Friday, November 4, 2016

Integrated polder development to improve food security in coastal Bangladesh

BANGKOK, Thailand, 18-19 October—Agricultural production is low in coastal Bangladesh, particularly in the country’s low-lying tracts of land enclosed by dikes that form an artificial hydrological system known as polders.

So, national institutes of Bangladesh, nongovernment organizations, scientists from international projects and organizations, and donors have come up with an integrated plan of action to help improve the food security in coastal Bangladesh. This was the result of the two-day workshop, Towards a better integration of R4D for improved food production systems in the coastal zone of Bangladesh, which was conducted in Bangkok.

“Since the Ganges coastal zone has lowlands between huge tidal rivers, polders were formed in the 1960s and 70s to protect the coasts from tidal flooding and saline water intrusion,“ said Sudhir Yadav, a water scientist at the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI).

“More than 1 million hectares of agricultural lands were enclosed in these polders and are now home to about 8 million people,” he added. “Yet, despite the enormous investment in embankments and associated infrastructure, most households in these communities live under the national poverty line. These polders are prone to flooding during the rainy season and experience drought and salinity during the dry season, let alone frequent occurrences of cyclones.”

Recognizing the needs and opportunities in these coastal areas, investment in the development of this region is now a priority of the Government of Bangladesh. Aside from the significant investment of the government in R4D in the coastal zone through its national research and extension system, international donors, especially USAID, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), and CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) are also investing considerably in R4D and outscaling projects in the region.

However, most of these national and international projects operate in isolation from each other with little awareness of what others are doing. Among them all, these projects and programs hold a great diversity of disciplinary expertise, experience, networks, and indigenous knowledge.

The workshop was an initial effort for greater information sharing and networking across the projects and programs. Twelve international R4D projects on the coastal zone in the country were discussed.

“This workshop, which is in line with CGIAR’s goal of increased coordination and collaboration among its centers, is expected to bring many benefits such as increased efficiency, higher level of impact, and sharing of resources, among other things,” said Bas Bouman, director of the Global Rice Science Partnership (GRiSP). “This will eventually lead to more rapid progress in improving productivity, livelihoods and nutrition in the coastal zone.”

The workshop was funded by GRiSP, with additional support from ACIAR and the CRPs on Grain Legumes; and Water, Land, and Ecosystems (WLE).

The workshop was well represented by national institutes such as the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh Agriculture Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh Water Development Board, and the Department of Agricultural Extension of Bangladesh.

Representatives from donors included USAID’s Feed the Future Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab; ACIAR; and CRPs such as GRiSP, Grain Legumes, and WLE.  Other CGIAR centers also participated including the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics, and the World Fish Center. BRAC, a nongovernment organization in Bangladesh, was also present as were universities and other international organizations and agencies.

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