Monday, 4 July, 2022

Krishi Gobeshona Foundation Addressing Effects of Climate Change on Agriculture

Dr. Shahrina Akhtar

Bangladesh, a deltaic country having a large population in a small area, faces frequent natural disasters, according to IPCC, in terms of risks of natural disasters; it is the 7th most vulnerable country in the world. As a consequence of global warming, natural disasters like floods, cyclones, tidal surges, droughts, etc have been battering the country for quite some time now. These natural hazards are causing huge losses in agricultural sectors and thus impacting lives and livelihoods of people along with infrastructural damages. What should be the way forward, what are the adaptation and mitigation options to cope with climate change impacts? The 2015 Paris Climate Agreement on carbon emission reductions has not been taken seriously by most of the developed countries and, thus, the global temperature is on a steady rise inducing frequent natural calamities. The poor and the developing countries continue to be the hardest hit. 

The average global temperature in 2006 was 14.50OC which increased steadily to 14.70OC in 2018. In Bangladesh, the average annual temperature has increased by 0.64% in 2018 which is 10.2 times higher than the annual average temperature increase rate (0.06%) in 1971. This increase in temperature impacted agricultural production negatively. In order to overcome these adversities, innovative research to develop appropriate climate-smart technologies is essential to maintain productivity sustainably.

Krishi Gobeshona Foundation (KGF), a non-profit organization committed to agricultural research and development (R&D) in Bangladesh. KGF has been financially sponsoring and technically promoting R&D on climate change related issues in agriculture since 2010. KGF established the Network for Climate Change in Agriculture (NCCA) platform in 2010 with the goal of implementing and managing a research and development project in collaboration with the National Agricultural Research System (NARS), agricultural universities, and Bangladesh Meteorological Department. Initially, under the leadership of Dr. Nurul Alam, Executive Director and supervision of Dr. Abdul Hamid, Director (P&E), KGF, organized training programs on relevant subjects for about 120 professionals from different institutes followed by specialized training on DSSAT, DNDC, InfoCrop, AquaCrop modelling, GIS and remote sensing, R Program, etc. for assessing, forecasting and predicting the effects of temperature, water availability and nutrient management on the growth and yield of crops under changing climate. Recently, R&D work on livestock, fisheries and socioeconomics was initiated and is on-going to assess the impact of climate change on their life cycles and productivity.

The initiative of KGF was helpful to form a team of trained professionals from Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University (BSMRAU) for formulating and execution of a coordinated project “Modelling Climate Change Impact on Agriculture and Developing Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Sustaining Agricultural Production in Bangladesh.” This project, in its first phase of 2015-2018, helped to build the capacity of agricultural scientists of the country to assess, evaluate and quantify the impacts of various climatic elements on soil, water and selected crops along with insect pests and disease incidences. About 40 scientists worked for the project and successfully completed its first phase in 2018.  In the meantime, the project scientists have been able to effectively use different types of models for assessing the effects of rising temperature and Carbon dioxide levels on the growth and development of rice, wheat, mungbean, mustard etc., and have shared their findings in about 30 scientific articles published in reputed national and international journals. A book was also published in 2020 for delineating adaptation and mitigation strategies against climate change impacts on Bangladesh agriculture.

A project proposal was submitted for KGF funding for studying climate change impact on crops, livestock, fisheries and socioeconomics which was deeply appraised by the current Executive Director of KGF, Dr. Jiban Krishna Biswas and by Dr. Sheikh Mohammad Bokhtiar, Executive Chairman, BARC and Chairman of KGF Board who approved second phase of the project. The second phase of the project for three years began in November 2020 with the involvement of BARI, BRRI, BAU and BSMRAU. The progresses made so far are remarkable which have been through the publication of 10 scientific articles in internationally renowned journals.

The project activities resulted in some tangible outputs- (i) increased rainfall in March, May, June, July, August, September and October during 2021-2040 and 2041-2060, (ii) increased incidences of drought in Rajshahi region, (iii) possibility of 5-30% reduction in transplanted Aman rice yield if temperature rises by 1-3oC, (iv) about 2-23% reduction of Boro rice yield depending on temperature rises and varieties used, (v) increased soil mineralization resulting in loss of soil organic matter, etc. Besides, rise in temperature influences growth of flora and fauna, adversely affected milk and meat quality. Similarly, fisheries scientists have found that differences in water quality and temperature affect the growth and reproductive capacity of tilapia.

Emissions of Green House Gas (GHG) and sequestration of carbon varied greatly depending on crops grown and management practices. Carbon emission from crop fields, for example from irrigated paddy field, could be 660 kg CO2 eq./ha depending on life cycle-based assessment. This emission can be minimized following alternate wetting and drying (AWD) method. On the other hand, introduction of upland crop like wheat and maize in rice-rice cropping system results carbon sequestration. For example, about 2109 kg CO2/ha took place during wheat cultivation indicating that emissions from crop sector might not be a critical issue, but we have to find out total scenarios. However, evidence of large-scale GHG emissions from livestock rearing houses has been found. Therefore, integrated research on GHG emissions needs to be intensified and strengthened.

The agriculture sector contributes about 13.5% of the GDP- still an important driver of socioeconomic development. Unfortunately, this vital sector is the worst hit by global warming impacts. We have to develop management options to cope with increased natural hazards for sustained food and nutrition security. The development and dissemination of extreme temperature stress tolerant varieties with high yield potentials might play an important role in future agriculture.

There is no substitute to developing and using appropriate models for understanding the effect of climate change on crop-livestock-fish production, types of infectious disease outbreaks in future. Research on cutting-edge technologies need to be continued, but funding from KGF is inadequate and thus looking into the prospect of receiving fund from international donor agencies would be a commendable endeavour. A policy decision can be taken to allocate funds from the Climate Change Trust Fund through the Ministry of Agriculture.


The writer is a Technical Specialist, Krishi Gobeshona Foundation