Shah Maps Out Food, Agricultural Priorities in Bangladesh

USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah speaks at the Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum. Photo by: USAID

The U.S. will scale up its food and agricultural investments in Bangladesh in 2010, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah told an audience of key Bangladeshi government officials, food experts and representatives of international and local organizations gathered in Dhaka on May 26.

“The United States will enhance our agriculture and nutrition teams in country and will commit $15 million this year alone towards advancing the agricultural components in your plan,” Shah said during the Bangladesh Food Security Investment Forum 2010. “In addition, we will commit $4 million to nutrition interventions such as infant and young child feeding.”

The USAID administrator explained that these commitments supplement the USD200 million that the U.S. plans to spend over the next five years under its food assistance program for Bangladesh.

“But our commitment does not end there,” Shah said.

The U.S. will also back the country’s application to the July Investment Forum of the Asian Development Bank and to the World Bank’s Trust Fund, the administrator added.

The Food Security Investment Forum 2010 was organized by the Bangladeshi government to review papers and draft investments plan that will guide the country’s national strategy and detailed food security investment plan.

Bangladesh is among the four Asian countries shortlisted as potential focus countries of the U.S.’ Feed the Future initiative.

Other U.S. engagements announced by Shah include the following:

-      Development of partnerships to boost private-sector investments in Bangladesh’s livestock, fisheries and agricultural sectors.

-      Support for the expansion of Bangladesh’s access to bank lending through the U.S. Development Credit Authority.

-      Finalization of grant mechanisms to provide equity finance to small and medium-sized Bangladeshi companies.

-      Support of research on promising agriculture and nutritional approaches, including biofortification and community management of acute undernutrition.

-      Continuous support for Bangaldesh’s science and technology-led efforts to address food security issues.

Shah also highlighted the role of women in agriculture and food security initiatives.

“Women have a central role in farming,” he noted. “And when women control gains in income, they are more likely to spend their gains on family needs. So we will encourage partners to hire women as extension workers, and we’ve asked each of our country teams to expand investments in women’s producer networks and fellowship programs to develop female agricultural leaders, who could follow in the footsteps of leaders like Matia Chowdhury.”

Chowdhury is Bangladesh’s minister for agriculture.

Shah noted that the U.S. is increasingly targeting women and children with its high-impact nutrition intervention projects. He sought Bangladesh’s support to expand existing interventions to address undernutrition in mothers and children, especially during the critical 1,000 days of a child’s life.

The focus on the 1,000-day window is part of a new U.S. nutrition strategy announced by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during the CARE Annual Conference held May 11 in Washington.

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  • Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.