Having a population of 163,187,000 at just 56,990 square miles, constituting one of the most densely populated countries in the world, with a population density of over 1100 people per km2 and with over half of its residents involved in the farming industry, we can clearly say that agriculture is the way of surviving many families in Bangladesh, especially those who live in the countryside.
Agriculture in Bangladesh is more about the crop sub-sector (and it is mainly rice, what the farmers are producing), but in recent years, others sub-sectors like livestock, forestry, and fisheries grew faster than the crops sub-sector, but still, there is not complete stability.
The main challenge for the agriculture sector in Bangladesh is to stabilize the growth that has been achieved in the past 20 years, considering the declining of land per person, the water scarcity, the impact of yearly natural disasters due to extreme weather, and other challenges.
Though the situation in Bangladesh has improved the last years, and there is economic growth, there are still different challenges that the farmers face, and this article provides us an insight of the difficult situations that come along with the agriculture.
Challenges from Nature
When it comes to natural disasters, such as flash flooding in the northwest districts, and damage by saline from tidal in the south, agriculture can become one of the most difficult jobs in Bangladesh. Along with that is the climate change situation that is affecting millions of peoples now that the country is very vulnerable and many of the poor families face a crisis. Natural disasters, like every-year floods, cyclones, erosion, and droughts destroy and damage entire crops, houses, communities, leading to diseases, death and reducing livelihood opportunities. Floods and the droughts are becoming worse year.
Training and Modern Technology
Many of the farmers are ready to do their part, they really want to survive, but they have not gotten the opportunity to receive technical training, which helps them to increase their crops and have more food security. Also, there is an evident need for the use of new technology and more sophisticated modern techniques. This can improve and increase the crops of the farmers and bring more stability and food security to entire families and communities, and at the same time reduces poverty.
Not Enough Land and Opportunities for Everyone
With all the challenges up at front (some from nature and other from man), the best thing that the farmers can do, is to take advantage of the resources that they have to increase their income so they can support their families, but even sometimes this is not enough as there are other external situations that are affecting these farmers to the point that some of them lost their lands through non-agricultural use like roads and housing construction, and other country development projects. We can also see that the availability of agricultural land is gradually declining, and about 60 percent of farmers are functionally landless and depend on sharecropping of land owned by others.
Although the soil is very fertile in Bangladesh and the possibilities are many for them, the average farm sizes are not enough to support the families, and as a consequence they struggle to get their everyday food, urging them to learn how to use the little piece of land and resources they have, combined with new techniques to produce more and have something to rely on.
Not having a stable income many of these families suffer malnutrition, especially children become more vulnerable since there is not food security, no opportunities, and no access to the use of technology that could make things easier for them. Every farmer (especially those who live in disaster-prone areas) need to learn how to adopt new techniques for their agriculture, regularly this is the traditional strategy to help them to increase their production and give them the opportunity to become self-sufficient, but not much of innovative practices have been tried by the public and the private sectors.
Good Water for Irrigation
Good quality irrigation water is not enough as this water sometimes is used for other purposes which are not even agricultural and the surface water sometimes carries a huge sediment load through its river system creating problems of drainage, and regular dredging is required to solve this problem.
Though is possible to use the groundwater since there has been a rapid expansion of tube wells, this also creates a problem during the dry season and also many times the water is contaminated with arsenic because of the tube wells.
Farmers cope with some other problems while selling their products due to their poor infrastructure, not having a proper place where to store their crops. Along with those roads and communications are not in optimal conditions, and there are also post-harvest losses (20% rice, 30-40% vegetables). Having access to credit facilities many of the farmers will invest in the improvement of their infrastructures, processing and packaging techniques.
Better quality seeds
One essential part of agriculture is having good quality seeds. Here there are two main challenges: 1) How to make breeder seed and foundation seed available, and 2) How to help farmers improve the quality of their own seed.
What others are doing to support
There are different NGOs and CSOs supporting the farmers to achieve sustainable agriculture and food security as well. Despite all the extensive work that is being done to reach everywhere in the country, many farmers, especially the marginal groups such in the rural area, women, disabled, can have trouble accessing the systems. NGOs and CSOs are supporting with and helping in these communities with credit, extension, research, promotion of farmers’ organizations, etc. They are also sources of policy advocacy on sensitive topics such as violence against women, labor standards and work safety, environmental conservation, indigenous and minority rights, etc. They also promote and encourage the farmers to participate in different activities, organizations, cooperative groups, pieces of training, ensuring community ownership of changes in agriculture and other sectors.
With all these challenges affecting Bangladesh, a country where agriculture plays a very important part in the economy, it is necessary that every farmer can have access to better opportunities, so they can learn how they can produce more despite the different difficulties. With proper training that will help them to adapt to the different natural disasters, and at the same time produce more, and also access to modern technology and credit facilities, the communities will grow and have more security, families will have enough food to survive, and there will be fewer health problems. Everyone has the right to live in better conditions and none should suffer because of a lack of opportunities, and every family has the right to have enough in their houses. No matter what situation they face there is always a way of helping them to live happily and the best they can. Although the challenges are many the opportunities and solutions are more for the farmers to overcome poverty and to achieve financial success. This will bring a better future for entire communities and to the country.