In 2008, the international media listed Bangladesh among the low-income countries that saw food riots during the global food price crisis. The most notable of these events took place in the pre-monsoon Dhaka heat on 13 April, when workers in the vital export-oriented garments sector took to the streets in a graphic flash of anger at low pay in a time of high staple food prices. Around that time, the government of Bangladesh set in motion efforts to stabilise food prices, to protect those hit hardest by the spike.
This research set out to find out whether these events were causally related: did these ‘food riots’ trigger or activate these responsive and effective food security policies in any sense?
We used a multi-sited research methodology that integrated:
- catalogues of the numbers and types of protests that occurred, using media content analysis
- close-grained case studies of the motivations and organisation of protest groups using primary qualitative research
- semi-structured interviews with key policymakers, activists and informed scholars, designed to reconstruct the policy thinking of the time
The Bangladesh case study is part of a comparative four country study (including India, Kenya and Mozambique) which aimed to test the proposition that popular mobilisation – riots or more organised civil society action – engendered public accountability for hunger during the period of global food price volatility in 2007–12.