Monday, 12 June 2017

Foregoing fallow in polders of coastal zone in Bangladesh

The latest issue of "Polder Tidings" newsletter is now out. This issue highlights opportunities of intensifying production system in polders of Bangladesh.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Sustaining the change with community seed storage model

The low-lying tract of polders in the coastal zone which is home to millions of poor people is regarded as a low agricultural productivity zone. The farmers generally grow a single crop of traditional rice.  While many government and international agencies are working to unlock the production potential of the region, the adoption of modern high yielding cultivars has been very slow. Among many, availability of quality seeds is one of the major reasons determining slow adoption rate.
Most of the farmers in rural Bangladesh including those in the polders store rice seeds in their house. The common practice is to keep and use their own rice seed. The farmers seldom purchase rice seeds, except those who cultivate high yielding and hybrid rice varieties in the dry season (limited areas in fish ghers). The traditional and conventional storage structures they used are Dole, Berh, Motka, Jala, Gunny bag, Plastic drum and Plastic bags. The seeds stored in these structures/containers are susceptible to damage by adverse environmental conditions attack by microorganisms, insects, and rodents, causing considerable damage and loss. The farmers have reported that insect damage to stored rice grains and seeds may amount to 20-40%.

The SIIL-Polder project is engaged with farmer community to increase awareness and train them on hermetic seed storage. Since crop production is seasonal, and consumption is continuous, safe storage is important to maintain the seed quality. In the past, insect infestation was often a less concern among the farmers as most of them cultivated traditional varieties. However, with the increased price of high-yielding varieties (HYV) of rice and demand for more food production from declining land resources, they are now highly concerned about safe storage of improved rice seeds. Hence, storing grains and seeds without insect infestation is highly essential.

The project has established a “Community seed-storage” learning hub in Fultala village. The primary goal of community led learning center is to provide training on seed storage, interaction among the community on the importance of quality seeds and creating income generation opportunities for poor section of the community.

For seed storage, one cocoon of 1-ton capacity has been placed in Fultala village. The project has introduced community seed model where one landless woman has agreed to coordinate and take responsibility for the storage process and its maintenance. The community agreed to pay Tk. 2 per kilogram of stored seed to the distressed woman for improving her livelihood. Since the community keeps their rice seed at home, the Water Management Group (WMG) started this community seed bank model deciding on a low price to test its viability and social acceptability and to develop an income generation model for the distressed women within the community. In 2017, the community was able to store 926 kg seed in the cocoon, 70% of which is HYV rice.

Ms. Maloti Sarkar who is a distressed woman member of WMG and has no land; agreed to take responsibility of the cocoon. Maloti regularly inspects the cocoon to check any damage by rodent or other sources. She will earn BDT 1,852 by taking care of the cocoon for a season. She is planning to use this money to cultivate the leased land and grow rice in 2017 aman season.
With this concept, training on seed storage was provided to 107 farmers (66 male and 41 female) in aman season 2016. The training was organized in nine locations at Katakhali sub-polder area. In addition to 22 farmers producing HYV rice seeds, 85 farmers from five villages were included in the training on seed storage. They were provided insight on the importance of good quality seed production, good quality storage like cocoon and benefits of keeping seeds in cocoons.

The main goal of the SIIL-Polder project is to establish and empower the community to sustainably manage their land and water resources to make these resources more productive. The project aims to create strong cooperatives that will interact with public and private organizations that play a role in the agricultural development of the area. Participatory resources management is the entry point and the initial driver of the community organization process. The explicit objective of the project is to reduce poverty of the people in the coastal areas by enhancing cropping intensity, improving crop productivity, and ultimately increasing incomes. The WMG’s would be key players to empower the community for achieving the goal of the project and sustainably managing and utilization of natural resources. They could adopt hermetic storage as a means for income generation to sustainably run the community seed storage hub and may act as the service provider in quality seed production and distribution within the community. Besides, they can develop the business plan and engage the poor women and youth for improving their livelihoods. 

Compiled by: Rokhsana Parvin Ratna, Shilpi Sarker and Shwapon Vhadra

Friday, 24 February 2017

Nutritional Awareness- exploring entry points

With more than 70 percent of the cereal based diet with a small proportion of protein and micronutrient, undernutrition is a serious challenge in Bangladesh. 

In the polders of coastal Bangladesh, the situation exacerbates further with a significant part of the population which doesn’t have sufficient food to eat throughout the year. More than food access, the nutritional security depends on awareness about the nutrition-rich farming system and dietary diversity.

With support from Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) and HarvestPlus, the SIIL-Polder project is working with the community on a nutrient-inclusive production system. Being staple food, the cultivation of rice with high nutrition can help to address the health issue especially improving the immune system and reduce stunting in the children. The project has introduced BRRI dhan 62 and 72 rice varieties in the region which not only will increase the land productivity but will also add micronutrient (Zn) in the diet. 

To create the knowledge hub on nutrition, the project has started the awareness training at the primary school in each village. As many studies indicated that increasing in mothers’ knowledge on nutrition may contribute significantly to the family especially child's nutritional status, the project has engaged mother of primary school children in these training and awareness campaign. These training events are focused on creating awareness among mothers on the importance of micronutrient, high nutritious rice and benefits of biofortified rice to the health of children and mother. Three training events were organized involving 19 women teachers and 29 mothers of kindergarten students.

The project is also testing the model of engaging and increasing awareness among the women on nutrition at household level including farmer’s wife, sister, and mother. Training events were organized to discuss on consumption of nutritious rice and its impact on children, lactating and pregnant mothers. In last 6 months, the project has reached to 788 women including 187 direct beneficiaries who received seeds of climate resilient and nutritious high yielding rice varieties for aman season.

As women play a central role in the family especially on food diversity and they can be major players for carrying and sharing knowledge on nutrition with other family members and community.

By: Ratna Rokhsana and Shilpi 


Tuesday, 14 February 2017

Translating research findings into information

While SIIL-Polder project is working with the community on innovations to unlock the production potentials, BRAC is taking the lead to relay the research findings to a large number of farmers. One of the common goals of BRAC Agriculture and Food Security Program and SIIL-Polder project is to support adoption of pragmatic farming approaches for efficient use of available natural resources for improving food security, human nutrition and livelihoods of rural polder communities in the coastal zone of Bangladesh.
BRAC organized a field day on Dec 8, 2016, to introduce and disseminate knowledge on the benefit of early transplantation of aman rice, the performance of climate resilient and nutritious rice and opportunity of introducing mechanization in polders.

The field day was organized in the Fultala village in Polder 30. A total of 124 participants including 61 women from farmer community, Department of Agricultural Extension, Local Government Institutions, and Development Organizations participated in the event. All participants were briefed on project goal and activities in the region. A field visit and hands-on training (on mechanical transplanter and reaper) were also arranged. The participants were quite impressed to see the performance of high yielding rice varieties especially opportunity of early harvesting with reaper. Keeping labor scarcity in mind, farmers were interested to know more about mechanization.

By: Shankar Biswas, BRAC

Tuesday, 7 February 2017

Introducing mechanical harvesting of rice in polders of coastal Bangladesh

Agricultural mechanization in the coastal zone of Bangladesh is almost absent except the use of two-wheel tractor in land preparation. Undulated topography and waterlogging are considered the main barriers to mechanization. Farmers generally manually harvest their rice which not only quite expensive but also takes significant time before the field can be vacant. This reduces the opportunity to seed dry season crop on time.

In aman season in 2016, the SIIL-Polder project has demonstrated reaper for harvesting rice for the first time at 9 locations within the catchment area of Katakhali regulator in polder 30. The project provided hands-on training to 84 men and 65 women targeted towards developing entrepreneurship within the community. The participants and observers were highly impressed to see the performance reaper in harvesting rice. A few influential farmers especially the youths express their interest in buying reaper and making it as an alternate income source. However, farmers have still concerns on excess soil moisture and poor road networks in the coastal zone as some of the key barriers to adopting reaper.

By: Jayanta Bhattacharya; Ratna Rokhsana and Manoranjan Mondal


Wednesday, 4 January 2017