Author/s:

Misra, M.

Publisher:

Springer Link

Year of Publication:

2017

Bangladesh continues to experience stubbornly high levels of rural malnutrition amid steady economic growth and poverty reduction. The policy response to tackling malnutrition shows an overwhelmingly technocratic bias, which depoliticizes the broader question of how the agro-food regime is structured. Taking an agrarian and human rights-based approach, this paper argues that rural malnutrition must be analyzed as symptomatic of a deepening agrarian crisis in which the obsession with productivity increases and commercialization overrides people’s democratic right to culturally appropriate, good, nutritious food. Using qualitative insights from a case study of three villages, this research illustrates how agricultural modernization and commercialization reproduce rural malnutrition by degrading local biodiversity and the rural poor’s access to nutrient-rich diets. In so doing, it undermines the official discourse’s simplistic and literal reading of malnutrition as a pathological health condition resulting from the mere absence of certain micronutrients in the human body, and thus questions the adequacy of the proposed solutions. Instead, this research suggests that solving malnutrition in large part involves facilitating the rural poor’s access to nutritious diets through democratizing and reorganizing the agriculture sector in a manner that is eco-friendly and unconstrained by market imperatives. It cautiously advances agroecology and food sovereignty as possible alternatives, while recognizing that overcoming the challenges agrarian class conflict, gender disparity and urban–rural divide pose would not be easy.

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