Rasha Binte Mohiuddin
With radically increased population rapid economic growth, expansion of urbanization and industrialization, mega cities of Bangladesh are facing a lot of challenges and food security is one of them. Bangladesh is one of the top 10 food grain producing countries in the world according to a story published in the Economist.
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), Bangladesh holds the third position in the world for vegetable production (FAO, 2015). Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) alarms that 35pc vegetables are wasted for the lack of post-harvest technology especially for the shortage of cold storage and without having modern transports with cooler system. In recent years modern system of agriculture has attracted criticism for the over use of chemical fertilizers. Depletion of soil organic matter is the main cause of low productivity, which is considered one of the most serious threats to the sustainability of agriculture. Plants in organic system are cultivated without artificial pesticides and readily available fertilizers but in Bangladesh, most soils have less than 17g/kg organic matter. Farmers are facing difficulties with soil fertility related to organic matter depletion. However, due to an increase in the cost of production compared to the stagnation of rice yield, rice farming is currently a non-profitable enterprise for farmers.
According to IFOAM, of around 138 NGOs are members of the Forum for Regenerative Agriculture Movement in Bangladesh, 47 are engaged in practicing organic agriculture, 87 are intending to practice sustainable agriculture, and 3 are involved in advocacy, lobbying and campaign for sustainable development.
With few exceptions, organic farming in Bangladesh still occurs largely on an experimental basis. Total land area under organic cultivation in Bangladesh has been estimated at 0.177 million hectares representing only 2% of the country’s total cultivable land. PROSHIKA (NGO), with its Ecological Agriculture Program, in the leader in organic farming in the country.
Dr. Qazi Faruque Ahmed is the Founder and Chairman of Proshika. Since 1978, PROSHIKA began to spread ecological practices among its group members by growing varieties of seasonal vegetables. PROSHIKA’s Ecological Agriculture Program has involved around 0.8 million farmers in organic cultivation across 0.22 million acres of land. Out of these, 0.22 million farmers started to practice ecological agriculture on 0.08 million acres of land in the last five years. PROSHIKA has also introduced an organic vegetable marketing project to promote the consumption of organic vegetables. Currently, one marketing channel of PROSHIKA is selling organic products to the public in Mirpur area of Dhaka city. Furthermore, mobile vans are being used to sell organic vegetables in some areas, including apartment complexes, mega shops and departmental stores. Between July 1999 and March 2003, PROSHIKA received some funding support from the World Bank.
Proshika is promoting the application of organic matter through an ecological agriculture program by their members most of them land-less and marginal farmers. A study shows that the trained group members use more organic fertilizer than non-trained Proshika group members. On farm trials, field days, farmers’ participatory research and extension play a vital role in developing the farmers’ knowledge of soil organic matter management.
In 1997, Proshika conducted a study in thirteen areas. They started with cow dung and poultry manure as common source of organic manure. Farmers also use water hyacinth after composting where it is available. Farmers’ wants to use oil cakes as organic manure, but high cost and irregular availability prevent application.
On the other hand, according to Dhaka city corporation an estimated 4,600-5,110 tons of waste is generated in the metropolis a day with high organic content and high moisture (about 80% and 50-70% by weight, respectively). The city has experienced a number of adverse impacts from improperly managed waste, including the prevalence of diseases, contaminated ground water and poor air quality. According to FAO, CO2 emissions in agricultural sector from 1992-2012 is om an average 66,343 Gigagrams and it is 6,308 Gigagrams from synthetic fertilizer. By composting organic waste, the peak rate of greenhouse gas methane generation would be low and the residue could be a good organic fertilizer for organic crop cultivation.
A small number of non-NGO and conventional farmers have started to cultivate organic crops. Among the few private companies that have started to invest in organic farming, Kazi and Kazi Ltd. is a leader. They have established an organic tea garden at Tetulia, in the Panchagarh district. This tea is certified by the SGS organic production standard in accordance with the EU Regulation 2092/91, and it is marketed as Meena Tea. This company also produces fresh organic vegetables and herbs for sale in their supermarket, Meena Bazar, in Dhaka city.
Barind Multipurpose Development Authority from Bangladesh government has some success in organic farming and agriculture and aquaculture method. Chairman of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority Dr. Akram H Chowdhury said that they are now looking for international market to sell their organic fish and vegetables. But they need post-harvest technology for bio preservation and transport for green and leafy vegetables.
Organic farming is potentially a profitable enterprise, with a growing global market, already being supplied by 90 developing countries, but not including Bangladesh. Local consumers in Bangladesh have a fairly well-developed perception about organic products and people are interested in buying certified organic foods, and even willing to pay more for them. To gain access to this market, however, certification is a prerequisite. It is very difficult for poor smallholder or organic farmers to resolve these problems alone, and to develop their organic farms. To overcome the challenge for individual farmers in achieving this, a big amount of investment could play an important role for the development of organic agricultural in Bangladesh. This aspect will enable this sector to meet the necessary requirements of producing and marketing organic foods, both for the internal and export markets; and can secure an extra premium for the poor farmers of Bangladesh. The concerned agencies through research and small scale trials should take the necessary steps to enable the rapid expansion of organic farming in Bangladesh, and so significantly reduce poverty among the poor farmers.
(Rasha Binte Mohiuddin is a Student of Environment Protection and Agricultural Food Production, University of Hohenheim, Germany)