Severe environmental degradation, agricultural crises, and an acute shortage of jobs for a growing youth population in rural areas have emerged as the challenges for consistent development of Bangladesh, an international food policy think tank alerted yesterday.
The think tank -- International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) -- launched its flagship annual publication, 2019 Global Food Policy Report, at a hotel in the capital.
To avoid the risks, speakers at the event stressed on implementation of decent employment agenda to attract the youths to the agricultural sector.
Shenggen Fan, director general of IFPRI, presented the report.
Agriculture Minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque addressed the programme as chief guerst, while Dr Mashiur Rahman, prime minister's economic affairs adviser, and Nazmanara Khatun, additional secretary to the Ministry of Agriculture, spoke as special guests.
Panelists at the discussion included former caretaker government adviser Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman; Professor Emeritus Dr MA Sattar Mandal; Dr Khan Ahmed Sayeed Murshid, director general of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies; and Dr Imran Matin, executive director of Brac Institute of Governance and Development.
Dr Shamsul Alam, member (senior secretary) of General Economic Relations Division chaired the programme.
The report says, “Marked by a deepening cycle of hunger and malnutrition, persistent poverty, limited economic opportunities, and environmental degradation, rural areas continue to be in a state of crisis in many parts of the world.”
Despite strong economic growth in 2018, undernourishment rose for the third year in a row, with 821 million people in the world now facing chronic food deprivation, the report said.
According to the report, there are around 150 million stunted children globally, despite a decline of nine percent between 2012 and 2017.
Mentioning that rural areas of Bangladesh remain underserved and face a wide array of challenges, the report called for rural revitalisation, highlighting policies, institutions, and investments that can transform rural areas into vibrant and healthy places to live, work, and raise families.
“Rural revitalisation is timely, achievable, and most importantly critical to ending hunger and malnutrition in just over a decade,” said Shenggen Fan, while presenting the report. “Revitalising rural areas can stimulate economic growth and tackles challenges holding back achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and climate goals by 2030.”
To overcome these challenges, IFPRI recommended a systematic approach to address rural employment, women's empowerment, environment, rural energy and rural governance.
Dr Hossain Zillur Rahman said the “youth exodus” from agriculture and rural areas is a big problem.
“We have to think how to incentivise the youth to stay in rural areas.”
About this, agriculture minister Dr Muhammad Abdur Razzaque said, “I would like to see the youth take agriculture as a prestigious occupation.”
“We have surplus production of different agricultural products. But problem is we cannot export those due to some barriers,” the minister added.
Mentioning increased labour and other production material cost, including fertiliser and pesticides, speakers urged the government to address the issue of farmers' profits.
“There must be a clear vision in rural urbanisation,” said Khan Ahmed Sayeed Murshid.