Thursday, March 17, 2016

New project to benefit “polder communities” in Bangladesh

DHAKA, Bangladesh—“Through enhanced water and crop management using a community approach, we have great opportunities to improve food security in the polder communities on the southwestern coast of Bangladesh,”  said Sudhir Yadav, a scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in anticipation of the impact of a recently launched project.

The project, Unlocking the production potential of polder communities in coastal Bangladesh through improved resource-use efficiency and diversified cropping systems, aims to usher self-sustaining economic growth and reduced poverty in the country's coastal communities.

The project was initiated under the flagship of USAID’s Feed theFuture (FtF), the Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) of Kansas State University (KSU), and IRRI in partnership with BRAC.

 “The Green Revolution contributed to the food security of many developing countries, including Bangladesh,” said Krishna Jagadish, associate professor at KSU and overall project leader, during the project’s inception workshop in Dhaka on 7 March. “Unfortunately, farmers in the polder ecosystems in Bangladesh have yet to witness that impact.”

Bangladesh constructed polders (low-lying tracts of land enclosed by dikes) in the 1960s to protect coastal agricultural lands from tidal flooding and reduce salinity incursion. They also reduce long-term flooding and waterlogging caused by storm surges.

“This entire ecological zone—regarded as a low agricultural productivity area—is home to millions and millions of poor people,” said Manoranjan Mondal, IRRI scientist who has been working with polder communities for more than a decade. “These coastal communities are most vulnerable to problems brought by climate change.”

The initiative aims to respond to the challenges in these coastal areas by planning, evaluating, and supporting adoption of practical farming approaches for efficient use of available resources. “But the end goal of these activities is to improve food security, human nutrition, and livelihoods of these communities,” stated Yadav.

SIIL Director Vara Prasad underscored the overall goal of improving the productivity, income, and nutrition of smallholder farmers. He also highlighted the importance of interdisciplinary research, knowledge sharing, and capacity building for sustainable intensification.

Hamidur Rahman, director general of Bangladesh's Department of Agricultural Extension, expressed his appreciation to the donors, KSU, and IRRI for this timely initiative. He added that the project matched the government’s initiative to improve the productivity of southern Bangladesh over the next five years.

Over this period, the project will focus on evaluating options for increasing cropping intensity and farm productivity through the best use of available resources and mechanization. Along with improved production systems, the project will also be promoting nutritional enhancement and creating new income-generating opportunities for poor women and landless farmers in the polder communities.

Part of the strategy of the project is to work closely with different agricultural universities to mentor the next generation of scientists.

Participants (photo) of the inception workshop included representatives from national organizations such as DAE, BRAC, Bangladesh Water Development Board, Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, and Institute of Water Management. Other participating international organizations working in the region include the World Fish Center, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, and the BlueGold project of the Dutch Government. 

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