Experts at a workshop in Rajshahi yesterday advocated for transformation of the Barind region from a rice bowl to an export-focused agricultural hub to save the declining water resources.

The workshop titled “Joining forces for catalysing transformation in Barind Hotspot” was held at the conference room of the Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA).

More than 70 experts joined the workshop, which was jointly organised by the Coca-Cola Foundation, 2030 Water Resources Group, Dascoh Foundation, Syngenta Foundation, and BMDA.

The experts said Barind is a country hotspot owing to drought, low rainfall, and groundwater depletion. The region should grow less water-consuming crops instead of Boro rice to conserve water.

They also said the farmers and agribusiness owners will require assistance in identifying extension activities for exportable crops, marketing their products, and improving the supply chain.

Dr MA Sattar Mandal, emeritus professor at Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, said the government, NGOs, and farmers need to work together for the transformation.

“Aside from smarter rice varieties, certain fruit production, like mango, is already profitable in the region. We need to find more prospective export crops and create opportunities for crop export.”

Prof Chowdhury Sarwar Jahan of Rajshahi University’s geology and mining department said the area also has the potential for cotton cultivation, which uses little water and has sufficient global demand.

Syeda Sitwat Shahed, 2030 WRG consultant, briefed about a project titled “Introducing Water Efficient Technologies in Barind,’ saying, “Some 48,000 farmers used alternative wetting and drying technology for rice and ultra-high density cultivation techniques using drip irrigation for mango in Rajshahi, Naogaon, and Chapainawabganj for the last five years.”

With these technologies, farmers increased rice yields by 7 percent while using 16 percent less irrigation, saving 79 percent water, and increasing mango production by around 33 percent, she said.

BMDA Executive Director Abdur Rashid said rice cultivation also has a negative impact on carbon emission levels.

He said BMDA has already started shifting towards using surface water for irrigation, instead of groundwater.



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