Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, many regions in Bangladesh are severely impacted, with citizens impoverished and struggling to make ends meet as sources of income have dried up. 

To address this situation and provide some relief to the people living in these areas, in coalition with other rice sector actors, HarvestPlus advocated for the government to implement a rice subsidy of 10 BDT (about USD .12) per kilo which reduced the price by almost 22 percent, providing some relief to consumers. This is being implemented by the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corp (BADC).

Meanwhile, in collaboration with various partners, HarvestPlus has been helping facilitate donations to needy households in Bangladesh. With the Society Development Committee, an NGO partner, 5 metric tons of biofortified zinc rice were distributed to needy people in the Faridpur district, located in south-central Bangladesh. These rice donations come at a time when smallholder farming households are desperately trying to stay afloat amid the economic impacts of COVID-19. 

Another partner, RDRS Bangladesh, helped distribute 1 metric ton of zinc rice seed to farming families in northwestern Bangladesh. In the southwestern Jashore district, Ali Seed Farm, a partner of HarvestPlus, distributed 300 kilos of zinc rice seed to women farmers, alongside hygiene kits and personal protective equipment (PPE). Several partners of HarvestPlus Bangladesh distributed packages of food items (including zinc rice), hygiene kits, and PPE to 680,000 families in several districts of the country. 

In the northern Bogura district, HarvestPlus’ partner TMSS  provided packs of rice for a “Humanity Store” set up by them, where they were offering various food and health care items to local residents impacted by lockdowns and other preventative measures. 

The Executive Director of TMSS, Dr. Hosne-Ara Begum, said: “TMSS is lucky to be partnering with HarvestPlus to distribute zinc rice and nutritional biofortified foods through the “Manobota Store”  (Humanity Store) as we need to strengthen the immunity of our people.”

Zinc deficiency contributes to stunting and a loss of appetite, lowers immunity, and increases the risk of diarrheal disease and respiratory infections. About 36 percent of children under five in Bangladesh do not get enough zinc in their diet. These donation drives are playing a part in providing essential nutrition to the most vulnerable in these challenging times. 

Note: These humanitarian measures of the HarvestPlus partners in Bangladesh are in addition to the already-planned direct seed distribution efforts that HarvestPlus was able to continue during the lockdown period and afterward. This includes 36 metric tons of seed distributed to 12,000 farmers under the ENRICH project, and 1,324 farmers under the BIeNGS project.