the US financial
market for the past three decades. During the 2008 Financial Crisis, Matt was a
contributing member team in the framing of the Bill for the Frank-Dodd Wall
Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act after the worst financial meltdown in
the history of the US. Quartz, a company formed by Matt is a think tank to
collect, research and evaluates business data to help the investors in
Bangladesh including the State Owned Enterprises.