The Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) has recently launched Bangladesh Collaboration Strategy 2021-2030 in a virtual event. It is a new strategy with Bangladesh outlining key agricultural research priorities for the coming decades and will underpin future research partnerships between Australia and Bangladesh.
Australia’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh, HE Jeremy Bruer, said the new strategy would further strengthen the partnership between the two countries. ‘ACIAR’s expertise in agricultural research for development contributes to Bangladesh’s sustainable economic growth, supports rural livelihoods and enhances regional stability, said the High Commissioner.The strategy reflects the research collaboration between Australia and Bangladesh, which has thrived since the mid-1990s and recognises the current and emerging challenges and opportunities in the agriculture sector. The Chief Executive Officer of ACIAR Professor Andrew Campbell said that the new strategy affirmed the commitment to an equal, mutually beneficial, long-term research partnership between the two countries.
The new strategy outlines research priorities are crop improvement, improved farming systems, water management, soil fertility and management, markets, and agricultural mechanisation. It also emphasises the continued importance of building research capacity within Bangladesh. Prof. Campbell also pointed that this strategy reflects that Bangladesh has impressive research capability, very strong visions of the directions it wants agricultural research to take, and resources to co-invest in this research.
A 10-year strategy also enables longer-term and flexible programmes to deal with complex issues such as climate change. The strategy highlights the memorandum of understanding that ACIAR has with the Krishi Gobeshona Foundation (KGF). First signed in 2015, refreshed, and renewed earlier this year, the agreement frames how the organisations jointly support and conduct research, development and other activities to improve food security. Prof Campbell said that these types of agreements—and the new strategy—demonstrate the positive relationship, mutual trust and goodwill between the two countries.
Dr. Shaikh Mohammad Bokhtiar, the Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) said BARC was pleased that ACIAR had reaffirmed its commitment to supporting agriculture research for development in Bangladesh. Agriculture has been playing a very significant role in ensuring food and nutritional security, employment generation, export market promotion and thereby increasing economic growth and sustainable development of the country, expressed by Dr. Bokhtiar.
Dr. Bokhtiar also pointed that while Bangladesh has made impressive progress in achieving national food security, we must continue to progress agricultural research to boost productivity and resilience to challenges including climate change. He also mentioned that Bangladesh and Australia shared common research interests in sustainable agricultural intensification and diversification, mechanisation and precision agriculture, which BARC was keen to progress in the next decade.
ACIAR has supported research collaboration with Bangladesh since the mid-1990s, focused on productivity of dry winter (rabi) crops like pulses, wheat, maize and water melon in the rice fallows. The programme recently shifted focus towards a farming systems approach supporting broader food security aspects, improved production and diversification of the rice-based farming systems and adaptation to climate change.ACIAR currently invests about AUD 2.7 million per year in research projects with Bangladesh, with a focus on Water management, Cropping Systems development and Agribusiness. This year, ACIAR is supporting 17 research projects in Bangladesh involving 9 Australian or International partners and 15 national partners.
In 2015, ACIAR signed the first Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with KGF. The aim of that agreement was to enable collaboration directly between research institutions in Bangladesh and internationally through co-investments from Australia and KGF. The co-financed programmes focused on conservation agriculture and identification of salt tolerant genotypes of rice, pulses and oilseeds in Southern region of Bangladesh. The success of that MoU resulted in it being renewed in 2021 for another 5-year term. KGF is one of the few partners which co-invests with ACIAR. KGF currently co-invests in 3 ACIAR projects (approx. 1.65 million AUD). These projects are as below:
• Crop intensification in saline coastal zone (led by CSIRO)
• Nutrient Management project (led by Murdoch University)
• Incorporating salt-tolerant wheat and pulses in smallholder farming systems (led by University of Western Australia)
Australia and Bangladesh share some common challenges and, hence, research capabilities, especially in cropping systems under adverse conditions including salinity and drought. The two countries also share common research interests in sustainable agricultural intensification and diversification, mechanisation and precision agriculture. Based on the strong platform of research collaboration between the two countries since the mid-1990s and the recognition of the increasing complexity of challenges and opportunities in the agriculture sector, it was agreed to affirm our shared commitment to a long-term research partnership into the future with a new strategy for research collaboration 2021-2030. A 10-year strategy enables the possibility of longer-term and flexible programmes that respond to the complex challenges of issues such as climate change, which require sustained research collaboration and, often, trans-disciplinary approaches. It also enables a recalibration of the relationship that can affirm the changing nature of the partnerships and the role ACIAR plays in catalysing regional collaboration. This strategy acknowledges how the relationship between ACIAR and Bangladesh has evolved, becoming a strong co-invested partnership. It affirms how both Bangladesh and ACIAR seek to further strengthen the nature of that relationship. Extensive consultation with Australian and Bangladesh partners has been done between 2017 and 2019. This strategy affirms the importance of the contribution of ACIAR to regional collaboration.
• Focus on the needs, engagement and delivery of opportunities for women, across all aspects of the research program.
• Take opportunities to convert research outcomes to policy support.
• Seek to work with diverse partners through value chain research to support the development of markets and promote diversification and intensification of agriculture and entrepreneurship in agriculture.
• Integrate biophysical, social, economic and policy research to address the complex challenges of climate change, resource management and poverty.
The ACIAR Capacity Building programme continues to support individuals and institutions in Bangladesh to enhance scientific research capability, management, policy and governance. This new strategy for research collaboration also affirms the importance of the contribution of ACIAR to regional collaboration. South Asia has the highest concentration of poor people in the world, with more than 500 million people living in extreme poverty. Half of the population of the region depends on agriculture for their livelihoods. Given the common agricultural production challenges of many countries in South Asia, ACIAR has also played a key role in strengthening research linkages between Bangladesh and other countries, particularly India (Bihar and West Bengal states) and Nepal (eastern Terai region) having similarity in biophysical parameters and agro-ecological settings.
The writer is the South Asia Regional Manager
of ACIAR, based in New Delhi.
E-mail: [email protected]