Nutritional problem is the key issue along with food security in Bangladesh today. A small percentage of the people have access to nutritious food, whilst the majority is forced to survive on subsistence diets that are unbalanced and devoid of essential food ingredients (MoA-UNPD 2000). Generally, landless and marginal farmers are at
more risk nutritionally than larger households. These households have lower per capita grain availability and higher rates of child malnutrition (Talukder et al. 1997).
Of all the options available to tackle national malnutrition problem, the most practical and sustainable option would be to promote both cultivation and consumption of horticultural crops (fruits, vegetables, and spices) that could provide basic requirement of the essential vitamins and minerals (Fig. 16.12). Production of horticultural crops especially vegetable and fruits may well be the answer to the potential problems of hunger and malnutrition in Bangladesh (Javier 1992; Ahmad 1995). Daily intake of two spoonfuls - about 30 g of colored leafy vegetables can protect a child from vitamin-A deficiency (Hussain 1992). Homestead agroforestry in Bangladesh provides an excellent opportunity for farmers to produce a wide range of horticultural crops. These crops are ideal for the homestead (Talukder et al. 1995). All micro-sites of homestead from home yard to kitchen garden, and even roofs of houses help diversify household's diet through the production and consumption of some of the vegetables they produce (Miah and Hussain 2003). Dietary supplies from home gardens in studied areas in Bangladesh accounted for 3-44% of the total calorie and 4-32% of the protein intake (Torquesbiau 1992). Homestead agroforestry of Hellen Keller International in Bangladesh has been found effective in increasing the production and consumption of vitamin A-rich plant foods and in increasing the diversity of the diet, while one half of preschool-aged children and pregnant women of those countries are affected by micronutrient malnutrition (Helen Keller International 2003). Therefore, it is imperative that effective efforts are to be made for producing more fruits and vegetables through intensification of their homestead production system if severe malnutrition is to be overcome.
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