Bangladesh looks to the Blue-Green Revolution for food security | Asia Pacific

Bangladesh looks to the Blue-Green Revolution for food security

Bangladesh looks to the Blue-Green Revolution for food security

Updated 30 July 2012, 9:45 AEST

Bangladesh hopes to achieve self-sufficiency in food production by 2050 and alleviate poverty, with an ambitious scheme called the Blue-Green Revolution.

The population is projected to grow from 164 million to 220 million in just under four decades, with the demand for food expected to soar.

Bangladesh has been ranked "highly-vulnerable" to climate change.

It now hopes to produce more food from the same area of land, without a huge environmental impact.

Agricultural expert Professor Dr Nesar Ahmed says the benefits of the Blue-Green Revolution are many.

Presenter: Sen Lam

Speaker: Professor Dr Nesar Ahmed, Bangladesh Agriculture University and the University of Stirliing, Scotland

 

DR AHMED: You know that Bangladesh population is currently 164 million, and by 2050 the population will increase to 222-million. So by that time, our agricultural land will reduce and the population will increase and Bangladesh will face alot of pressure. So in that case, if we ensure food security, we must go for rice-fish farming. We have ten million hectares of rice fields, in addition, we have two-point-83 million hectares of seasonal rice fields, where water stays for a couple of months. If we use this water body for the next decade, if we convert 2.83 million hectares of rice fields to rice-fish farming and also prawn farming, Bangladesh would get around one million tonnes of fish, 1.5-million tonnes of additional rice and Bangladesh would earn around ten billion US dollars per annum. That would accelerate our economic growth. So if we adopt this farming system, Bangladesh would be a poverty-free and food secure country within a decade.

As we have 700 rivers and tributaries criss-cross the country and we have fertile land, around 10-million hectares of land, suitable for rice-fish farming, and we have found that as Bangladeshi people eat rice and fish, both, and when they culture fish in their rice fields, that means they're getting their staple food, rice and fish. Also, coastal areas, a few advanced farmers culture prawns with fish in their rice fields.

LAM: And of course, the prawns, one presumes, would bring extra income, because they can sell the prawns?

DR AHMED: Yes, rice and fish for staple foods and household consumption and local markets, but when they culture prawn, that's a high value product for the international market, as almost all Bangladeshi prawns are exported to the USA and Europe, so culture of prawn may bring enormous earnings and bring benefits to poor fish farmers.

LAM: Food security of course has long been a challenge for Bangladesh, so is this Blue-Green Revolution happening, catching on, in rural communities as we speak, or has it been slow in taking off?

DR AHMED: Actually, Blue Green Revolution has not yet been widely cultured in Bangladesh, but a few number of small farmers have been adopting rice-fish farming. As Bangladesh is a small country, and our population is around 164 million.

LAM: What are the obstacles, what's stopping Bangladesh from adopting it full-scale?

DR AHMED: Our main problem is water management. There're floods and drought. So there's too much water during the monsoon when fish escape, and the farmers are not interested in rice-fish farming, and the drought also is one of the major constraints for fish culture in rice fields, as they can't go for rice-fish farming, if there's no water. Actually, the northern part of Bangladesh is a drought-prone area.

LAM: So in terms of water management, how is Bangladesh coping?

DR AHMED: I think it's possible to cope very easily. If a flood happens, we can use a net around the ponds or rice fields, so the fish cannot escape. Or we can also build hard dykes so we can conserve rain water or flood water, that is also one of the coping strategies of climate change. And in case of drought, we can provide irrigation facilities.

Our challenge is irrigation facilities require electricity supply or power, and Bangladesh has been a little behind in this opportunity. So we intend to introduce 'micro irrigation' facilities. You know Bangladesh invented micro-credit. This year, it's 'micro-irrigation'. So if we introduce 'micro irrigation' in our system, we can easily go for integrated rice fish farming. If we need huge irrigation, we need huge power - that is not possible because our government's first priority is industrial development, even though the government is keen to develop our agriculture sector. So in that case, we use our rain water, flood water and side by side, small-scale irrigation facilities - that would help and be of enormous benefit to our food production. Sometimes, the farmers' association or a community-based irrigation management would work very accurately. We have good contact with farmers, it's a two-way process - sometimes farmers come to us, and if we discover a new findings, we'll introduce them to the farmers. So it's a two-way process. As our research is mainly associated with agriculture, the farmer is always our friend.

LAM: And one of the consequences of the green revolution is 'chemical agriculture' which can be destructive. Is this issue being addressed?

DR AHMED: Oh, yes, the green revolution is actually not so green, because it means high-yielding varieties of rice monoculture, that is not sustainable. And it requires huge amounts of fertilisers, insecticides and pesticides that have negative impact on society, environment and bio-diversity. Similarly, the Blue revolution also a negative impact, as it too requires huge fertilisers and chemicals. So that's why we suggest rice-fish farming, to help the integrated management of rice and fish, reduce fertiliser use, insecticide use, pesticide use and bring alot of environmental benefits.

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