IFPRI-BIMSTEC Secretariat formalize partnership to promote sustainable and inclusive food systems transformation

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Dhaka, Bangladesh: The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) Secretariat signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) today in Dhaka. IFPRI, with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF) and the BIMSTEC Secretariat, is conducting research and facilitating capacity sharing in the region to help realize BIMSTEC’s full potential in the agri-food domain. The MoU will facilitate further collaboration and partnerships to work towards a sustainable and inclusive transformation of food systems in the region. The initial engagements under the MoU will focus on three major areas: (a) Food Security and Poverty (b) Trade and Investment, and (c) Climate change and Environment.

Regional integration is advancing at a fast pace; today over 240 regional and preferential trading arrangements exist in the world. BIMSTEC, which fosters cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal, Sri Lanka, and Thailand, and is home to around 1.8 billion people representing nearly a fifth of the world’s population with a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of US$3.6 trillion, serves as a bridge between South and Southeast Asia.

“IFPRI is delighted to engage in this partnership and work with the BIMSTEC Secretariat as well as member countries’ research institutions on capacity sharing initiatives along with outreach and policy communications through cross-country learning and idea exchange,” said Dr. Johan Swinnen, Director General, IFPRI and Managing Director, Systems Transformation, CGIAR.

Agriculture remains the largest source of employment across the BIMSTEC countries, but poverty rates among farmers and farm laborers remain high. Moreover, the region is highly susceptible to adverse impacts of climate change due to its reliance on agriculture and its large coastal areas and densely populated coastlines.

To accelerate the process of transformation toward more sustainable, nutritious, and resilient food systems, the agri-food trade, which is currently far below its potential in the region, must play a pivotal role. Increasing agri-food trade builds greater resilience to weather and price shocks, facilitates more affordable and nutritious diets, and improves farmers’ livelihoods by integrating them into regional value chains.

H.E. Tenzin Lekphell, Secretary General, BIMSTEC, observed: “The BIMSTEC region has a huge, largely still untapped trade potential. It is also home to around 1.8 billion people and is facing a number of challenges related to food and nutrition security. IFPRI is a renowned research institute that has been working for over four decades to provide research-based solutions to some of the world’s most pressing food and nutrition security challenges. By working with BIMSTEC, IFPRI can leverage its expertise and knowledge to help the region address its challenges more effectively.”

The IFPRI-BIMSTEC partnership will focus on market integration, formal and informal trade and how they interact, and the role of trade in a climate-affected world. Through capacity-sharing efforts, the project will produce toolkits for understanding trade patterns and policies, employing modeling methods as well as empirical trade analysis using statistical methods. “As the nature of trade has structurally changed, there is a strong need for retooling resources in terms of recent innovations with granular data and methods that are conventionally not employed in the analysis of agri-food trade. Combining disaggregated data and methodological innovations will be a unique contribution to our understanding of the agri-food trade in the region,” said Dr. Devesh Roy, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI.

“The toolkits, data, and other analytical outputs from the partnership will become a useful resource for other researchers, stakeholders, and policymakers in the region and globally. Timely generation of necessary data-related analytical insights can be of critical importance to policymakers,” added Ms. Mariana Kim, Program Officer, Agricultural Development, Asia region, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

The MoU prioritizes revitalizing the agricultural (and rural) sector by introducing digital agriculture for infusing on-farm technologies, promoting good agricultural practices, taking steps to ensure plant variety protection, increasing competitiveness of agricultural value-chains, establishing farmer-friendly policy formulation, and facilitating the exchange of information on agricultural achievements.

“Regional collaborations are very important in strengthening co-learning opportunities and scaling up country-specific interventions and evidences. This MoU will contribute towards learning and sharing of ideas that help with inclusive agriculture growth,” stressed Dr. Purvi Mehta, Global Growth and Opportunities, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. 

“In addition to strengthening analytical capacity within the BIMSTEC, IFPRI will help establish a regional network of policy analysts, development practitioners, private sector representatives, and other stakeholders in the agri-food policy space. The vision is to help BIMSTEC develop a self-sustaining mechanism, a policy community of practice with access to and timely dissemination of relevant data and rigorous analytical tools, to enhance policy effectiveness and the well-being of people in the Bay of Bengal countries. BIMSTEC is well positioned to offer its members valuable lessons from the experiences of other countries and regions and ensure that a sustainable food system is in place to deliver socially desirable outcomes, and IFPRI looks forward to contributing to this effort,” said Dr. Shahidur Rashid, Director, IFPRI-South Asia.


For more information, please contact: Ms. Anisha Mohan, Communications Associate, IFPRI South Asia at a.mohan@cgiar.org.

The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), established in 1975, provides research-based policy solutions to sustainably reduce poverty and end hunger and malnutrition. IFPRI’s strategic research aims to identify and analyze alternative international and country-led strategies and policies for meeting food and nutrition needs in low- and middle-income countries, with particular emphasis on poor and vulnerable groups in those countries, gender equity, and sustainability. It is a research center of CGIAR, a worldwide partnership engaged in agricultural research for development. Visit the global website www.ifpri.org and the regional website http://southasia.ifpri.info/

The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is a regional organization that was established on 06 June 1997 with the signing of the Bangkok Declaration. Initially known as BIST-EC (Bangladesh – India – Sri Lanka – Thailand Economic Cooperation), the organization is now known as BIMSTEC and comprises seven Member States with the admission of Myanmar on 22 December 1997, and Bhutan and Nepal in February 2004.

During the Fifth BIMSTEC Summit held in Colombo, Sri Lanka on 30 March 2022, the BISMTEC Leaders signed the BIMSTEC Charter and approved the reconstitution of the fourteen areas of BIMSTEC cooperation into Seven Sectors and Sub-Sectors of cooperation, namely, Trade, Investment, and Development; Environment & Climate Change; Security (Counter Terrorism and Transnational Crime, Disaster Management, Energy); Agriculture and Food Security (Agriculture, Fisheries & Livestock); People-to-People Contact (Culture, Tourism, People-to-People Contact); Science, Technology & Innovation (Technology, Health, Human Resource Development); and Connectivity. Visit the BIMSTEC website: www.bimstec.org

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