Agriculture and Human Values

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 473–487 | Cite as

Moving away from technocratic framing: agroecology and food sovereignty as possible alternatives to alleviate rural malnutrition in Bangladesh

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Abstract

Bangladesh continues to experience stubbornly high levels of rural malnutrition amid steady economic growth and poverty reduction. The policy response to tackling malnutrition shows an overwhelmingly technocratic bias, which depoliticizes the broader question of how the agro-food regime is structured. Taking an agrarian and human rights-based approach, this paper argues that rural malnutrition must be analyzed as symptomatic of a deepening agrarian crisis in which the obsession with productivity increases and commercialization overrides people’s democratic right to culturally appropriate, good, nutritious food. Using qualitative insights from a case study of three villages, this research illustrates how agricultural modernization and commercialization reproduce rural malnutrition by degrading local biodiversity and the rural poor’s access to nutrient-rich diets. In so doing, it undermines the official discourse’s simplistic and literal reading of malnutrition as a pathological health condition resulting from the mere absence of certain micronutrients in the human body, and thus questions the adequacy of the proposed solutions. Instead, this research suggests that solving malnutrition in large part involves facilitating the rural poor’s access to nutritious diets through democratizing and reorganizing the agriculture sector in a manner that is eco-friendly and unconstrained by market imperatives. It cautiously advances agroecology and food sovereignty as possible alternatives, while recognizing that overcoming the challenges agrarian class conflict, gender disparity and urban–rural divide pose would not be easy.

Keywords

Agroecology Biodiversity Capitalist agriculture Food security Food sovereignty Malnutrition Bangladesh 

Abbreviations

FAO

Food and agriculture organization

FPMU

Food planning and monitoring unit

GDP

Gross domestic product

GoB

Government of Bangladesh

GR

Green revolution

MDG

Millennium development goal

NGO

Non-governmental organization

P2015DA

Post 2015 development agenda

Notes

Acknowledgements

This work was supported by Hankuk University of Foreign Studies Research Fund. My deepest gratitude goes to Juel, Kamrul, Mehedi, and Milon for helping me gain access to the research sites. I sincerely thank Daniel, Julia, Saee, Theresa, and the participants of 2015 ADI Food, Feeding, and Eating in and out of Asia conference at the University of Copenhagen for their insightful comments on an earlier draft of this paper. I also gratefully acknowledge the two anonymous reviewers and the editor for their valuable suggestions and feedback.

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of U-Peace, Graduate School of International and Area StudiesHankuk University of Foreign StudiesSeoulRepublic of Korea

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