Speakers emphasised the importance of radically reforming the food system to ensure food for every person in the country at a roundtable virtual discussion Monday.
"The government food distribution system should be consolidated to deal with the crisis during and after the Covid-19 period," MM Akash, professor of Economics at the University of Dhaka said at the discussion titled "Food Sovereignty, an Inclusive Food System and Land Access."
To mark World Food Day 2020, the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) and The Daily Star jointly organised the roundtable discussion which was presided over by ALRD Chairperson and Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir.
Professor Akash said economic and social security must be ensured for all labourers engaged in the agriculture and non-agricultural sectors.
He continued that, if necessary, the law should be amended to expand the rights of trade unions. At the same time, in order to protect food producers, fairness must be established in the market of agricultural products and markets of agricultural inputs.
A credit insurance scheme could be introduced subject to government and central bank subsidies to protect farmers from crop losses, Professor Akash said.
Rowshan Jahan Moni, deputy executive director at ALRD, gave a subject basis presentation at the discussion. She said despite the important role of women in agriculture and food production, their labour is not recognised.
"They lag behind in terms of daily nutritional needs. Most of the country's marginalised farmers, tribal people and women are discriminated against in the food system," she added.
She fears that the crisis during and after the coronavirus pandemic could push them further into deprivation.
She said short- and long-term plans on an urgent basis and effective action in light of it could show a way out of this peril.
Chakma Circle Chief Raja Devasish Roy said that the number of indigenous refugees in the Chittagong Hill Tracts is about 80,000 who are constantly in an extreme food crisis.
To address their food crisis, Devasish demanded rations for refugees returning from India and settlers who migrated to the mountains from different parts of the country in the 1980s.
Dr Noor Ahmed Khandaker, assistant country representative of the World Food Program (WFP), said that despite the small population of the country, there was a shortage of food in 1971. Now in 2020, there is no food shortage for a population of 16 to 18 crore.
He, however, recommended ensuring easy availability of agricultural inputs for farmers to cope with the subsequent crisis of Covid-19.
Among others, Bangladesh Adivasi Forum's General Secretary Sanjeev Drang, ALRD Executive Director Shamsul Huda as well as ALRD Chairperson and Nijera Kori Coordinator Khushi Kabir spoke at the programme.