Since its launch in 2005, the National Food Policy Capacity Strengthening Programme (NFPCSP) has been instrumental in building Bangladesh’s institutional and human capacities to design and implement food security policies. Thus far, major achievements of the NFPCSP include:
- Improved policy and programming frameworks for a comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach to food security
- Increased human and institutional capacities of the Government of Bangladesh
- Knowledge- and dialogue-based decision making
- Greater access to information on food security
- Well advised decision making
Improved policy and programming frameworks for a comprehensive and cross-sectoral approach to food security
In the past, Bangladesh’s approach to improving food security was largely focused on food availability. As a consequence, food security was primarily seen as a responsibility of the agriculture sector and of the Public Food Distribution System; important aspects related to improving the economic and physical access to food and the nutritional dimension of food security, on the other hand, were largely marginalised.
By providing technical assistance, the NFPCSP has played a major role in enhancing capacities to formulate, implement and monitor comprehensive food security and nutrition frameworks. Three outstanding achievements include the development of the National Food Policy (NFP) Plan of Action (PoA) in 2008, the Country Investment Plan for Food Security that was first approved in June 2010 and then updated in June 2011 and the first joint Monitoring Report of the NFP PoA and CIP. These documents provide the Government and Development Partners with a consistent and comprehensive framework for addressing the availability, access and utilisation dimensions of food security across different sectors. The framework has also proved to be a very important instrument for aligning Development Partners’ interventions with national priorities.
Increased human and institutional capacities of the Government of Bangladesh
Capacity development is playing an important role in enabling the Government to better formulate and implement food security policies and monitor the food security situation in the country. At the start of the project, the FPMU had very limited office facilities and only 4 permanent staff with expertise focused on food availability and exposure in working with a comprehensive approach to food security. Today, thanks to the support provided by this programme, the agency has fully functional offices, counts 13 staff most of whom received post-graduate education abroad in subjects closely relevant to the mandate of the FPMU (9 completed a MSc, 2 are in the process of completing a PhD and a MPhil and other 1 is currently finalizing his MSc). The NFPCSP has also enhanced the analytical skills of staff of the FPMU and other relevant agencies through study tours and relevant courses (about 940 hours of in-class training and 7 study tours) in food security analysis, both in the country and abroad.
Knowledge- and dialogue-based decision making
Information plays an important role in improving food security decision making. However, successful policy making and implementation also requires achieving consensus among the different stakeholders. This implies that information-based decision making should not be separated from dialogue among stakeholders. With support from NFPCSP, the Government of Bangladesh has established policy processes that are based on both information and dialogue. This includes conducting scientific research on food security and organising regular seminars and workshops in which the Government, civil society representatives, development partners and researchers discuss findings and their implications on policy reform. So far, 60 research grants for research projects have been awarded to 135 national institutions and 44 research reports and about 90 research papers have been completed. In addition to this, 11 PhD Theses and 42 MS dissertations have been published. Preliminary and final findings from the research projects have been discussed in 12 large national consultative workshops and over 250 technical seminars and smaller workshops, including representatives from civil society, government, development partners, universities and research institutes. This research and dialogue has contributed to putting food security high on the national agenda, to increasing the understanding of food security among civil society, in improving dialogue between stakeholders and inform policy making.
Greater access to information on food security
To further facilitate and encourage the use of information in decision making, fortnightly and quarterly food security monitoring reports are regularly issued and a web-based Food Security and Nutrition Information System is under development. These provide decision makers and the general public with immediate access to food security information. The information system will allow to automatically exchange data between different agencies and will automate certain reporting functions. With a similar intention, the NFPCSP has set up a physical Documentation Centre and an electronic repository that provides easy access to reference material on food security and nutrition. Already, the online repository is the country’s biggest electronic repository on food security. The Documentation Centre was inaugurated by the Minister of Food and the Director General of FAO in presence of representatives of the Donors and other stakeholders in March 2012 and offers around 900 books and documents for consultation to the public audience. The new upgraded website is also working as a hub for easing access to information for the wide audience of users that can consult and download information on daily updated price of a selection of foodgrain commodities, regular and occasional publications by FPMU, news on the activities of the project, training material and other ad-hoc information related to food security and nutrition. This contrasts with the situation at the start of the project start, when only a very rudimentary food security data collection system was in place. Access to key food security documents was either difficult or impossible since these resources were either not available or scattered in different places.
Well advised decision making
In addition to building national capacities to inform decision making, when needed, the NFPCSP also provides direct policy advice to Government and Development Partners. For example, in the context of the 2007 floods and cyclone and the 2008 food price crisis, the programme provided information and advice to Government and Development Partners on crucial issues such as the National Food Budget, procurement price fixation, and management of public stocks and safety nets. Similarly, during the formulation of the Country Investment Plan, the NFPCSP played a central role in providing advice on the contents of the plan and promoting alignment with national policy and institutional frameworks. More recently the project helped FPMU establishing a system to monitor implementation of NFP PoA and CIP. The first Monitoring Report was published in July 2012.