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Food Insecurity In Bangladesh Economics Essay

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Published: Mon, 5 Dec 2016

The international community often uses the term food security to describe not only the availability of food, but the ability to purchase food. It means not only a reliable source of food but also adequate resources to purchase it. When members of a family do not live in a hunger or fear for starvation then the family considered as food secure.. According to the World Food Summit(1996), “Food security exists when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Generally, the notion of food security is defined as counting both physical and economic access to food that meets people’s dietary needs as well as their food preferences. This definition of food security is built on three principal elements: adequate food availability, adequate access to food and appropriate food utilization. Food security occupies a significant position in social and political constancy of a country.

Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger is the First Millennium Development Goal (MDG 1) targeted by United Nations(2012). The apprehension of this goal would not only improve the health and well-being of millions around the globe, but it would also maintain the attainment of the remaining seven MDGs.

Food insecurity which is a condition that exists “when people do not have adequate physical, social, or economic access to food”(Food and Agricultural Organization [FAO], 2010 p8). Eradicating hunger and food insecurity is mostly important providing it is a key risk factor for malnutrition and illness, which jointly reduce productivity and economic development(Motiur Rahman et al.). Although the number and proportion of hungry and malnourished people has retreated slightly since the 2009 economic and food price crisis, an estimated 870 million people will be hungry in 2012(FAO, 2012). Little progress in poverty reduction is likely to be seen whereas hunger and malnutrition remain extensive. In other words, poverty, hunger and poor health are interlinked; the rate of each contributes to the presence and persistence of the others.

Figure 1 is a conceptual framework interpreting the linkages to desired outcomes (central and upper half of the diagram) and potential risks (lower half).

Source: Webb and Rogers, Addressing the “In” in Food Insecurity(2003)

This framework recommends that food availability obtains from domestic agricultural output such as cash crops, livestock and food crops, preferably through feasible use of natural resources (water, land and vegetation). At the national level net food imports enhance the total food availability from domestic sources. Food access deals with the capability of households to secure food in the marketplace or from other sources (transfers, gifts, etc.). Household purchasing power is the key to access and this varies in relation to market integration, price policies, and temporal market conditions. Food utilization organizes issues of food quality and safety, sufficiency of intake at the individual level, and the conversion efficiency of food by the body that results in sound nutritional status and growth. In the latter illustration, the disruption of health infrastructure, lack of nutrition education and discrimination against women in controlling resources all have a detrimental impact on individual outcomes(Webb and Rogers).

Bangladesh is a small country in southern Asia. According to the 2011 census, the population of Bangladesh in 2011 was about 149 million(Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics). Bangladesh is home to a densely populated flood plain delta in the world with 1,062 people per square kilometer(PRB, 2012). It regularly suffers from natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and drought. It is also vulnerable to the growing effects of global climate change. Tendency to natural disasters, distribution and quality of agricultural land, access to education and health facilities, level of infrastructure development, employment opportunities, and dietary and caring practices are the main factors of food in security in Bangladesh.

Food availability likely to be hampered by production failures associated with labor restraints, gender inequality in land possession and loss of productive assets needed to sustain household food production(Maxwell and Smith, 1992). The adequate production, distribution and availability of fundamental food items in Bangladesh have always been a cause of ineterst for governments, international donor organizations and socio-economic researchers. Rice is the staple food of Bangladesh and contains around 94 percent of all food grains produced per annum Food security, in the context of Bangladesh, is therefore strongly related around the production, import and price stability of rice. Food availability in the domestic market does not essentially guarantee food security for the masses. According to the BBS Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2010(BBS), 31.5 percent of households in Bangladesh have income that is considered to be below the poverty line, and a substantial portion of these poor households suffer from food deficiency and malnutrition. The major reason for food insecurity in Bangladesh is poverty, which is both the cause and outcome of food insecurity. Poor households are lack of sufficient and nutritious food, and are likely to be food insecure. Food insecure people may have to sell or consume their productive assets to satisfy their instant food needs. This destabilizes their longer-term income potential and they may become poor. To analysis food security, both national and individual perspectives are important. Food security at the national level means there are sufficient stocks of food available in the country to meet domestic needs until such time as stocks can be refilled from harvests and /or imports. On the other hand, at individual level it means all members of the society have access to the food they require, either from their own production, from marketplace and/or from different transfer system of the government. Usually the national level food security masks the actual food security situation at the household level. National level analysis always evaluates the availability and requirement of food grains. It has to be understood that availability and supply are not always the same.

Household purchasing power has major impact on access to food. This purchasing power fluctuates in relation to market integration, price policies and temporal market situations. The dominant food rice contributing to over 63 percent of the caloric intake for urban consumers and over 71 percent for the rural population based on 2010 household survey data by BBS(BBS, 2010). These percentages are much higher for the poor. A number of factors in Bangladesh prevent poor households or individuals from accessing food even adequate food supplies are available. The level of earnings may be too low to purchase the essential foods at existing prices from the market, lack of own land for cultivation, or may lack the fundamental resources or approach to credit to help handle with difficult times. Moreover, they may locate themselves exterior to any community support or program that offers them with in-kind or cash transfers to subsidize their food attainment capability. Food security has been a critical issue in the recent past regime of high food prices across the globe. In rural Bangladesh, agricultural wage employment is the major source of income for a poor household. Though, household members may be attached in a whole range of diverse liveliness throughout the year. A household becomes vulnerable to cyclical food when it depends on agricultural wage labor as this employment opening differs according to season. Through the lean seasons that are in March-April and October-November, earlier to harvesting the main rice crops, job opportunities are low. As a result there are low wage rates whereas food prices are at their peak. Earnings derived from non-agricultural sources supplies a potential safeguard across the cyclical nature of agricultural income which in turn can improve household food security.

Vulnerability can be defined as the exposure and sensitivity to livelihood shocks, a concept that begins with the notion of risk(Greenblott, 2006). Households in Bangladesh experience a multiplicity of risks that can, independently or in combination, drag them into poverty. There are shocks that involve numerous households directly, likely to overcome social coping approaches established upon support inside families and communities, and there are case-specific shocks that stress involved units. By lowering exposure to risks and rising the household’s capability to deal with shocks vulnerability can be curtailed, but responses count on the extent and severity of damage. Damage caused by natural disasters is one of the major risks encountered by poor Bangladeshi households. Huge damage to crops, houses, livestock, household and community properties occurred by floods, cyclones erosions and droughts. In each year this disasters can lead to illness and death. Physical access to food and food stocks are hampered by disaster, it destroys crops as a result markets are temporarily dysfunctional that lead to an increase in the essential food price. Household food security status affected by natural disasters directly by crippling their asset base and indirectly by loss of employment opportunities, an increase in health expenditure and an increase in essential food expenditure(Coates et al.).

Market availability of, and household access to food are not adequate to ensure food security. In what way household members utilize the food is also very important. Socio-cultural factors that determine the availability of food, access to and utilization of food affects the food consumption behavior, nutritional status, health and food security. Poverty, gender, age and disability, geographical location and cultural practices are important factors that affect food consumption patterns. Poverty directly influences food consumption due to lack of access to resources, knowledge and markets. Gender disparities in food distribution can cause malnutrition, especially for pregnant/lactating mothers and children(Coates et al., 2006). Lack of incomes is the principal driver of under-consumption and malnutrition for approximately 31.5 percent of Bangladeshis who live under the poverty line(BBS, 2010). Households that lack productive assets and depend on inconsistent sources of daily wage labor are more vulnerable to food insecurity. Groups such as landless, agricultural day laborers, casual fishermen and beggars fall into this category. Within households, children, the disabled, pregnant women and nursing mothers, and the elderly face relatively high nutritional risks. Over 60 percent of all pregnant and lactating women have insufficient caloric intake, which can produce malnourished babies(World Food Programme [WFP]). General nutritional awareness, access to proper sanitation and health care, and caring practices are essential elements of an individual’s capacity to absorb and utilize the nutrients in the diet and eventually of one’s food security status.

Other than consumption levels, different household characteristics can also show improvement in the standard of living. While standard of living and food security are anticipated to be highly linked, it would not be unexpected to find these characteristics to be related with food security issues. Therefore, it would be rational to anticipate that households with better qualities are also demonstrating lesser level of food insecurity. Quality of housing and food security level are closely related in Bangladesh(Narayan et al., 2007). Rushad Faridi and Syed Naimul Wadood(2010) stated in their study, households which are living in houses built with straw roofs (hemp/hay/bamboo) are the poorest segment of the population. Similarly, households living in houses with straw roofs, food insecurity is the most prevalent. On the other part, houses with brick wall seem to be the most food secure. These two surveillances show that household infrastructure is a strong indicator of wealth and consequentially, the food security situation. After categorizing the households by the level of ownership, occupancy status has an important role in determining the household welfare situation. Compared to other groups house owners are better off in terms of food security. Households, with their head engaged in salaried wage employment, are around 10 per cent more likely to be food insecure than households with their head in agricultural labour. In the same manner, electricity connection is also a marker showing higher orders of food-insecurity surrounded by the households which have no electricity connection. Education is clearly connected with food security issues with the assumption that household heads with more human wealth are prone to suffer less from food insecurity.

Food insecurity is a key apprehension for the global development community as it negatively impacts diet and nutritional status. Cross-sectional and longitudinal studies have shown that household food insecurity is also linked with various non-nutritional consequences in children, adolescents, and adults(Weaver and Hadley, 2009), including poor infant feeding(Saha et al., 2008), poor physical growth(Saha et al., 2009), poor child development(Hernandez and Jacknowitz, 2009, Jyoti et al., 2005), educational achievement(Jyoti et al., 2005), poor physical and mental health(Heflin et al., 2005, Siefert et al., 2004), behavioral problems and problems in parenting(Huang et al.,2010). These findings have guide to apprehension that household food insecurity influences well-being through multiple pathways involving social and psychological conditions such as deprivation, worry, distress, alienation, and alteration of family interactions as well as a pathway involving dietary intake to nutritional status(McCurdy and Gorman). These quantitative findings and the related concepts of non-nutritional pathways are supported by qualitative work showing that food insecurity, in addition to its nutrition-related effects, manifests itself through social and psychological conditions leading to altered behavior at individual and group levels.

There are various social and psychological consequences of food insecurity in Bangladesh. First, anxiety and worries, concerning not having food for consumption or other social and religious needs and regarding determinants of food availability such as flood, cyclones, drought persist throughout the year, lead to weight and sleep loss, and point out more severe food insecurity. Second, influence of socially undesirable ways of coping with food insecurity (borrowing and asking for foods) generates dishonor which contributes to and is a sign of isolation from the society. Failure by the head of household to perform his primary accountability of providing food leads to feeling guilt and deprivation. Fear of isolation and deprivation regulates the decision-making of the household related to treatment of food insecurity, including child feeding. Lastly, food insecurity changes intra-household attachment through irritability and aggressiveness in adults, and by lack of food that makes it tough for parents to keep children at home.

The weakness of social model is that it gives the blame on victims those who are food insecure as well as it pointing the finger at deficiencies in public policy and behavior of the administration. Regarding victim blaming, the ill health caused by food insecurity is not due to exclusively individual actions. Some people argued that there should be more responsibilities on the shoulders of individuals for adopting lifestyles which will diminish the risks of becoming their ill health from food insecurity. On the other hand it is not the victims who are responsible for their behavior and ill health from the food crisis. Peoples are influenced and restrained by the social, economic, cultural and physical environments in which they live and the structural settings within which they work. Thus the government’s failure to provide proper investments to reduce the food crisis may damaging the health of the vulnerable groups.

Bangladesh needs to improve the availability, access, and utilization of food. Efforts to improve food security need to take into account natural and man-made challenges and changes in the domestic and international landscape, including population growth, urbanization, natural resource constraints, and climate change. In general population growth and particularly urbanization put high and growing pressure on land, making it obligatory to increase in agricultural productivity. Millions of marginal and small farms dominate the agricultural production in Bangladesh whereas crop diversification is still limited. Smallholders need to conform to changing demands, markets, and supply chains. Furthermore, the soil is seriously degraded in many parts of the country, fresh water availability for irrigation is increasingly insufficient, and natural disasters regularly damage part of the agricultural output

The future food security plan needs to maintain successes in areas where positive trends have been seen; whereas, at the same time, achieving certain milestones that have not yet received enough attention. Public investment is one of the most direct and valuable instruments that governments can use to promote growth, food security, and poverty and hunger reduction. Given both the existing state of food insecurity in Bangladesh and the challenges that the country will face in the future, a comprehensive policy framework is needed that places focus on investment strategies in three major areas: (1) agricultural research and extension, (2) improved access of farmers to well-functioning markets, and (3) improved insurance and targeted social safety net programs for vulnerable groups, especially undernourished women and children. Across these three areas, attention needs to be focused on capacity building and good governance.

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