Agriculture, nutrition and the green revolution in Bangladesh

Agriculture, nutrition and the green revolution in Bangladesh

This paper explores agriculture and nutrition linkages in Bangladesh, a country that achieved rapid growth in rice productivity at a relatively late stage in Asia's Green Revolution, as well as unheralded progress against undernutrition. To do so, the authors first outline a simple conceptual model to identify the different impacts that productivity growth in a food staple(s) might have on child nutrition outcomes, with a particular focus on changes in diets at the household and child level.

The authors then apply this framework to a descriptive overview of the evolution of Bangladesh's food system in recent decades. We show that this evolution is characterized rapid growth in yields and calorie availability, but relatively sluggish diversification in both food production and consumption, despite increasing reliance on imports for dietary diversification. Next, they create a multi-round district level panel that links changes in nutrition survey data with agricultural sample survey data over 1996–2011, a period in which rice yields rose by more than 70%.

The paper then uses this panel to more rigorously test for associations between yield growth and various anthropometric and child feeding indicators. Consistent with our descriptive evidence on dietary changes, we find that rice yields predict the earlier introduction of  complementary foods to young children (most frequently rice) as well as increases in their weight-for-height, but no improvements in their dietary diversity or height-for-age.

Since Bangladesh has one of the highest rates of child wasting in the world, these significant associations between yields and child weight gain are encouraging, but the lack of discernible effects on children's dietary diversity or linear growth is cause for concern. Indeed, it suggests that further nutritional impacts will require diversifying the Bangladeshi food basket through both supply and demand-side interventions.


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