Arable land must be protected to feed the people in hunger

29 December 2022

AFTER a long struggle with Covid-19 in the last 3 years along with an unprecedented war between Russia and Ukraine, when the issue of food security was in question, then a news report published yesterday in this newspaper made us more anxious that the arable land of the country is shrinking very alarmingly. The report referring to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) said agricultural land in the country is declining at the rate of one percent every year. According to the Agri Census Report 2019, the net cropland across the country has decreased by around four lakh acres in the last 11 years since 2008. It severely hit agro-industry production and affected the fish population, causing concern among the experts.
The principal reason behind this adverse condition of arable land is unplanned industrialisation and indiscriminate urbanization. The rapid growth of the population has also added further misery to the ecological imbalance of the country. Close to 50 per cent of the country's population is primarily employed in agriculture, with more than 70 per cent of its land dedicated to growing crops. Only 37 per cent of Bangladesh's total area is arable land but natural disasters can affect 30 per cent of this land. Bangladesh's net cultivable land is 1.86 crore acres, of which the temporary cropland is 1.64 crore acres and the permanent cropland is 19.70 lakh acres. The total number of cows as per the census 2019 is 2.94 crore which stands almost double the number of 1.63 crore cows in 2008. The census counts the number of roosters, chickens, and ducks more than double to 27.38 crores as against 13.72 crores in the 2008 census.
Though Bangladesh is nearly self-sufficient in rice production, food security remains an elusive goal. Currently, an alarming 43 per cent of children under-five in Bangladesh are stunted due to continuous malnourishment as a result of poor feeding habits and lack of access to nutritious foods. Therefore, a decrease in food grain production may lead the situation to have deteriorated further.
In this context of the country's fast-shrinking arable land, we need an effective strategy to feed the hungry. The urban agricultural method is now in dialogue as an alternative to compensate for the shrinking land for cultivation. That also needs the attention of the authority concerned devoted to the cause of public interest. But who cares when people are denied their rights as citizens; nothing bothers the men in power.

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