In order to create a safe, sustainable, and resilient food system for a densely populated and fast-growing city like Dhaka, a holistic approach with support from all food relevant stakeholders is essential.
"If we fail to address food adulteration, it will be difficult to achieve our national goals. This situation will eventually affect the next generation," said Dhaka North CEO Md Selim Reza as the chief guest at a debriefing at the city's InterContinental hotel on Thursday.
As a part of a mid-term project evaluation, the debriefing was organised by the Dhaka Food System (DFS), funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands.
DFS has been working with all four city corporations – Dhaka North, Dhaka South, Gazipur, and Narayanganj – to improve the city's food system, reads a press release.
At the programme, the speakers said Dhaka has become extremely densely populated and one of the fastest-growing megacities in the world. Rapid and sustained population growth, combined with unplanned urbanisation, have created issues regarding food security, nutrition, obesity levels, food safety, and the affordability of food.
Dhaka South CEO Amin Ullah Nuri also emphasised the importance of involving many stakeholders in the food system and suggested replicating the existing pilot projects of DFS in the other areas of the city to ensure safe, nutritious, and affordable food for all citizens.
KM Faridul Miraj, Chief Social Welfare and Slum Development Officer of Narayanganj City Corporation, shared that together with the DFS project the city corporation is piloting the management of street food vendors of Narayanganj to promote better food hygiene and safety, as well as more effectively manage public spaces.
While talking about some of this project's milestones, Md Mostafizur Rahman, Secretary of Gazipur City Corporation, said, "DFS has supported the establishment of a farmer's market in Gazipur, where farmers come to sell their vegetables and fruits directly to the consumers."
Shed some light on a severe public health issue, Chief Health Officer of Dhaka North Brig Gen Md Zobaidur Rahman said, "There are more than 100 food-borne diseases. If we want to serve 20 million people in Dhaka city with safe food, we need to train 100 to 150 thousand food system actors. We must ensure health education for all types of food actors to protect peoples' health and save them from many diseases."
DFS focuses on the following food system issues: ensuring public health and food safety, reducing and managing food waste, establishing farmers' markets, managing street food vendors, strengthening food system governance, ensuring safe and functional food markets, and malnutrition and food security of the urban poor.
Abu Md Mohiuddin Quaderi, Joint Secretary of the Local Government Division was also present at the event.
Folkert de Jager, First Secretary, Water Management and Food Security of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, FAO Representative of Bangladesh, Robert D Simpson, ABM Amin Ullah Nuri, Chief Executive Officer of Dhaka South chaired the meeting, and Brig Gen Md Zobaidur Rahman, Chief Health Officer of Dhaka North City Corporation, presented opening remarks in this meeting.
Md Mostafizur Rahman, Secretary of Gazipur City Corporation, Dr Fazle Shamsul Kabir, Health Officer of Dhaka South City Corporation, and KM Faridul Miraj, Chief Social Welfare and Slum Development Officer of Narayanganj City Corporation, and Dr Nur Ahamed Khondaker, Assistant Country Representative of FAO also attend this event.
Staff members from Wageningen University & Research, FAO's partner in the DFS project, virtually participated in this meeting.
John Taylor, Chief Technical Adviser of the DFS project conducted the event.