Agriculture in Bangladesh is a glaring example of success stories in the development paradigm that put the country from a deficit to a near surplus country in staple food item particularly rice. We made it true through the path that the dreamer of country, our father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Application of technology led innovation and dissemination by research and extension, farm friendly policy support and overall hard work of our resilient farming community made it possible to boost production and productivity of major agricultural commodities. Agriculture is becoming complex, knowledge intensive, demanding and diversified.
However there are challenges to make the progress sustainable and obviously environment friendly to meet the demand of safe food and nutritious to all. Bangladesh remains open to global technological innovations that favour not only production but also benefits farmers, taking into consideration of short and long term environmental consideration as per global and national standard. Beyond conventional technology, we opened up hybrid technology long before that triggered revolution in vegetable production and productivity in the country.
Historical prioritization on agriculture
On the background of liberation and a broken economy Bangladesh started her journey with the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who dreamed a developed food sufficient Bangladesh. He has made some remarkable decision which leads to future agriculture sector development of Bangladesh.
lBangabandhu had taken a landmark decision for agriculturists by up grading the status of agriculture graduates as the first class gazetted officials.
lTo achieve self-sufficiency in food production had taken improved and short-time cultivation method, supply of quality seed, irrigation, and other agricultural inputs and exempt agricultural credit for marginal farmers, withdraw of certificate cases against them and distribute 'khas' land among landless people.
lHe also revitalized the Agriculture sector by setting up Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (BARC) and strengthened other institutions to addressing need of the agriculture based economy
With these background Agriculture sector of Bangladesh flourished and in present years these development gained new momentum. One of the major advancement is it's thrive to transformation from subsistence agriculture to commercial agriculture.
Development on Agriculture policy
During last few decades agricultural policy of Bangladesh changed from subsistence towards climate adaptive good agriculture practice to ensure safe and nutritious food for all. Immediately after Independence the goal of agriculture sector was confined to only increase the production to feed the raising people. With the passage of time this theme is towards safe and quality food items.
Development of Agriculture policy clearly indicating the change of focus of the government. Initially the policies were production oriented to ensure food supply but with the passage of time it was not only confined to just increasing production. Commercialization and mechanization was introduced for profitable agricultural production. Now the focus is not only on production but also sustainable and profitable agricultural production. Adaptation to climate change is now a major concern for sustainability of agricultural system. Government is trying to initiate competitive agriculture through commercialization for better employment and income generation. In recent years government is very much concerned about quality healthy food available to all as well as to meet export standards. Ensuring export standards is essential to ensure stable price to the farmers by exporting surplus produce. Government is giving priority in developing agro-based industry to produce value added products. It will create employment and on the other hand helps to get farmers' fair price by stabilizing the market. Focusing these issues new agriculture policy 2018 has been developed.
Changing scenario of Agriculture sector crop
Crop sector is the most significant subsector of agriculture. It's alone account for the 55 per cent of the economy of Agriculture sector. In simple term success in agriculture can be visible by its indicators like reduction of poverty level throughout the country from 57 per cent during 1991 to present level of 24.8 per cent in 2015 that translate 1.74 per cent per annum. Bangladesh is now in a better position in meeting food demand of the growing population.
Rice production increased significantly during last two decades. With the pace of rice production increase in the last five years, it has been projected that production would bereach 46.5 million metric ton, having a surplus of 5.2 million metric ton in 2050.
Besides wheat was chosen as an alternative winter crop. InFY 2017/18, area allocation under wheat was 3.51 lac ha. and production was10.99 lac mt. Wheat yield was 3.13mt./ha.(BBS 2018). Tremendous growth has taken place in maize since the Nineties. BARI has developed as many as 22 maize varieties, some of those are hybrid having yield potentials as high as 12mt./ha. in response to the growing need of poultry and other agro industries. Currently, over a quarter of maize seed requirements are met by the home-grown ones while the rest are imported. However private sector dominates in hybrid seed development and distribution.
Potato varieties cultivated in Bangladesh are broadly categorized into two groups-local and high yielding. In spite of poor yields, some of the local varieties are still being cultivated because of their taste and cooking qualities.
Potato area had been on the increase over the years. Arial coverage increased from215.80 thousand acre in the Seventies to1130 thousand acre in the 2010s. Now potato is having surplus production and we have started exporting potato to some countries.
Although oilseeds are minor crops, mustard was in increasing trend until Nineties but after that soya bean gained popularity which was totally import based. Newer short duration varieties of pulses took space in between rice to add household income.
Bangladesh made splendid success in vegetable production. This is considered first of its kind in food crops in South Asia in releasing biotech (BT) brinjal against major insects and reduced pesticide use towards safer vegetable production.
Tomato area increased successively from 21 thousand acre in 1970/71 to 66.9 thousand acre in 2015/16, registering an increase of about 3 fold during the 46 year period. Production is showing a 5-fold increase, due to increased productivity. Area under cauliflower increased a 3.4 fold increase during the last 46-years and production of cauliflower increased by 1.88 fold from 7.37 lac mt in 1970/71 to 13.9 lac mt in 2015/16.
During these four decades, area of jute got fallen by more than 50%. Both inter and intra decadal fluctuation was observed during the last four decades. The industry boomed throughout the Eighteenth and Nineteenth centuries, but this trade had largely ceased due to the emergence of synthetic fibers. In the 21st century, jute again rose to be an important crop for export around the world in contrast to synthetic fiber, mainly from Bangladesh. Following the decade of 2000, average jute area allocation improved to 17.16 lac acre throughout the first six years of the decade starting 2010. Cotton is mostly import dependent. Although cotton cultivated since antiquity, it was the invention of the cotton gin that lowered the cost of production that led to its widespread use, and it is the most widely used natural fiber cloth in clothing today in Bangladesh.
Recent successes in crop agriculture
With the increased budgetary allocation in Agricultural Science and Technology including enhancing physical facilities the technology system in agriculture is much better equipped to serve the country. Bangladesh has been evolving those technologies which can address adverse climatic affect.
Development during last eight years:
lBangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) developed 97rice varieties, of which 6 hybrid varieties including salt tolerant, Zinc enriched, water lodging tolerant, drought and submerge tolerant varieties. Also the Institute developed production technologies to foster growth in rice including mechanization.
lBangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) developed about 600 varieties in field crops among which remarkable varieties are: salt, heat and drought tolerant wheat, late blight tolerant potato, 4 varieties of shoot & fruit borer resistant brinjal. Also the Institute developed production technologies to foster growth in rice including mechanization.
lBangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) developed 103 crop varieties including two salt tolerant and short duration rice varieties.
lBangladesh Sugar Crop Research Institute (BSRI) developed 46 sugar crop varieties and 2 sugar beets. The Institute is also trying to introduce vegetables and spices as sugarcane intercropping to boost income of growers.
lBangladesh Jute Research Institute (BJRI) has unveiled Genome Sequence of jute through national and International collaboration. Utilizing the knowledge of the genome study the institute has been developing jute varieties suitable for coastal saline zone and quality jute.
With the knowledge of the land suitability, crop zoning map has been developed for growing crops for better profit margin. Satellite based remote sensing has been in use for of crop coverage and production prediction.
In achieving SDG goal 2 by ending hunger, productivity gain in all crop commodities has been targeted as land is very limited in the country. In the meantime increased productivity of major crops by the application of technologies like bio-physical parameters to assess crop suitability, crop forecasting, mapping etc. have been achieved. Special consideration is taken in the unfavorable ecology like hills, drought prone and coastal region.
Challenges to address
Being a low lying deltaic country, Bangladesh agriculture faces number of challenges which remains focus in the development agenda. Firstly, climate change associated with frequent and untimely flood including flush flood of different magnitude damages crop and livestock production. Secondly, the increasing trend of salinity in both soil and water in the coastal region threatens the production system where one third of the population depends. Thirdly, frequent tidal surge seriously affect production in the coast. Fourthly, incidence of trans-boundary disease and pest are becoming more frequent than before. Other factors that affect agriculture include water logging, drought, declining water resources, both surface and ground water, soil degradation due to lack of organic matter and river bank erosion. This calls for knowledge-based solutions involving regional cooperation.
There has been yield gap in most of the crop commodities. The gap between the potential and actual yield at the farmers level is significant which can be narrowed to harvest higher production through better management.
Along with these market management for ensuring profitable price for the agricultural products now becoming most important challenge for the agricultural economy of the country.
Opportunities to harness
lBangladesh has fertile land and favourable climatic situation that favours crop production round the year in its thirty agro-ecological zones.
lBangladesh has unique institutional setup under the public sector with well-organized research and development institutions, having outreach stations located in most of the diverse ecological setting and 2000 well trained scientists. In addition, universities are joining hands to address production constraints.
lQuality seed system development, being the basic planting material has been developed to enhance production involving both public and private sector.
lDigital fertilizer recommendation guide has been popularized for efficient soil nutrient management for a given soil type.
lInvestment in agricultural research is increasing through project intervention and through revenue budget. Opening newer opportunities for scientific professionals for gaining skill and knowledge are becoming important policy agenda.
lAddition of ICT skill in knowledge transfer process along with research-extension-farmer-market linkage provided dividend in production gain and profitability.
lTillage, threshing, irrigation, spraying are fully mechanized while transplanting, harvesting, seeding, fertilizer application are still to be mechanized. The power use in agriculture has increased significantly from 0.3 kW/ha in 1980s to 1.2 kW/ha at present.
lFor centuries farmers use the land under water traditionally in the floodplain for growing vegetables and raising seedlings as floating culture. The government took initiative to bring floating bed using scientific knowledge to make it more productive.
lAwareness on Sanitary and Phyto-sanitory measures and Good Agricultural Practice (GAP)have been building among the growers through extension mechanism. As a result, now fruits and vegetables are exported to European markets.
lEmerging private sector in agricultural research, development, extension and agro-processing through value addition found to be visible in developing agricultural production and post-production system.
lInitiatives have been taken to introduce high value crops including vegetables and fruits.
Livestock subsector shows greater growth potential as well as employment opportunities particularly for women. It has huge potentiality in poverty reduction, export earnings and providing animal protein.
Table 1. Demand, production, availability and deficiency of milk, meat and eggs (2017-18)
Source: DLS, *Estimated population of the country: 16 crores 47 lakhs on 1 July, 2018 (P) Source: BBS
Date shows that meat production reached the demand of 122 gm/day/head while egg production almost reaching to demand. An important dimension of Livestock is that maximum share of animal farming is operated by landless and poor farmers which provides huge employment opportunity utilizing less land.
Table: Distribution of livestock and poultry among different classes of farmers
Source: Census of Agriculture, 2008
Potential of Livestock sector
Livestock sector like other subsectors of agriculture is expanding. The rate is now not very high but stable this is desirable because it is not possible to increase livestock population very rapidly because of the biological growth of the animals especially large animals are slower than crops.
Due to increase of per capita income demand for milk, meat and eggs in the country is increasing which in terms developing nutritional status of the people.
To fulfill increasing demand the production of milk, meat and egg is also increasing rapidly.
Remarkable increase in beef cattle production: In response to the restriction of cross-border cattle trespass from the neighboring countries during the last 4-5 years farmers started producing more number of beef cattle and almost in a situation to meet the deficit.
Employment generation and poverty alleviation: Poultry brings a revolution in employment generation through establishment of commercial farms at the small and marginal farmer level. Thousands of youths are involved in broiler and layer farming.Livestock specially, the small ruminants plays significant role in poverty alleviation. Goat rearing at the household level is very popular in Bangladesh. Value addition of livestock products and bi-products is also a huge area of employment opportunity.
Bangladesh is blessed with many rivers-canals, depressions (haors, beels etc.) and oxbow lakes, ponds and floodplains, covering an area of 4.70 million hectares fresh water resources. Besides, marine fisheries is expanding over an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1, 66,000 sq. km. inland, coastal and marine waters. As an agro-based country, the contribution of fisheries sector to national economy is remarkable; the sector supplies 60-65% animal protein, created employment opportunities, ensure food and nutritional security, support in export earning, aquatic biodiversity conservation and socio-economic development. Fisheries sector contributes 3.61% to GDP and 24.41% to agricultural GDP. About 11% of the population depends directly and indirectly on the fisheries sector for their livelihood. Bangladesh ranks 3th in aquaculture fish producingcountry in the world.
Aquaculture and Fisheries production in last 10 years
Challenges of the Fisheries Sector
There are rules and regulations for the sector which are similar to other advance country; but the sector suffering from following major challenges:-
1. Aquaculture is expanding in an unplanned manner
2. Pollution and threat of degradation of natural water resources
3. Siltation of rivers, canal, beels, haors and other water bodies
4. Unplanned and over exploitation of natural resources
5. Abuse of fertilizer, medicine and chemicals in aquaculture
6. Optimum utilization of marine fisheries resources
7. Increase production in open fresh water area
8. Limited export market for fish and fisheries product
Transition towards SDG
Bangladesh has had an impressive economic growth rate over recent years and after achieving remarkable success in MDGs, we adopted SDGs last year and the government is presently in the process of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals 2030. Being agriculture based economy it is very much dependent on agriculture.For sustainable development all the goals of SDG are directly or indirectly related to agricultural development but Out of 17 goals 9 goals are directly related to agriculture.
Research extension system for Agricultural development
Research system development
¢Agricultural research started during 1908 but research, extension and education started working under one leadership after 1970s. Later autonomous organizations evolved with better service conditions like BARC, BARI, BRRI, BJRI etc. established.
¢For better coordination of agricultural research BARC was created in 1973 by Father of Nation, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
¢There are 12 institutions, with wide national coverage in most of the AEZ. Total 2000scientists in National Agricultural Research System (NARS) are engaged in.
¢CGIAR institutes like International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and Development Partners (DP) contributed in capacity development of NARS.
¢KGF created as an institutional innovation for sustainable research funding under company act in 2007. Its supports both public and private sector research as well individual to cover the research need of the country.
Challenges in agricultural research system
Research support which varies from only 0.3% to 0.45% of agricultural GDP until 2012, however recently during 2016 it is expected that the research funding hasreached to0.6% with project support. The major concern remains in absorbing the investment, research capacity development including accountability. However some issues are listed below-
lRetention of merit remains a challenge in NARS institutes due to lack of proper incentive packages like promotion, salary, higher training.
lLower number of Ph.D. degree holder scientific professionals in Bangladesh while it is 80 % in India. Higher education is mainly donor dependent for higher studies abroad, Lacks organized HRD Programs in NARS hinders skill development of NARS.
lSkill gaps remain emerging areas which needs to be upgraded on priority basis to solve emerging research questions and getting advantage of government resource allocation.
lUp gradation of positions are delayed based on vacancy. Regional stations are less advantaged in terms of logistics and other facilities, this discourages the scientists to stay in the outreach station.
Major public extension services are organized with
lDepartment of Agriculture Extension (DAE)- 26,000 staff including 3,000 technical graduates (1800 vacant to be recruited) & 14,000+ grass root extension staff (4,000 vacant in recruitment process), considered largest agency, having wide network until union under MoA
lDepartment of Fisheries (DOF) - 4,800 staff with 1286 technical staff (199 claimed)-under MoFL
lDepartment of Livestock Services (DLS)- staff position, 8,200 including 1476 technical staff, staff-under MoFL Others-Cotton Development Board (CDB), Agriculture Information Service (AIS), BADC (Input delivery under MoA)
Challenges of extension services
Emerging roles of extension services need to be upgraded with efficient monitoring, supervision, advisory, surveillance which will demand more capacity and skill in Post-harvest management & processing, mechanization, Input use efficiency, food safety, hybrid seed promotion, bio-security, agro-business development, natural resource management, bio-pesticide, GAP, genetic resources conservation, etc. Activities with production led location specific agro climatic forecasting including pest and diseases, monitoring price and quality of inputs at the grass root level are to be strengthened. Decentralized diagnostic facilities to be established so that extension delivery service can render better service.
lPrivate sector, R & D, input delivery-Seed- hybrid tech, pesticides, growth regulators/ fertilizers, irrigation, agro-processing, vat products, feed, machineries, education (ATIs), - 200,000 field staff of private sectors. ACI, Lalteer, PRAN, Supreme seed, etc. are operating- effective PPP environment required
lNGOs, R&Ds, advisory through training, farmers' organization, credit, BRAC, Proshika, Padakkhep. Media -electronic media has been playing a greater role in disseminating success stories and proven technology. There should be a formal linkage with the media for valid.
International collaboration needed
Partnership with the global scientific forum for the development of agriculture is considered important. As a member of Consultative Group of International Agriculture Research (CGIAR), collaboration with its members like International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT), International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), The World Fish and few other centers needs to be strengthen. They also contributed in partnership with national institutes in developing technologies and knowledge. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) and commercialization of research led technology.Agricultural technologies and commodities are to be competitive considering globalization of agro-product.
Harmony and coordination
There has been a perception that research generated technology takes longer time to reach the farm for adaption. The adequate linkage among various actors in research and extension must be improved to accelerate technology dissemination. The present mode of linkage has been formulated by project driven approach. National Agricultural Technology Coordination Committee (NATCC), headed by BARC and subsequent upzila level linkage involving research, extension, NGO as well livestock and fisheries need to be revitalized. To achieve sustainability in coordination for a better research and development process there must be a harmony among
political leadership, bureaucracy and professionals to bring the Bangladesh forward. There are number of agencies and ministries that influence agricultural production. Effective coordination and cooperation must be ensured even to the grass root level.
¢We have glorious institutional past both in research, education and extension. This needs to be sustained and upgraded
¢Under the changed environment, it calls for strengthening the institutions with newer skill, knowledge, logistics, manpower and more importantly due recognition
¢Absence of such may affect the service delivery in attaining SDG as well developing a prosperous Bangladesh.
Dr.WaisKabir is the Executive Director Krishi-Gobeshona Foundation, BARC Complex, Farmgate, Dhaka. He obtained his Bachelor of Science Degree in Agricultural Engineering from Bangladesh Agricultural University in 1978, Master of Engineering from Asian Institute of Technology, Thailand and Ph. D from Central Luzon State University, Philippines in 1994. He also completed Post Doctoral Research at Kansas State University, USA.
(Dr. Wais Kabir is an eminent Agricultural Research Management Professional joined at Krishi-Gobeshona Foundation (KGF) as Executive Director on 13 April, 2017. He served to Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council as Executive Chairman during 2009 to 2013. During this period, he successfully coordinated research and development of the twelve National Research Institutes of Bangladesh. Dr. Kabir also served as the Chairman of the General Body & Board of Directors of KGF. He made a major reorganization of the SAARC Agriculture Centre as the Director of the international Centre. Also Dr. Wais Kabir worked with Food and Agricultural Organization of United Nations for three years and was responsible for mapping exercise of water logging with South-West part of Bangladesh. During his stay at FAO, he performed as a member of international panel of experts with the Netherland Government project.
Dr. Kabir has a good number of publications in reputed national and international Journals.
(Md. Sazzadur Rahman Sarker is a Junior Specialist (Technical) in the Krishi-Gobeshona Foundation, Dhaka. He was Research Assistant, Bureau of Socio-Economic Research and Training BAU, Mymensingh. He was Research Associate in the Department of Environmental Science & Management, NSU, Dhaka. )