Talking About Food: Ambassador Vasquez in Bangladesh

Posted by Gaddi Vasquez
April 1, 2008
Biscuits Fortified with U.S. Wheat Flour in Bangladesh

Ambassador Gaddi Vasquezserves as the 8th United States Representative to the United Nations Organizations in Rome. Next Entry:Talking About Food II

Rice made the headlines across Asia as I arrived in Bangladesh over the weekend. Not Secretary of State Rice that is, but the staple food. The rising price of rice is setting off alarms. Everyone is talking about food. Perfect timing for me to stop here for a few days and take a look at the work of the United Nations food and agriculture agencies. A group of journalists from Morocco, Italy, India, Iraq and Qatar is joining me for the visit.

Cyclone Sidr struck within a couple hours drive of where we arrived today -- an industrial town in southwestern Bangladesh called Khulna. We'll use this outpost as our base camp to venture even further from the capital city Dhaka in the coming days.

Staff of the World Food Program (WFP) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) painted a vivid picture for us yesterday of the challenges that remain for cyclone recovery. Since last November, these UN organizations have done a commendable job pooling talents to assist cyclone victims generate income and rebuild their livelihoods. Their technical know-how and years of experience helping the Bangladeshi people prepare for, respond, and recover from natural disasters continues to pay off. An early warning system alerted the population to last year's approaching storm and fewer people lost lives in the immediate aftermath than in previous cyclones. Lives were also saved through WFP's rapid response. Cyclone Sidr hit at 6:00AM and WFP delivered food into the hands of men, women and children by 1:30PM the same afternoon. $5 million in food aid from the American people helped meet the urgent need.

Four months after Sidr, emergency feeding programs continue to keep malnutrition at bay. Our group hopped a short flight this morning to Jessore and stopped at the Resco Factory that through a partnership with the World Food Program produces nutritional biscuits to feed local school children. I watched as the company's overwhelmingly female workforce made and packaged the biscuits. Their employers give them literacy training and access to an on-site daycare center and group medical insurance. There I am in the photo (see above) standing right next to factory managers and the biscuits cooling as they make their way out of the oven. Refreshing to learn that the biscuits give kids the energy they need to get a good education and empower their mothers as well.

Our last visit of the day reemphasized the power of community leadership in supporting development. We were privileged to spend part of the afternoon in a lively discussion at the Imam Training Academy in Khulna with sixteen imams, many of whom live in areas affected by Cyclone Sidr. The imams are alumni of a USAID-funded, Asia Foundation-implemented educational program on modern practices of development and democracy. It was encouraging to hear them talk with candor on empowering women, protecting children, fighting terrorism, and generating economic opportunity. Through our dialogue we found a great mutual interest in our priorities and values of tolerance, diversity and social harmony. These imams are leaders of influence whose words are valued and measured by the people. Their broader view of development and collaboration with civil society is a step in the right direction.

Signing off for the night. More on food tomorrow.



Tennessee, USA
April 1, 2008

Joe in Tennessee writes:

I stated in a response on another topic that we do need to have a longer view of all aspects connected to our relationship of population vs. availability; regardless of the compounded problem of the economic dynamics associated to what is available. It is a simple fact that this earth can only support so many people. There is nothing complicated about that. We are ingesting more fresh water than is available, without even adding our consumer needs and support functions.

The overall nature of the problems this world is facing is a relative situation to the basic needs of the people worldwide and the negative pattern of economics from all Free Societies is resulting in a transition of standard valuation. It is the new age premises of bartering when there is no validity in currency. How do we give? We back it up with tangible goods and services including Military Protection and development ...and who is going to keep farming for free? Who is going ship for free? Who is going to store for free? Who is going to work for free? We need to develop a more valid economic system worldwide.

No leadership can stay in power if their people remain hungry. TODAY read: World prices are soaring due to Asia’s growth. Abidjan -- At least a dozen protestors were wounded during several hours of clashes with police on 31 March as they demanded government action to curb food prices.

Bangladesh is facing a lot of problems and not adapting to them. They are losing ground due to environmental changes and instead of redeveloping inland, we help rebuild on flood plains. While it is good to hear one good story, how can we expand that ideology productively and tangibly?

The entire world has a problem to address and the overall dynamics of Economies needs to be addressed where basic human need is concerned.

By the way: here is an article on your company:


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