Interdisciplinary centre for sustainable food security focusing on crop, fish and water management.
Challenging food security dynamic
Food security is a high priority for Bangladesh, which faces an extremely challenging food security dynamic. It has a large, growing and poor population (about 160 million people, growing at an estimated 1.34% per annum, with more than 40% living below the national poverty line), very high population density and fierce competition for increasingly degraded natural resources (72% of the population lives in rural areas). Rates of malnutrition in Bangladesh are among the highest in the world.
Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) have requested assistance from Nuffic to develop interdisciplinary education and research, in the integrated field of crops, fisheries and water management for food security. Wageningen University & Research centre – in a consortium with other national, regional and international organisations – has been selected to work with BAU and BARC over a 4-year period to develop an interdisciplinary centre for education and research in Bangladesh.
The Centre for Development Innovation (CDI), part of Wageningen UR, will provide overall co-ordination and management as well as critical capacity-building and institutional systems inputs.
The project is now in the inception phase. A workshop involving all partners took place in Bangladesh mid-February 2013. This provided an opportunity to get to know one another and develop a shared vision for the centre, whilst also enabling progress on detailed activity planning. The project will address a spectrum of issues including practical organisational management, high-quality training inputs, and opportunities to build staff experience outside the centre. The interdisciplinary approach being developed will entail input from social scientists and natural scientists at BAU and BARC, working together with CDI and its partners (Wageningen University, the Asian Institute for Technology (Thailand), Can Tho University (Vietnam) and the International Centre for Development Oriented Research in Agriculture).
The partners will address seven key results: 1) the establishment of the centre, along with the necessary capacities, systems, curriculum development, accreditation and governance; 2) post-graduate training for core staff; 3) the development of capacities for interdisciplinary research; 4) strengthening the centre’s consultancy base and other forms of income generation (e.g., offering short courses on food security and gender); 5) upgraded laboratory analysis capability; 6) mainstreaming of gender into the operation of the centre and its student programmes; and 7) making sure that the centre is indeed able to meet the demands of the job market.
With rural women heavily involved in agricultural activities, but relatively low numbers of female staff in agricultural research, gender mainstreaming will be challenging but of critical importance. Nonetheless, 50% of the project-funded training opportunities are to be taken-up by women. The project will also assist in the development of a gender policy and provide gender coaching to key BAU/BARC staff. Gender awareness will be further strengthened through training (for staff and students) and by developing a short course on Gender and Rural Development, for a wider national or regional market (mid-career professionals) that the Centre will continue to run and adapt beyond the life of the project.
The project falls under the Netherlands Initiative for Capacity Development in Higher Education (NICHE), which is part of Nuffic and supports capacity development in higher education in Dutch partner countries.
More information: Ann Gordon