Crop and dietary diversification in rural areas has positive impact on nutritional outcomes, a study revealed on Tuesday.
The study conducted jointly by LANSA and Brac between 2010 and 2014 showed that underweight population declined by 4.5 per cent while normal weight population increased by 2.3 per cent, overweight population by 1.9 per cent and obese population from 0.9 per cent to 1.2 per cent.
The findings of the study were presented at LANSA Knowledge Sharing Seminar on 'Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in Bangladesh' held at the conference room of BRAC Centre Inn.
Prof Abdul Bayes, Director of BRAC's Research and Evaluation Division, presented the findings of the study titled 'Crop Diversity, Dietary Diversity and Nutritional Outcome in Rural Bangladesh: Evidences from VDSA Panel Household Surveys' conducted among 500 families at 12 villages in 11 districts.
Prof Bayes said low weight reduced due to dietary and crop diversification. Dietary diversity score has gradually increased over the years from 8.2 in 2010-11 to 9.3 in 2014-15.
Crop diversity contributed strongly to dietary diversity. Average daily consumption level was more or less same over the five years. Consumption level of vegetables, potato, pulses, and eggs increased substantially.
Modern variety adopters had grown more crops than non-adopters and education level of the household head (years) had increased diversity in crop production.
More than 99 per cent of the total cropped area in the rainy season was under rice cultivation. More than 45 per cent of the total cropped area in the post-rainy season was under cultivation of non-rice crops, the study said.
Mr Bayes said per capita income of the household had highly significant positive association with dietary diversity at one per cent level of significance. Crop diversity has provided the growers and other households in the area with more options to choose their food from.
Income level has provided necessary purchasing power to buy diversified diet. Crop diversity and income have contributed positively towards dietary score of the same household members.
Asset ownership and remittances contributed significantly to dietary diversity of the households at one per cent level of significance.
The study said specialisation in crop production at the household level and diversity in crop production at the combined level were observed.
Daily consumption level of all food items has increased except for cereals which have slightly decreased. Average daily per capita consumption of food items by producer households was higher than that of non-producer household members. In another presentation on 'Dietary Patterns in Rural Bangladesh: What Influence of Agriculture', International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) research analyst Tauseef Salahuddin said the share of rice decreased to 73.1 per cent in 2015 from 76.8 per cent in 2010-11.
He said desirable dietary patterns and actual food intakes gaps reduced from 2011-12 to 2015. The desirable limit for rice is 350 gram per person daily. In 2011, it was 495 grams while it decreased 442 grams in 2015. Crop diversity has increased in Barisal, Chittagong, Dhaka, Khulna, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Sylhet regions.
The desirable limit for poultry and meat, egg, milk and milk products, fruits and leafy vegetables is 40 grams, 30 grams, 130 grams, 100 grams and 100 grams respectively.
The amount increased to 22 grams of poultry and meat in 2015 from 20 grams in 2011, 10 grams of egg from 5.0 grams, 36 grams of milk and milk products from 20 grams, 35 grams of leafy vegetables from 10 grams and 41 grams of leafy vegetables from 38 grams in 2011.
He said consumption of healthy diet is still very low although consumption of rice and sugar has decreased. But the percentage of households without dietary quality has declined.
Food Secretary Kaikobad Hossain who attended the seminar as the chief guest said the government has been revising the National Food Policy-2006 where the findings of LANSA-Brac studies will be helpful to formulate new policy.
Describing various steps taken by the government to ensure food security, he said rice price is going up as there is 'caricature' in the market.
While speaking as the special guest, additional secretary of the agriculture ministry Nazmul Islam said the studies have focused on quantity only, not on the quality of agro products and food. He expressed his concern about the excessive use of chemicals in various crops, vegetables and poultry and meat.
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