Eighty per cent people the country once had to directly depend on agriculture. This dependency, now a day is in decreasing trend. We are approaching towards the middle-income country. One of the statistics says, 47.5 per cent of the population is directly, now dependent on agriculture and indirectly 70 per cent. It means agriculture is still the one of the driving forces of our economy. The contribution of agriculture to GDP is still an increasing trend. The amount of taka 7,441million in 2007 linearly increased to ৳9922.80 million in 2016. Despite this increment, the per cent sharing in the total economy, compared to those of emerging sectors like garments and the likes is in the process of declining. In 2013-14, the participation of agriculture in the national economy was 16.33 per cent compared to that of 18.36 per cent in 2009-10. But there is nothing to be worried about it. Think about Japan at the beginning of the 20th century. Most of their people like us have to sustain on agriculture.
Now at best 2.0% of her population are directly dependent on agriculture. So what? The Japanese still value their ancestral profession as they used to pay the years back. Japan is very rich in modern agriculture. So it is not a problem to feed the whole nation at the expense of a few Japanese farmers’ toil. The contribution of agriculture in Japanese economy appears not so significant compared to those of the others. Despite that, they pay homage to agriculture by naming their industrial product like car as Toyota and motorcycle as Honda. It may be mentioned that Toyota means a fertile rice field and Honda means an original rice field.
Now let me say something about the agriculture growth of Bangladesh. Since the independence of the country, the agriculture growth was more or less 2 per cent. But from 1990 to a few years from now the growth maintained its level of around 4 per cent. The target was 4.5 per cent in the sixth five-year plan. But in 2010-11 it went as high as 5.1 per cent. However, it could not be maintained later. Rather the growth came down to 2.7 per cent in the following year. The growth is now at the level of 2 per cent. This is because of the slow growth of the crop sector as the economists blame.
Nevertheless, the period of sixth five-year plan was quite significant with a dozen of success stories as
♦ Achievement of the ever highest agriculture growth in the history of Bangladesh
♦ Productivity increased at the farm level
♦ Household income increased
♦ Achievement of self-sufficiency in food
♦ A satisfactory advancement in agricultural mechanisation
♦ Popularisation of the efficient use of land water and the other resources
♦ Discovery of the technology and crop varieties adaptable to fragile environments
♦ Special attention paid to horticulture, livestock, poultry and fisheries.
All these achievements are due to the integrated effort of the farmers, policy makers, extension agents and researchers. Dr Swaminathan, an eminent agricultural scientist rightly mentioned – synergy of science, political will and farmers’ toil are the green revolutionary symphony. However, political will is the most important factor for our case. Every development work is based on the government plan. The government can do it directly or let the work be done through a project. Accordingly, many of the agricultural development works are done through the projects. Most of the projects are financed by GoB. Some of them are assisted by the international organisations or donor agencies. The National Agricultural Technology Project (NATP) is such a kind of project partially financed by the GoB. Most of the fund is coming from WB and IFAD. The project is made for the welfare of the agriculture as a whole. That is why three ministry viz. agriculture, livestock and fisheries are liable to oversee their respective activities. There is a Project Coordination Unit (PCU) to co-ordinate all the project activities under the guidance of Project Steering Committee (PSC). The project is expected to run for 15 years, the longest ever experienced by the ministry of agriculture. But it will be implemented in three phases having five years of each phase. The approval of the subsequent phase will depend on the performance of the preceding phase. The first phase of the project has been completed a few years back. The next phase (2nd phase) has already been approved and now about set out its journey. The process of recruiting staff is in progress.
A farmer demonstrates a labor-saving reaper to his community in Bangladesh. (Photo by Ranak Martin/iDE)
The first phase of the project was approved on 7 February 2008 and started functioning from last week of March the same year.
The principal components of the projects were
♦ Agriculture research support;
♦ Agriculture extension support;
♦ Development of supply chain and
♦ Project management and coordination.
The objective of the project was to develop and disseminate agricultural technology, increase agricultural productivity, strengthen social and economic capital, develop the supply chain, improve agriculture marketing system etc. The implementing agents are Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), Krishi Gobeshona Foundation (KGF), Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), Hortex foundation, and Project Coordination Unit (PCU).
The project was planned to take care of both research and extension in parallel, the specialty of the project. Therefore beside DAE, different National Agricultural Research System (NARS) institutes, public universities, even some NGOs were brought under the same umbrella. For extension 120 upazilas from 20 districts were selected. Project funds for research were allocated through two different funds —- fund for Sponsored Public Research Good (SPGR) and fund for Competitive Research Programme (CGP). SPGR fund was given to the NARS and university scientists mainly to generate some useful knowledge and problem-oriented technologies. CGF fund is for NARS, universities and NGOs.
The fund is given to validate or disseminate some developed technologies at the field level. The thematic area of the programmes was pre-decided by the experts. The number of the CGP and SPGR recipient programmes were 86 and 108, respectively. As the biggest institute of the country, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Institute (BARI) had the maximum number of programmes (56) followed by Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI). BRRI executed 17 programmes. BINA had its share with 5 only. Few universities participated in the project activities. Out of them, Bangladesh Agriculture Universities (BAU) had 32, followed by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) and Khulna University (KU). BSMRAU and KU had their credit 12 and 4, respectively. There was no SPGR programme for NGOs. Several NGOs participated in the competitive programmes. They had 14 in total from the CGP budget. Most of the allocation is confined to the crop sector. In contrast, the programme awarded to the livestock and fisheries were minimum even compared to their capabilities.
The programmes were categorised into 12 groups on the basis of ecosystem/area. For example Saline or coastal belt, Hilly area, Haor, Drought prone area, Char land, ICT, Socio-economic and policy related, Pollutants and adulterants, Pest management, Soil-water-land management, Farming system, and the other ecosystems.
From the SPGR funding, short term in country training was provided to 2,152 persons, 5,623 persons were given the opportunity to participate in seminar/workshop within the country. 106 persons were sent abroad for training. Seventy-seven person were sent abroad for excursion, seminar/workshop etc. There were 30 overseas PhD, 60 in-country PhD and 10 post-Doctoral fellowships in the project.
A good number of new crops have been developed through this project. Out of them, BAU Rashun-3, Saline tolerant BINA dhan10, BARI hybrid tomato are worthy to be mentioned. More hybrid rice varieties had been reported to be in the pipeline. In the coastal area, the development and dissemination of salt tolerant sunflower, maize, soybean, and linseed were done through this project. Improve varieties of papaya, ber, and guava were tried in many of the coastal regions to be proved worthy to the area. Ten saline tolerant vegetables under varying levels of salinity (10-17 ds/m) were identified.
Drones Employed In Agriculture For The First Time In Bangladesh
The same is applicable for other areas also. The cropping intensity and crop productivity were increased in the hilly areas. New cropping patterns were developed for some specific areas. Some innovative home gardens were developed in some parts of the Hilly area. Therefore, the per head vegetable intake increased from 40 gm to 152 gm. In the char-land in Jamalpur and Sherpur, local varieties were replaced with the improved varieties of black gram, green gram, sweat potato and groundnut. Therefore the yield increase in those areas was in the range from 29-356 per cent. In haor area, summer and winter vegetable areas have increased. The extension of duck culture in rice field was getting popularity. The yield gap of Boro rice and wheat was minimised significantly. The technology to reduce yield gap was accepted by most of the farmers in the project areas. The water saving AWD technology was also getting its acceptance among the farmer. The farm level potato storage facilities was developed. For the popularisation of mechanised cultivation, some research, development and extension works were done with power tiller, USG (urea supergranule) applicator, rice transplanter, solar pump, seed dryer etc. Some methods of controlling noxious diseases of jackfruit, ber, citrus fruits, and insect pests of coconut, eggplant, cucumber and rice were developed and successfully applied in the field.
Landrace varieties of rice and vegetables were stored in the germplasm centres. Molecular characterisation of 79 rice, 22 lentils, 6 mustard varieties were done.
Only the research components are mentioned here in the article. The extension component is under reported. Anyway, the tangible objectives of the NATP phase-I were to increase at least 10 per cent productivity of the agriculture commodities and farmers income at the same level. In reality, they were far ahead of this estimation. In case of some principal agricultural commodities, the increment of the productivity was more than 38 per cent compared to that of baseline estimate. The increment was 29 per cent for the project dependent farmers compared to the farmers (control) from the area outside the project and 16 per cent who are the resident of the project areas but not included within the project activities, meaning to say that the farmers of the project areas are also enjoying the spill over benefit of the project. As per the impact assessment, the projects has achieved more than the objectives set during the preparation.
Besides these achievements, the project has some influence in the preparation of BARC act 2012 to make the council more dynamic. The initial funding support for KGF came from the project. The project also has some role of increasing the share of research allocation from the agricultural GDP. Initially, it was 0.20 per cent of GDP from agriculture. Recently the allocation has been raised to 1.44 per cent.
Now the project is about to take off for its next phase (Phase 2). We will be waiting to see how it helps the country to attain sustainable food security.
The writer is the Director General (PRL), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Gazipur-1701