© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti

Cities engage to improve nutrition for all

© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti

In Bangladesh ever more people are moving into towns. Ensuring everybody decent housing, drinking water, adequate food is a challenge. Helvetas is working with the City of Cox’s Bazar to increase access to safe and nutritious food to the most vulnerable families with the technical support of the City of Zurich.    

  • Project Name
    IC4N - Inclusive Cities for Nutrition
  • Project Phase
    2022 to 2025
  • Funding
    City of Zurich, Donations from Foundations and private donors
  • Thematic focus
    Urban Engagement
    Food & Nutrition

In just about 10 years two thirds of the Bangladeshi population will be living in cities. Mid-sized urban centers such as Cox’s Bazar are attracting ever more people from the surrounding villages in search of better opportunities. Ensuring a decent house, water, health care or schools for a rapidly growing population is a huge challenge. Many families are living in informal settlements, built in areas exposed to flash floods and landslides,  with little access to clean water and adequate toilets. Often, they can rely only on insecure jobs and insufficient income, which leaves them at great risk of poverty and malnutrition. When the money is scarce families are forced to cut portions, reduce the number of meals, forgoing the most nutritious items.

Moreover, almost a million Rohingya people who fled from the violence in neighboring Myanmar, are now living in the world’s largest refugee camp on the outskirts of Cox’s Bazar. Providing for the needs of these people poses additional pressures on food supplies contributing to exacerbating the price spikes linked to the international crisis.

© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Awareness session on nutrition with a group of women in Teknaf Pahar, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
The "leading mother" Pollobi Proba De Setu (centre) conducts a cooking demonstration in Pollaina kata, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti

Trained mothers lead others

The IC4N project works with the city of Cox’s Bazar in 12 vulnerable neighborhoods to increase communities’ awareness on the nutritious value of food, and on storing, preparing, and cooking good practices. Under the guidance of “lead mothers”, trained by the project, women meet to learn how to cook their vegetables, or how to properly wean their babies. Families are encouraged to grow their own organic vegetables even in the small free spaces available. We provide seeds, organic fertilizers, and pest traps along with the support of experts from the community. These local service providers (LSP) are trained by the project to advise participants on agricultural techniques.

Furthermore, Helvetas will engage the local market sellers to enhance quality and hygiene standards of fruit, vegetables and other food items through proper transportation, preservation, and handling of goods.

Ensuring everybody has enough nutritious food requires efforts from many different actors and local authorities can play a crucial role in support and harmonize those efforts. Helvetas works with Cox’s Bazar municipality to foster a better understanding of the local food system and envisage ways to improve their functioning.

© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Rubi Akter, 30, started her homestead garden with IC4N project in Biddogona, Cox's Bazar © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Aysha Begum, (left) 53, owner of a demo plot of the project with Local Service Provider (LSP) Hamida Begum, 35, Teknaf Pahar, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Jannatu Ferdous, 22, in her garden, Bagh Ghona, informal settlement in Cox’s Bazar. © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
© Helvetas/Franca Roiatti
Woman Local Service Provider (LSP) Nur Mohol (second left) conducts an agriculture training session in Lighthouse Para, Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. © Helvetas/Franca Roiatti

Cooperation with Zurich and Mbeya in Tanzania

To achieve this goal, we are also facilitating the cooperation between the cities of Zurich and Cox’s Bazar. This cooperation promotes political dialog, the exchange of knowledge and collaboration on specific projects. Thanks to a monitoring system, the individual aspects of a food system like production, transportation, storage, preparation, etc. are to be permanently safeguarded.

The IC4N initiative is apart from Cox’s Bazar implemented in Mbeya, Tanzania, and facilitates a South-South-Learning process. Best practices from both cities will be shared and both projects will therefore also contribute to global joint learning on urban food systems.