Covid-19 pandemic has created a global concern. Over the last year the pandemic has created 2.45 crore poor people. Poor people cannot be an equivalent member of society due to lack of income, nutritious food, proper education, healthcare, employment, mutual respect, aspiration and inclusion. One particular agony is the potential disastrous consequence for agriculture and food security in many parts of the world, especially in developing countries.
It is estimated that by 2050 the country’s population will grow up to 200 million and 35 per cent of the arable lands will have disappeared. Sandbar cropping has given displaced people a way to transform barren landscapes into productive lands while transforming their lives and providing a chance of survival through economic efficiency. In this kind of cultivation 60 per cent women can participate and no pesticides are used.Floating gardening is an ingenious solution that employs the use of water hyacinths – fishermen can cultivate crops and fish at the same time. It conserves nature. It provides vital food for people even during annual monga (period of food shortages). Crops to cultivate should be selected based on the situation of dyke, availability of sunlight, market price, soil type, farmer’s financial condition, seed availability and consumer demand. Dyke cropping along with rice-fish culture is a highly standard integrated culture. It can take care of fish and vegetables together, increase participation of women in agriculture, and prevent an unhealthy environment.
Organic sack gardening is a simple, low-cost, technology for those who have limited or no space for safe vegetable production. It allows the underprivileged and people living in adverse ecosystems — char, coastal zone, water logged or basin area to grow their food. In Bangladesh, zinc deficiency is highly prevalent affecting 45 per cent preschool children and 57 per cent of non-pregnant, non-lactating women. Bio-fortified zinc-rice production and organic sweet potato production may be considered as good options to address nutritional sensitive development programs in Bangladesh.
Cattle are living assets and source of continuous livelihood of farmers in Bangladesh. Disasters can damage land through erosion, landslides, loss of nutrients, etc. Rearing livestock in disaster prone areas needs considerable caution, hazard identification, prioritising hazard risk reduction actions, preparedness and partnership among communities.
Integrated floating cage aqua-geoponics system is a potential technology to minimise land use conflict between crop and fish production to produce nutrient rich food. This climate-smart technology is to enhance fish and vegetable production in an integrated way to remove malnutrition in the rural households.
Bangladesh has a 710 km long coastline supporting the livelihood of millions of people through capture fisheries and coastal aquaculture. Over the years, mud crab emerged as a potential exportable aquaculture product and its farming as the main accumulation of the coastal communities in Bangladesh. In 2013-14, the total mud crab production was 899 MT while in 2016-17 it reached 14,421 MT in the coastal districts of Bangladesh.
In general, jute is the least expensive and most versatile textile fibers presenting a great contribution to the economy of Bangladesh. The conventional methods of jute extraction are labour intensive and require a large amount of water. ASHKOL is an important technology, requiring less water, less time, and improving the fiber quality. It is user friendly, eco-friendly and creates entrepreneurship opportunities for marginal farmers.To reduce income inequality due to non-farm activities, institutional arrangements need to be on board so that the poor and marginalised households get access to education, healthcare, credit and extension services. In the face of growing inequality among the rural households, efficient and target oriented public spending should be ensured to develop the human capital of poor and marginalised households.
Economist Abul Barkat scientifically estimates that agro khas lands, non-agro char lands and wetlands are in total 50 lac acres in Bangladesh. 88 per cent of khas lands, char lands, water bodies are encroached by land grabbers. Distribution system itself is a crisis towards marginal farmers. He also depicts a real account of the land laws related to balumohal, jolmohal, chingrimohal, pathormohal, tea estates, and prawn culture in the south-west part. We have four fundamental resources – land, forest, water and human resources. Agriculturalist Madan M Dey mentions, the reformation of agriculture must begin with creating an agricultural system in which smallholding farmers will easily survive beside big farm holders. The technological efficiency of smallholding farmers is decreasing in Bangladesh and the disappearance of these farmers cannot help build a decent society. The combined contribution of smallholding farmers is still greater than big farm holders in Bangladesh but their dominance is diminishing. Technological innovations available in Bangladesh did not suit the needs of smallholding farmers in Bangladesh as they hold small plots of land or a small pond.
If we utilise the fundamental resources – land, water bodies, forest and human resources through proper policy configuration and implementation, public participation and power decentralisation and give back the fundamental rights to farmers, women, fishermen, indigenous people, and the marginalised people – the total production from land, water and forest will be high and many young agricultural entrepreneurs would be created.
Shishir Reza is an Environmental Analyst