01 February, 2023, 11:00 pm

Last modified: 02 February, 2023, 01:40 pm

As alarm bells began to go off around the world about a looming food crisis, the news soon reached farmer Tarek bin Mahtab of Golai village in Godagari upazila of Rajshahi.

He had planted boro paddy on 7 bighas of land last year. This year he will do so on 10 bighas.

Infographic: TBS


Infographic: TBS

“I also planted mustard for the first time this year. The mustard yield improves on land already used for the purpose,” he said.

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

A diversified basket of crops also fetches a reasonable price, while the rice itself is priced higher than before.

While last year Boro rice was around Tk600 per maund, this year it is fetching highs of Tk1,100 for the same.

Elsewhere, Mokabbar Ali, a farmer in Bhimpur village in Nagaon Sadar, also planted brinjal and other winter vegetables on 4 decimals of land.

“I am planning on growing different vegetables on my land. I am also rearing three pairs of bulls. Other farmers also need to come forward to make Bangladesh self-sufficient in food production.”

His focus on Boro – which makes up more than 55% of all rice production in the country – also remains.

Farmers in Bangladesh have always been at the frontlines of the fight to stave off impending hunger.

After a meeting of top economists a year after the country’s independence, Cambridge economist Austin Robinson, who joined the conference as an official, described a grim picture in the newborn country. With little resources and a hungry population, he said, “At present Bangladesh is the textbook example of Malthusian stagnation…”

A year later, floods wreaked havoc across the country, ushering in a famine.

But Bangladesh persevered. Its farmers took the fields, sparing no inch of cultivable land.

It’s a lesson that the Bangladeshi farmers would use a few decades later when a pandemic hit the world. Food production did not stop.

Now, as the country struggles to deal with myriad problems – recovery from the Russia-Ukraine war crisis, rising energy prices and depleting foreign reserves – the farmers are pushing on with their unique skills.

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Seeking sustainability

Mizanur Rahman, a farmer in Bogura’s Dupchanchia, is busy tending to his crops – rice, corn, vegetables, mustard, and potatoes.

He has 50 bighas of farm land. Higher prices for farm products encouraged him to go for a bigger produce basket.

“The price of various agricultural products increase each year. As a result, it becomes difficult to meet agricultural and household expenses by growing one type of crop,” he explains.

Mizanur, like millions of others, is not only looking for a payday. Small farmers, who make up the bulk of the agricultural sector, are utilising their lands to the fullest, focusing on feeding families.

Many recall how during Covid-19 their famished city-based families had to leave for villages. An empty pantry is no longer an option.

More people have also shown interest in farming, championing food security.

Easy agri loans, more lands in use

Government agricultural loans are on easier terms too. Fallow lands have been in use as well.

Boro rice seedlings are planted once the mustard is harvested. Farmers are cultivating Boro on more land this time.

Boro rice is being cultivated on 1,86,650 hectares of land in Bogura in the country’s northern area which contributes the most to food security this season.

Alongside rice, mustard cultivation has also increased significantly this year – 37,575 hectares of land are being cultivated compared to 27,617 hectares last year.

Enamul Haque, additional deputy director (Crops) of the Department of Agricultural Extension in Bogura, says the focus is on increased production.

Mustard cultivation is up to meet the shortfall in edible oil. He said Bogura has 687 hectares of cultivable fallow land. Of this, 297 hectares have been cultivated in the last six months.

“There will be no cultivable fallow land left unused in the district within the next six months. Farmers will do more if loans are increased further.”

Director General of the Department of Agricultural Extension Badal Chandra Biswas said good Boro production depends on the adequate supply of inputs like fertilisers, good seeds, diesel, and electricity.

“A steady supply of these materials is being arranged and the department has enough fertiliser stock until next June. They are using more productive seed varieties this year and cultivating hybrid seeds in 14 lakh hectares, up from 13 lakh hectares last year. Discussions are ongoing with the Ministry of Power to ensure uninterrupted power and fuel supply during the irrigation season, and steps are being taken to reduce wastage. Work is also underway to bring fallow land under cultivation.”

The target for this year’s Boro season is 49,77,600 hectares, an increase from last year’s 48,72,000 hectares. The goal for rice production is 2.15 crore tonnes, up from last year’s 2.02 crore tonnes. To achieve these targets, the Ministry of Agriculture and the Department of Agricultural Extension provide farmers with the necessary resources to bring fallow land under cultivation.

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Photo: Rajib Dhar/TBS

Godagari Upazila Agriculture Officer Maryam Ahmed said there are 55,000 farmers in Godagari Upazila, and all uncultivated land has been brought under cultivation as per Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s instructions.

Elsewhere, Mozdar Hossain, deputy director of the Directorate of Agricultural Extension in Rajshahi, said crops are produced three to six times a year in the district, ensuring a grain surplus and no possibility of food shortage.

Agricultural loans are gradually given to farmers from banks, and agriculture officers visit farming families to motivate them to use their lands.

Farmers are also focused on increasing food production due to rising food prices and growing demand.

Several big chars on the Meghna River are also being cultivated for the first time.

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