Crop diversification helps increase the intake of nutritious food by giving households more options in food items to choose from. A study, conducted from 2010-11 to 2014-15, reveals that underweight population among the participant community reduced by 4.5 per cent over this period.
The findings further show that over the study period normal weight population among the participating households increased by 2.3 per cent. Also underweight male population reduced by 4.4 per cent, while female population of the same category reduced by 5.3 per cent.
"Econometric analysis revealed that crop diversity level has direct influence on dietary diversity and, thereby, on the nutritional status of the individual," the study concludes.
International research body Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) and development organisation BRAC conducted the study titled 'Crop diversity, dietary diversity and nutritional outcome in rural Bangladesh: Evidence from panel households' with 500 participating households in 12 villages of 11 districts across the country.
LANSA-BRAC consultant Dr Uttam Kumar Deb and BRAC's Research and Evaluation Division (RED) director Professor Abdul Bayes led the study.
The findings of the study were presented at a seminar styled 'Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Bangladesh' on Tuesday (Dec 12) at the BRAC Centre in the Dhaka. The event was supported by UK AID, said a press release.
Agriculture secretary Md Kaykobad Hossain was present at the seminar as the chief guest, while Professor Abdul Bayes moderated. BRAC Agriculture and Food Security Programme's head Dr Md Sirajul Islam, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) research analyst Tauseef Salahuddin, and RED senior research fellow Barnali Chakraborty presented three other papers at the event.
Agriculture joint secretary Balai Krishna Hazra and WorldFish country director Dr Malcolm Dickson, among others, also spoke at the seminar.
Md Kaykobad Hossain said, "It is difficult for Bangladesh to mitigate the challenges including that of increasing the nutritional intake for the 160 million people with limited resources. As a part of its efforts, the government is giving emphasis on distribution of nutritious food items besides rice under its VGD (Vulnerable group development) programme."
"Rice cannot fulfil our daily need of food intake. So the government is now motivating the farmers to produce new crop varieties apart from rice," he further said.
"Besides food crop production, we have to increase our focus on building quality storage system," added the agriculture secretary.
Professor Abdul Bayes said, "It is true that Bangladesh has made better progress in increasing people’s nutritional intake than some of the disadvantaged African nations, but to make further progress our farmers need to reduce their dependence on rice cultivation."
Professor Bayes in his presentation pointed out that during the study period, 99 per cent of the farmland was under rice cultivation throughout the monsoon, which changed outside the rainy season to bring more than 45 per cent of farmland under non-rice crops.
The community in the study area, however, generally manifested a positive trend towards cultivating varieties of crops. Households with larger farms and comparatively better institutional education showed more interest about crop diversification.
The speakers also warned that an upward trend of gaining weight in a section of the community is also evident from the study. During the study period, overweight population increased in the participant households by 1.9 per cent with overweight male population increased from 3.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent and female population increased from 9.3 per cent to 11.3 per cent. During the same period, obese population increased from 0.9 per cent to 1.2 per cent with obese male population increased by 0.5 per cent and female population increased from 1.3 per cent to 2 per cent.
Summaries from three more research work were also presented at the seminar, the release added. Dr Md Sirajul Islam presented the paper titled 'A study on milk value chain for the poor in Bangladesh'. Barnali Chakraborty's paper was titled 'A capability approach to child nutrition: Parents' stories in context of haor', while Tauseef Salahuddin presented a paper styled 'Dietary patterns in rural Bangladesh: What influence of agriculture?'.