“Food security is surely the most pressing issue for the people,” she said in her inaugural speech for the FAO 36th Regional Conference for Asia and the Pacific, which she delivered virtually from Abu Dhabi on Thursday.
The regional conference session is being held in Bangladesh for the first time.
“About 305.7 million people in South Asia still suffer from hunger. We can arrange food for them easily if we all make a sincere effort.”
She proposed three measures to ensure this food security – collaboration on agricultural research and education, the transfer and sharing of cutting-edge technology in the agricultural sector, and special funds to finance and support the huge investment needed for modern agriculture.
She quoted the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who said at the UN in 1974: “Let us together create a world that can eradicate poverty, hunger, war, and human sufferings and achieve global peace and security for the well-being of humanity.”
It was Bangabandhu’s initiative that led Bangladesh to join FAO in 1973. The prime minister said Bangabandhu was keenly aware that 85 percent of people in Bangladesh lived on agriculture which was outdated and dependent on the whims of nature at the time he came to power. Due to poor yields and damaged crops, people were forced to starve, she said.
During his three and a half years in office, Bangabandhu introduced a host of measures to attain food autarky while rebuilding the war-ravaged country, Hasina said. The Awami League had followed in his footsteps, making agriculture a top priority, she said.
Bangladesh has diversified in the years since, but agriculture still remains the main source of employment for Bangladeshi people, with 40 percent of the labour force dependent on it for their livelihood, she said.
“Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in the production of rice, vegetable, fruit, fish, meat, egg and milk production in the last 13 years. Bangladesh also became self-sufficient in rice production by producing nearly 38 million tonnes of rice a year,” Hasina said.
Bangladesh has also adopted the ‘Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan’ and the Delta Plan 2100 to address the threat to sustainable agriculture from climate change.
“In order to ensure sustainable production, we are converting to modern agricultural practices like mechanisation, floating agriculture, rooftop farming, hydroponic and aeroponic farming and integrated farming.”
“Our scientists have developed flood, drought-resistant and salinity-tolerant crop varieties that can be grown in those difficult environments,” she said.
In order to continue these advancements in agriculture, the nations of the region should come together, Hasina said.
“The COVID-19 pandemic revealed how vulnerable human beings are in the face of such disaster. It has also revealed how the human race by acting together can face such challenges.”