A Journalist Champions Uptake of Zinc Rice for the Health of Bangladeshis
December 3, 2020

Rezaul Karim Siddique is a journalist who has devoted the past 37 years to promoting agricultural development in Bangladesh. As an anchor of “Mati-O-Manus”—the flagship agricultural program of Bangladesh television (BTV)--since 1983, he is a well-respected influencer in the realm of agriculture. He is also a columnist, anchors a live show, “Shaymol Bangla,” on agricultural issues on the Bangla Vision channel, and moderates a radio program for Bangladesh Betar (National Radio Centre).  

After being introduced to biofortifed zinc rice through interactions with the  Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and HarvestPlus, he was fascinated with the technology and wanted to find out as much as he could about it.  He participated in several workshops and seminars, and has been promoting zinc rice for its nutritional benefits to his audience. He has developed more than 150 reportages on agriculture, fisheries, livestock, poultry, forestry and environment.

Thanks to his humble and amiable personality, Siddique can connect with farmers in rural communities, and they listen to his expertise and respect his guidance on farming practices. During the COVID-19 pandemic in Bangladesh, Siddique was actively advocating that the government implement a safety net program for farmers and provide them biofortified zinc rice seed.

In addition to being a journalist, Siddique is also an Ashoka Award fellow and the founding member of he Bangladesh Safe Agro Food Efforts (BSAFE) Foundation.  He established the BSAFE Foundation in 2009 as a nonprofit civil society organization with a goal to improving safe and nutritious food intake of the people of Bangladesh. His advocacy for the uptake of nutritional zinc rice has borne results, as he would regularly meet with government ministries and secretaries, playing a unique role in introducing zinc rice to more and more farmers. For example, a daily virtual talk show produced by the BSAFE Foundation would discuss the nutritional value of zinc rice and how it could combat zinc deficiency in Bangladeshis.  

When asked why he supports the uptake of zinc rice throughout Bangladesh, Siddique said: “Rice is the staple food in Bangladesh. People consume it every day, so we need to promote biofortified rice to ensure food and nutrition security for marginalized people who would otherwise not have an adequate amount of zinc in their diet. Zinc rice is not just rice, it's wholesome nutrition and more people need to start eating it.”

Saddique has broadcasted several TV shows on zinc rice from all over Bangladesh. In his shows, he spoke about the performance and agronomic benefits of the available zinc rice varieties in Bangladesh from the discussion with the farmers in different events like farmers field day. He also interviewed Howdy Bouis, a World Food Prize Laureate for his seminal work to develop biofortification, and founder of HarvestPlus.

Saddique continues to advocate with policymakers to include biofortified zinc rice in different national programs and policies to improve the nutritional status of people living in rural Bangladesh.

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