Bangladesh, the onetime food basket case has transformed into something of a food basket - and a model for hunger reduction for the rest of the world today, said a leading weekly of the United States.
Four decades ago, the newly formed and desperately poor South Asian nation of Bangladesh saw its already-high levels of extreme poverty and chronic hunger skyrocket with floods, leading to the Bangladesh famine of 1974, said The Christian Science Monitor (CSE) published from Massachusetts on Wednesday.
"Bangladesh is one of three success stories of the last 10 to 15 years - Ethiopia and Nepal are the other two - that give us some hope on this goal of eliminating hunger," CSE quoted Glenn Denning, a professor at Columbia University's School of International and Public Affairs in New York and a noted expert in development and nutrition, as saying.
A recent United Nations report on global hunger highlights Bangladesh for having cut chronic hunger by more than half since 2000. The generally upbeat report, which finds that the number of hungry people worldwide has fallen to 795 million from 1 billion in 1990, cites Bangladesh as one of a number of bright spots in a global effort to eradicate hunger by 2030, said the US weekly.
"These kinds of successes have demonstrated that if you bring certain things together" - Denning lists economic growth, improved agricultural productivity, a focus on farmers' market accessibility, and social safety nets for the most vulnerable - "you can bring hunger down."
In Bangladesh revolution in rice production began in the 1980s has helped turn a country that was dependent to some degree on food imports into a self-sufficient producer. Small-farm mechanization, irrigation, and particular attention to boosting women's participation in the economy, along with girls' education, have combined to erase the old image of Bangladesh as a hunger hot spot.
Denning, who is a regular consultant to the UN on nutrition and development issues, says he's watching for world leaders to pay more attention to the double malnutrition burden that developing countries face as they move toward adoption of a list of global "sustainable development goals" in September. So far, however, he sees negotiators of the new goals giving the emerging problem too little attention.
"I would list three drivers of poverty reduction and hunger reduction, and all those things are happening in Bangladesh today," CSM quoted Akhter Ahmed, chief of strategy support at the Dhaka, Bangladesh, office of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
He lists regular economic growth; "human development," which he defines as a focus on education, health, and nutrition; and a "safety net" that provides cash transfers and other assistance to that part of the population that can't participate in the "growth process" as the "essentials" that have worked together to bring down high poverty and hunger rates.