Ensuring food safety and security to improve nutritional status is not the business of one agency alone. Coordinating the work of multiple actors is necessary for the ecosystem, stakeholders say.
Decision-making bodies and implementing authorities must work together to improve the nutritional status of the population, they noted during a roundtable held in the capital on Saturday.
The event, titled “Creating a Vital City for Nutrition: The Role of Multisectoral Platforms,” was co-organized by the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), a non-profit international development organization based in Switzerland, and the country’s leading business newspaper, The Business Standard.
Md Farhad Zamil, Country Director of SFSA Bangladesh, said better coordination between municipal authorities and food safety authorities can lead to a major shift in ensuring food safety.
Dr. Hasan Shahriar Kabir, chief executive of the National Nutrition Council of Bangladesh, said there should be nutrition plans in urban slums to address the nutritional status in urban areas.
“We already have programs that we need to accelerate,” he said, adding that nutrition is not about food; in fact, it is a complete set of life.
Abdul Kayoum Sarkar, chairman of the Bangladesh Food Safety Authority, said in his comments that about 18 organizations are working on safe and nutritious food.
“But we have now taken initiatives to bring all organizations together on a single platform and improve coordination between them,” he said.
Speaking about the food vulnerability situation of city dwellers, Abdul Kayoum Sarkar said: “In general, city dwellers play the role of consumers, not producers. So, if food is contaminated in the supply chain, it is quite difficult to make it safe again at the consumer. end.”
Recommending to shorten and simplify the food supply chain, he said: “In European countries, food and agricultural products come directly to markets or producers’ stores. But, here in Bangladesh, we have several layers in the supply chain, which the chain needs to be shortened.”
The roundtable is part of the “Nutrition in City Ecosystems” project of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, which was launched in Bangladesh in August 2021.
Helen Prytherch, Head of the Health System Unit at Swiss TPH, gave a presentation on the project.
Delivering a speech at the panel discussion, Hamidul Haque Khan, Managing Director of HK Consulting, said the degree of malnutrition among city dwellers is more severe than among their rural counterparts.
“If you live in a city, you turn right or left in stores, whether it’s a super store or a small vendor store. You end up with what you find on the shelves,” he said. he declares.
“We all city dwellers are either helpless or vulnerable.”
Speaking about the role of multi-sectoral platforms in creating a vital city for nutrition, Hamidul Haque Khan said that all stakeholders in society have their own strengths and weaknesses.
“We need to harness these strengths and create collaboration among all stakeholders,” he added.
Authorities such as the Ministry of Food, Directorate of Food, Ministry of Social Welfare, Ministry of Women and Children and Ministry of Commerce are key stakeholders in making healthy diets affordable .
Recommending the way forward for Vital Cities for Nutrition, he said collaboration between ministries and government agencies is essential to develop a policy framework for an urban food system.
Speaking as a panelist, Khondakar Golam Moazzem, Research Director of the Center for Policy Dialogue, said that since Bangladesh is transitioning to a developing country, it must also have a transition in terms of food intake from the perspective of food safety and security.
On stakeholder coordination, he suggested that ministries of food and agriculture also coordinate with local and international non-governmental organizations.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is working on the Dhaka Food System Project to develop the Capital Food Agenda 2041 by mapping the city’s food system and challenges.
Xavier Bouan, Senior Technical Advisor (Food System) at FAOBD, said that he does not belong to a ministry or an organization, but that several stakeholders are involved in the chain.
Md Abdul Wadud, executive director of the Bangladesh Applied Nutrition Research and Training Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, said that despite self-sufficiency in all kinds of food except milk, the preference is a problem for nutrition.
“The government, however, is trying to cover this through its safety net program, which is also not enough to cover everyone,” he said.
Md Shahid Uddin Akbar, chief executive of the Bangladesh Institute of ICT for Development, said there are complexities in the ecosystem behind ensuring diet.
“We need to change the ecosystem with behavior and adopting a healthy lifestyle,” he also said.
Among others, SB Naseem, Managing Director of Winall Hitchech Seed BD Ltd; Dr Khaleda Islam, Director of the Institute of Nutrition and Food Science, University of Dhaka and Md Eyamin, Staff Correspondent of The Business Standard, spoke on the show.