Millions Fed: Proven Successes in Agricultural Development

Improving food quality and human nutrition

While massive gains in improving the availability of and access to food were achieved in China, India, and many other developing countries as a result of these successes, far less has been achieved in improving the quality of food. Scholars have argued that the decades-old effort to raise people’s incomes to boost their calorie consumption and protein intake should be refocused to include improvements in people’s micronutrient intake and dietary diversity. With this shift comes the recognition that the pathways through which agricultural development affects hunger and food security are more complex than previously understood.

Taking aim at this challenge is an innovative program in Bangladesh that promotes home gardening, small livestock production, and nutrition education. Helen Keller International (HKI), a nongovernmental organization, worked in partnership with more than 70 local organizations and the Government of Bangladesh to encourage food-insecure households to grow their own micronutrient-rich foods for both home consumption and the market. These homestead food production programs have reached an estimated 5 million individuals and contributed to combating micronutrient deficiencies that can be major causes of diseases such as night blindness, particularly among women and children.