Newspaper headlines have become something we do not look forward to anymore. It reads mostly on the lines of corruption, crime, tragedies and conflicts. Some of us are frustrated and have stopped reading the papers. Good news is somewhat hard to find it seems. Or maybe we just miss out on it because we don’t really read through. So when there is a series of positive news being reported it is bound to catch the eye. It speaks of all the good work that is being done all around us. In recent times, one such continuous stream of positive news I have read is about farmers with photographs of them smiling with their healthy crops. This is indeed good news for Bangladesh. In an industry as labour intensive as the agriculture sector of our country, it means that the conditions are improving for a large number of people. The news is about the lives of Jamir, Rafiq, Hossain, Rashida and many more. These are the stories of BRAC’s agriculture and food security programme
which has gained coverage in The Daily Star, The Daily Sun, The Janakantha, Naya Diganta after its success in the fields of maize and sunflower.
Bangladesh has traditionally followed a single cropping strategy growing rice. But with the increased demand for food security, the Ministry of Agriculture has focused in multiple cropping as we have idle land when rice is not being grown. In line, BRAC has promoted maize and sunflower among farmers in the middle of the rice season, which has a dual positive impact – attaining food security and improving farmer’s economic condition. Planting sunflower has also helped to utilise the coastal regions of the country.
The Daily Janakantha highlights the success of maize and sunflower cultivation. After the Aman season, the farming land is generally left unused. BRAC has encouraged farming of sunflower and maize and with the help of funds from the European Union is giving financial assistance to farmers. Under this programme called: ‘Crop Intensification for Achieving Food Sufficiency in the Coastal Region of Bangladesh
‘ in Khulna 1,346 acres of land is being used for maize cultivation and 130 acre of land is being used for sunflower cultivation. The farmers are already experiencing success. Once such farmer is Jamir Hossain, He is cultivating sunflower in 1 acre of land. He is expecting a harvest of 35 maunds which will give him 15 maunds of oil valued over 75 thousand taka. After a total cost of 15 thousand taka, he is expecting a net profit of 55 thousand taka.
Maize has also seen a very good harvest. The Ittefaq reports, “In Amtoli village, you see maize wherever you look”. A maize famer, Rafiq says he has harvested 90 maunds of maize from 1 acre of land. Rafiq is one of fifty farmers who share the same story. Another farmer, Md Hossain Ali said he worked according to the advice of BRAC officers and now he has a bumper harvest and does not need to worry about what his family will eat and he feels secure with the extra profit.
The Ittefaq highlights the success of sunflower. “I cultivated sunflower on 0.50 acres of land. I hope to get 8 to 10 maunds (a maund is equal to around 44 kg in local measure) of seeds that will bring me 190 to 200 litres of oil. It is sufficient to meet my family’s yearly demand,” said Rashida Begum, 45, a farmer of Shially village under Sadar upazila.
The Daily Star mentions the success of sunflower cultivation and BRAC’s role. It says BRAC has brought 180 acres of lands under sunflower cultivation in Sadar, Kalapara and Mirzaganj upazilas of Patuakhali district.
“Sunflower cultivation is easier, cheaper and more profitable. It requires very little irrigation and small amounts of fertilisers and insecticides. A kg of sunflower seeds brings 500 to 600 grams of oil, an amount more than that from any other oil seeds,” said Abdul Awal, deputy assistant agriculture officer of the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE).
This is just one example of many innovations BRAC is bringing in the field of agriculture. Its agricultural programme
is working through the whole chain of agriculture development and playing a catalytic role in attaining self-sufficiency in food production for Bangladesh. The goal of this programme is to contribute to achieving food security and reducing hunger and malnutrition through increased environmentally sustainable agricultural production. Recently minister of agriculture of Bangladesh came to visit
BRAC’s agro research centre
and stressed on public-private partnership in attaining food security of the growing population in the limited land. As the country faces the threats of climate change, increased focus has also been given by BRAC on submergence tolerant rice varieties for the coastal regions of Bangladesh, an large area with farming potential but not used for traditional farming.
The trend of good news is has been flowing in. It is only the beginning and we can sincerely hope for a regular stream of good news will lead to mass scaling up of such initiatives in other areas.
By Faisal Rezwan