Extreme weather and frequent flooding have forced Lalmia, a farmer in remote Chargoraipear under Ulipur sub-district of northern Kurigram district, to change farming methods and crop patterns.
“A couple of years ago I used to cultivated paddy as my father did. But I’ve now been growing gourd, potato, chilli, maize, nuts, oil seeds and spices alongside paddy,” said Mr Lalmia.
“And, I brought a change in crop patterns. Now I farm three times a year on my char land,” he explained.
Furthermore, this cultivator is getting 30-32 maunds of paddy from his 100 decimal of land. It was five to seven maunds some seven years ago.
Farmers in char areas are still in the vulnerable situation as their months of effort come a cropper because of a rush of waters from upstream India.
“Last year, my potato field completely vanished in a single night’s deluge as India released upstream water in the transboundary Teesta through its dam.”
Farmers in the char land of the Teesta basin do agri-activities amid the faster-growing climate impacts and extreme weathers.
Even soil’s water-holding capacity is low for high content of sand in northern and Padma pastures. More irrigation is, therefore, required in those areas.
Since there is no electricity facility in some remote char, irrigation pumps run on diesel, which alsdo increases crop production costs.
Last year, a study run in a peer-reviewed journal ‘Sustainability’ found that key problems in crop output in char land is lack of improved varieties and advanced techniques as chars are sited in isolated parts.
As off-farm actions are insignificant there, integrated farming methods are suggested to avoid climate stresses like early flooding, river erosion, nor’wester, cold wave, hailstorm, drought and excessive rain.
Dr Uttam Kumer Sarker, an agronomy professor at Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU), who is one of the authors of the study, said farmer might not understand climate change or the academic terms but they are aware enough of the situation on the ground.
“In our research, we found that farmers are aware of the unusual behaviour of nature, temperature rise, pre or late monsoon and floods. And, they adopt a new course of action in line with their indigenous knowledge,” he told the FE.
Dr Sarker suggested that farmers select lands in the char for farming carefully and using organic fertilisers to increase water-holding capacity in char land, using different designs of seedbeds in changing situations like floods or drought.
“Integrated farming in the changing climate is another opportunity. In the farming system, we’ve livestock, poultry, fish and crop farming in a single method. But it couldn’t be easy for the landless or small farmers.”
Earlier, char farmers only cultivated paddy and a very few other crops, but they are now cultivating rice, maize, chilli, nuts, potato, spices, oil seeds, vegetables in changed crop patterns like three crops yearly instead of two, according to experts.
So many government and development organisations are also working to provide necessary knowledge and support of technologies to char farmers.
M4C team leader Md Abdul Awal told the FE that through its activities in agriculture and livestock sectors, the M4C initiative improved the prospects for income growth for char inhabitants.
Making Markets Work for Jamuna, Padma and Teesta Chars (M4C) is an initiative to reduce vulnerability and increase wellbeing of vulnerable and marginalised char-dwellers in the country’s northern char region.
M4C also puts in place climate-related measures, including effective post-harvest, storage and irrigation systems, crop diversification, use of storm- and drought-resilient, disease-resistant seeds, compost and integrated pest management, added Mr Awal.
Biplob Kumar Mahanta, deputy director at the Department of Agricultural Extension said they have been helping local farmers with new crop varieties and extreme weather-tolerant crop seeds and technologies.
“Wheat production is hampered with rising temperatures while paddy, potato and some other crops get damaged if they go under floodwaters. We’ve already developed new climate-tolerant seed varieties for farmers.”
Rice consumption decreased in the district as other varieties of fruits and vegetables have increased which is a good sign, added Mr Mahanta, saying that these are instances of adaptation in climate change.