Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday called upon the South Asian leaders to take necessary steps to establish a "SAARC Food Bank" to ensure food security in this region.
"I would like to urge the South Asian leaders to take necessary steps to establish the SAARC Food Bank as soon as possible. Let the (food) bank be a 'friend in need' so that not a single human being dies of starvation in our region," she said.
The Prime Minister made the call while addressing the inaugural session of the 3rd meeting of SAARC Ministers of Agriculture held at Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel in the morning. The Ministry of Agriculture and Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh have jointly organized the three-day meeting.
Sheikh Hasina also requested the policymakers for taking steps to formulate a "SAARC Seed Bank" in order to ensure the participation and empowerment of the farmers in the area of seed.
The Prime Minister said there is no alternative to joint initiatives of the countries of the region to eradicate poverty and hunger from the SAARC nations.
"We don't want a single human being to remain unfed and suffer from malnutrition. We want to meet the basic needs of every citizen. But it is not possible for an individual country to achieve it, rather a joint effort is required for this purpose," she said.
In this connection, the Prime Minister said Bangladesh has always put emphasis on regional cooperation to improve the lives and livelihood of the people of the South Asian countries.
After independence of Bangladesh in 1971, she said, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman felt the need for regional cooperation to improve the lives and livelihood of the people of the South Asian Region, which he expressed in February 1972 at a state banquet in Kolkata.
"Since then, Bangladesh has always been keeping regional cooperation high on its foreign policy agenda," she said.
The Prime Minister stressed the need for more "concrete cooperation and collaboration" among the SAARC states and focusing on several key areas to ensure sustainable development in agriculture.
Sheikh Hasina said agriculture constitutes the key element of the economies of most of the SAARC countries till today despite dependence on agriculture in GDP declined in some countries.
"Agriculture plays formidable role in creating jobs in rural areas, providing food and nutrition and supplying raw materials for industries," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said food remains at the top of the basic needs for human being. "Despite remarkable success and progress of civilization, and science and technology, it is yet not possible to ensure adequate food for all the people on the planet," she said.
Pointing out that ensuring food security is closely linked to agriculture, the Prime Minister said it's also a multi-faceted and complex issue.
"I hope that the ministers and experts attending the conference would formulate recommendations that would help eradicate poverty from this region through increasing agro-production in a sustainable manner," she said.
The Prime Minister reiterated her government's unwavering commitment to ensuring food and nutritional security for all the people of this region.
After achieving remarkable success in Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), she said, Bangladesh adopted Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) last year.
In Bangladesh, she said, agriculture contributes around 16 per cent in GDP and is still the major provider for rural labour force. "Our agriculture has made tremendous progress since independence," she said.
The Prime Minister also highlighted Bangladesh's success in fish production, livestock sector as well as developing stress-tolerant crop varieties and technologies to cope with the adverse impact of climate change.
Describing "education" and "human development" as the best ways to eradicate poverty, the Prime Minister elaborated massive programmes her government took in this area.
"We have declared in 2009 that Bangladesh will be a middle-income country by 2021. Now we can say that we are at the threshold of the target," she said.
The World Bank, she said, has already recognised Bangladesh as a lower middle income country.
Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury presided over the inaugural session of the meeting, while current chair of the Meeting of SAARC Ministers' of Agriculture and Indian Minister for Agriculture and Farmers Welfare Radha Mohan Singh and SAARC Secretary General Arjun Bahadur Thapa spoke at the function as special guests.