Bangladesh faces serious concerns about climate change in agriculture. That's why IPCC considers Bangladesh as one of the most climate-vulnerable counties in the world. The crop-growing environments of Bangladesh are very much diverse here, varying from the drought-prone high lands in the northwest, the flood-affected central region, the coastal saline zone in the south, Haor in the northeast, and hills in the south-east. Flash floods, cyclone, tidal-submergence, drought, excess heat and cold wave, and salinity intrusion in coastal ecosystems are very common here. The challenge is to increase productivity by addressing these multiple climate vulnerabilities.
The total stress-prone area of Bangladesh is around 9.63 million hectares. Where flash flood submergence prone ecosystem constitutes around 2.0 million hectares of rainfed lowland rice areas, tidal submergence ecosystem constitutes 0.8 million-hectare areas, drought-prone areas for upland and rainfed ecosystems constitute 4.2 million-hectare areas, saline coastal belt constitutes 1.0 million-hectare areas, deep water ecosystems constitute 0.8 million hectares and char land area constitutes 0.83 million-hectare areas. Under the scenario of climate change, decreasing arable land @ 0.45% and increasing population @1.22%, maintenance of sustainable food security for 170 million people has become more challenging day by day.
Among the concerned ministries and departments, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) is one of the key players and contributors to addressing climate change vulnerabilities under the Ministry of Agriculture. Considering all the climate vulnerabilities BRRI has so far developed a total of 28 stress-tolerant rice varieties of which 12 are saline tolerant, 3 submergences tolerant, 3 droughts tolerant, 4 cold-tolerant, 3 tidal submergences tolerant, 1 semi-deep water, and 1 dual (Sal+Sub) tolerant. Many more advanced breeding lines have been screened to identify materials tolerant to different abiotic stresses like salinity, cold, high temperature, flash flood, etc which are in the pipeline to release soon.
Production contribution of all these stress-tolerant varieties is about 10% in normal years but about 80% yield advantage in stress years. BRRI developed stress-tolerant varieties that cover about 12% of the stress-prone areas, contributing 3.6 million tons of rice to the national food basket accounting for $1,525 million each year.
Using climate-smart varieties and with the combined efforts of farmers, rice scientists, extension personnel, and the Government of Bangladesh have enabled the country with a surplus of about 4 MT of rice. Our population is increasing by 2.2 million per year. With the synergy of population increase, rice production needs to be increased by 0.35 MT year-1. Whereas we are increasing rice production @ 0.6 MT year-1 during 2009-21. We are on the right track but we have to maintain and sustain this motion. To sustain the increasing trend of rice production adoption of climate-resilient technologies is important.
Due to increased intensities of climate vulnerabilities, targeted breeding is essential to accommodate the diverse environments and the level of stress tolerance needs to be improved. For developing multi-stress tolerant high-quality varsities researcher needs sophisticated lab facilities like the modern world. Using and utilizing modern biotechnological tools like tissue culture, and genetic engineering for developing diverse stress-tolerant varieties we need uninterrupted funding support. Because funding poses a huge barrier to not only the development process but also to the adoption of the technologies. If we can ensure uninterrupted funding support for our scientists they are capable enough to make a difference.
There are a lot of scopes of collaboration to develop more tolerant and more yielder, high-quality grain for the smallholder farmers. Right now, a lot of the funding that is transforming the farming sector comes from developmental funds, which are ultimately not continuous and sustainable. Because the moment the support from the development grant ends, that mentality ends. So, we need to have more efficient use of developmental funds, together with a blended finance product with green mandates. These funds should bridge the initial capital gap that farmers have to introduce the new technologies.
The writer is Senior Liaison Officer, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Gazipur.
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