There are three basic commodities that we need in life. These include food, clothing, and shelter. However, of all of these, food is the most important since we need the nutrients that are in food in order to survive. Despite this fact, there are number of people that do not have access to this necessary commodity. Some individual in a country is full of the said commodity while in other situations, it is the whole nation that is faced with the scarcity of the commodity. Bangladesh is one such country. Over the past years, Bangladesh is often on television with pictures of emaciated children begging for food. The situation has been getting worse over the years, with the number of people losing their lives due to increasing hunger. There are many factors that have been attributed to this crisis by several humanitarian organizations that are looking into the situation in Bangladesh. This paper will discuss the food crisis in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a country located in South Asia. Its capital city is Dhaka, and it is bordered by India on all sides. The present day Bangladesh is part of the historic region of Bengal, which is found in the North East of India. The country has a population of about 158 million people who are mostly located at the cities. Bangladesh has a stable government led by Parliamentary democracy, but despite all this, there is a looming food crisis in the country.
One of the factors that have been associated with the food crisis in Bangladesh is the agricultural price. Since the early 1950’s, agricultural prices have been rising at a faster rate than the industrial prices. There is an acceptable rate at which the primary products and manufactured products should relate, for the economy to be stable, and this is not the case in Bangladesh. The population of the country is also increasing at an alarming rate, and this is the other reason why the agricultural products are high in prices. The prices are so high such that the inhabitants of the country cannot afford the simplest and cheapest of the food commodities (Dowlah, 2006). Many economists view the agricultural terms of trade as an influential instrument in the determination of food security in a country. The next section of the article will be a literature review of the policies that have been in place in Bangladesh from the 1950’s, and the impact that they have had on the food situation in the country (Dowlah, 2006).
Although Bangladesh has been on a constant food crisis, there are two experiences that were most formidable, these occurred in the early 1970’s. The first crisis occurred in 1972 after the nation’s liberation war, and plunged the country into a near famine situation. Great suffering was caused to the whole of Bangladesh’s population. The second crisis that occurred in 1974 ended in a devastating famine and led to the death of a great number of people. Adam Smith in 1976 differentiated the cause and effect of these occurrences, and showed that market forces would work to provide a remedy to the situation. His argument was that the market forces would work to shuffle the grains from the areas of high surplus to those that had a deficit, and therefore create a balance, alleviating the food shortage (Dowlah, 2006).
A Robert Malthusian’ 1800 view pointed out the fact that with the ever increasing population that is placed against the growing needs of people, hunger and other forms of human misery were unavoidable consequences. However, according to Karl Marx in 1891 and 1973, the root cause of hunger and other forms of human misery lies in the capitalistic mode of production that was being adopted by most nations. The increasing rate of accumulation of capital leads to a surplus of labor, which in turn leads to persistent hunger and other forms of misery (Dowlah, 2006). These are the views that various economists came up with in relation to the looming food crisis in Bangladesh.
The nine-month long guerilla warfare that led to the liberation of Bangladesh in December 1972 destroyed the countries’ economy. There was a total stop on all the income generating activities in the country during the war. The worst hit was agriculture, the mainstay of the economy in Bangladesh. The country mainly depends on agriculture with the production of the major crops in the country being rice, jute, and tea. However, during this period, there was a great decline in the production of these commodities that the whole of Bangladesh really depends on (Dowlah, 2006).
During the war, a lot of people were dislocated; this was followed by a critical shortage in agricultural ingredients, factors that prevented proper planting of crops. This led to a great decline in the amount of food that was being produced as compared to the earlier years especially rice, which is the main crop in the country. The production of the main crop rice fell to 5.70 million tons after the war as compared to the earlier year where it was 6.95 million tons. As a result, the food availability declined from 388 lbs to 332 lbs., causing a food crisis in Bangladesh. In addition to this problem, 90 percent of the population lived in the rural area where 10 percent of the landowners owned 35 percent of the land while the lowest hardly owned 1 percent. Feudalism still existed since more than 84 percent of cultivable land was owned by rich landlords, and the rest of the population languished in poverty and unemployment (Dowlah, 2006).
This situation caused an additional food crisis since the people that owned the small parcels of land were busy working at the rich landowner’s farms and has no time to cultivate their own parcels of land for their own basic food consumption. Unrelenting natural calamities such as massive monsoonal floods did not make the situation better. There were droughts in addition to the lack of chronic shortage of agricultural inputs such as seeds and fertilizer. This was after the liberation of the country, and the situation only got worse (Dummet, 2008).
In the recent years, 2007-2008, there was a hike in the prices of food globally, and this also affected Bangladesh. According to a research carried out by FAO in 2008, the global prices of rice, wheat, corn, and coarse grains doubled between the years 2005 and 2007. The hike in food prices affected Bangladesh that is dependent on agriculture, which earns close to 30 percent of the gross domestic product. This leaves the average household in Bangladesh to spend close to two thirds of its income on food, yet this is a country that is internationally known for poverty (Uraguchi, 2010). Therefore, a majority of households are left with little or no food, the women are affected since they have to sacrifice little food that is available for their children and husbands, and thus they end up having little or no food for themselves.
In a study carried out in three locations of Bangladesh: Gangachara, Saturia, and Sharon Khola, it was discovered that a large number of households were headed by women. In Gangachara, over 36 percent of the households were headed by women, the highest compared to the other locations (Uraguchi, 2010). This is attributed to the increase in the number of rural urban migration by the men. Many husbands migrate to the capital city Dhaka in search of jobs and take long to return; however, most of the time, they do not return to their homes leading to separations. This has an impact on the food security in these locations due to less labor that is there to aid in the cultivation of the scarce land (Uraguchi, 2010). The women who are left behind by their husbands have the task of looking after the children, and barely have the time to cultivate their land. This is because they prefer to look for some form of employment by cultivating the rich landowner’s farms in exchange for a little sum of money. Most of the time, they earn as little as one dollar a day in exchange of the hard work that they do on the farms.
The food crisis in the country increases since the money is too little to buy enough food for the whole household, and the farms that the families have are not being cultivated. The food hike has also increased the workload of women in Bangladesh. This is because, at the peak of the food price hike, women have to spend an additional 20 percent of their time in search for cheaper food (Uraguchi, 2010). This is mostly in the distant areas; they also have to work for longer periods in order to increase their income so that they can afford the available food and also to save on costs. For example, before the onset of the price hike, most of the women in Bangladesh took their grain to the grinding mill; however, with the price hike, most of them now grind their grain with the manual grinders at home. This is an increase in the workload of women who now have less time to spend on their farms (Uraguchi, 2010).
Another aspect that cannot fail to be mentioned when looking at the food crisis in Bangladesh is the disease leprosy. According to a study carried out by Feenstra, et al. in 2001, leprosy is still endemic in Bangladesh. Despite the disease facing a near eradication in the whole world, it is still prevalent in some of the poorest regions of Bangladesh. This is especially in the Northwest region of the country where there is a Leprosy Mission Bangladesh that is working to control the disease. The new case detection rate was 1.25 per 10,000 inhabitants by the year 2008 (Feenstra, et al., 2010). Of the cases that were examined, there was deterioration in the living conditions in 8.9 percent of the people due to the disease. All these patients had severe forms of leprosy. This impacted the food crisis wherein the people that were affected could not go out to work to look for food (Feenstra, et al., 2010). The situation is made worse by the fact that the health of the people deteriorated faster due to lack of food.
Poverty and leprosy make the food crisis situation even harder because the people that are affected have all these problems, they are poor. Therefore, the prospect of seeking or medication is hard; the little amount of money that they have is used to look for food. The increase in the number of people that are affected by the disease means that there are few people helping to solve the food crisis, and the situation is not solved in any way (Feenstra, et al., 2010).
The government of Bangladesh has made several efforts to control the food crisis that is looming in the country. One of the ways that has been used is the distribution of food to some of the worst hit areas, but this has not been of much help. This is due to the poor state of roads that makes it hard to access some of the areas that are remote. The number of people that turn up for the aid is increasing by the day, and the whole process is becoming chaotic. Earlier, there used to be only two queues: one for men and the other for women; but at the moment, the number of queues that are there for the food aid has increased to four, and the people are becoming impatient (Dummet, 2008). This has led to a lot of scrambling, and people are already too weak to get hurt in the struggle.
There has also been the introduction of food stamps and school feeding programs to help alleviate the situation in Bangladesh. This has helped since most parents were resolving to take their children out of school so that they could help in the search for food. The government of Bangladesh has also attempted to stabilize the food grain market prices since they are crucial in the determination of the welfare of both the producers and consumers; particularly the poor people (Demeke, et al., 2009). The impact of the high prices of food increased the Bangladesh food insecure population by 7.5 million in the year 2008. This has led to an increase in the dependency rate on various programs that are there to help feed the starving nation. The government has tried to widen the areas that they assist, but the high local and international prices have made it impossible to assist all the poor families. The government is not in a position to buy sufficient quantities from the local markets, since they can only offer a price that is 15 percent less than the original price (Demeke, et al., 2009).
These are the various strategies that have been used by the Bangladesh government to contain the food crisis that is looming in the country, but they have not been very successful. There has also been international aid from various organizations that have been in aid of Bangladesh but the large population has made their effort less fruitful. Strict measures need to be put in place to ensure that Bangladesh has food security to ensure that the country develops.
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