Posts Tagged ‘Bangladesh’
Public and private partners join forces to mitigate voracious pest.
Hundreds of agricultural professionals in Bangladesh were trained in the latest fall armyworm management strategies as part of a new project that will strengthen efforts against this threat to farmers’ income, food security, and health. The new project, Fighting Back Against Fall Armyworm, is supported by USAID and the University of Michigan.
As part of the project, last November over 450 representatives from government, nonprofits and the private sector participated in three-day training to learn how to identify, monitor and apply integrated pest management approaches.
Fall armyworm presents an important threat to farmers’ income, food security and livelihoods as it continues to spread across the country, in addition to health risks if toxic insecticides are indiscriminately used, said Tim Krupnik, senior scientist and agronomist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). It is anticipated the course participants will pass on knowledge about the pest and appropriate control practices to around 30,000 farmers in their respective localities.
“Participants were selected for their ability to reliably extend the strategies that can be sustainably implemented by maize farmers across the country,” explained Krupnik. “The immersive training saw participants on their hands and knees learning how to scout, monitor and collect data on fall armyworm,” he said. “They were also trained in alternatives to toxic chemical pesticides, and how and when to make decisions on biological control with parasitoids, bio-pesticides, and low-toxicity chemical pesticide use.”
Following its ferocious spread across Africa from the Americas, fall armyworm first attacked farms in Bangladesh during the winter 2018-2019 season. Combined with highly apparent damage to leaves, its resilience to most chemical control methods has panicked farmers and led researchers to promote integrated pest management strategies.
In this context, the 22-month Fighting Back Against Fall Armyworm project will build the capacity of the public and private sector for effective fall armyworm mitigation.
The hungry caterpillar feeds on more than 80 plant species, but its preferred host is maize — a crop whose acreage is expanding faster than any other cereal in Bangladesh. The pest presents a peculiar challenge as it can disperse over 200 kilometers during its adult stage, laying thousands of eggs along its way.
Once settled on a plant, larvae burrow inside maize whorls or hide under leaves, where they are partially protected from pesticides. In a bid to limit fall armyworm damage, farmers’ indiscriminate application of highly toxic and inappropriate insecticides can encourage the pest to develop resistance, while also presenting important risks to beneficial insects, farmers, and the environment.
Reaching every corner of the country
As part of the project, CIMMYT researchers supported Bangladesh’s national Fall Armyworm Task Force to develop an online resource to map the spread of fall armyworm. Scientists are working with the Ministry of Agriculture to digitally collect real-time incidents of its spread to build evidence and gain further insight into the pest.
“Working with farmers and agricultural agencies to collect information on pest population and incidence will assist agricultural development planners, extension agents, and farmers to make informed management decisions,” said Krupnik, who is leading the project.
A key objective is to support national partners to develop educational strategies to facilitate sustainable pest control while also addressing institutional issues needed for efficient response.
“In particular, the Government of Bangladesh has been extremely responsive about the fall armyworm infestation and outbreak. It developed and distributed two fact sheets — the first of which was done before fall armyworm arrived — in addition to arranging workshops throughout the country. Initiatives have been taken for quick registration of microbial pesticides and seed treatments,” commented Syed Nurul Alam, Entomologist and Senior Consultant with CIMMYT.
“It is imperative that governmental extension agents are educated on sustainable ways to control the pest. In general, it is important to advise against the indiscriminate use of pesticides without first implementing alternative control measures, as this pest can build a resistance rendering many chemicals poorly effective,” Krupnik pointed out.
To this end, the project also consciously engages members of the private sector — including pesticide and seed companies as well as agricultural dealers — to ensure they are able to best advise farmers on the nature of the pest and suggest sustainable and long-term solutions. To date, the project has advised over 755 agricultural dealers operating in impacted areas of Bangladesh, with another 1,000 being trained in January 2020.
Project researchers are also working alongside the private sector to trial seed treatment and biologically-based methods of pest control. Biocontrol sees researchers identify, release, and manage natural predators and parasitoids to the fall armyworm, while targeted and biologically-based pesticides are significantly less of a health risk for farmers, while also being effective.
The 22-month project, funded by USAID, has 6 key objectives:
- Develop educational materials to aid in reaching audiences with information to improve understanding and management of fall armyworm.
- Assist the Department of Agricultural Extension in deploying awareness raising and training campaigns.
- Prepare the private sector for appropriate fall armyworm response.
- Standing task force supported.
- Generate data and evidence to guide integrated fall armyworm management.
The Fighting Back Against Fall Armyworm in Bangladesh project is aligned with Michigan State University’s Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development (BHEARD) program, which supports the long-term training of agricultural researchers in USAID’s Feed the Future priority countries.
To achieve synergies and scale, the project will also be supported in part by in-kind staff time and activities, through linkages to the third phase of the USAID-supported Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT). CSISA and CIMMYT staff work very closely with Bangladesh’s Department of Agricultural Extension and the Bangladesh Maize and Wheat Research Institute (BWMRI) in addition to other partners under the Ministry of Agriculture.
Author: Matthew O’Leary
Also available in CIMMYT’s site: https://www.cimmyt.org/news/new-project-strengthens-capacity-to-fight-fall-armyworm-in-bangladesh/
Wheat blast is a fast-acting and devastating fungal disease that threatens food safety and security in the Americas and South Asia.
First officially identified in Brazil in 1984, the disease is widespread in South American wheat fields, affecting as much as 3 million hectares in the early 1990s.
In 2016, it crossed the Atlantic Ocean, and Bangladesh suffered a severe outbreak. Bangladesh released a blast-resistant wheat variety—developed with breeding lines from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)—in 2017, but the country and region remain extremely vulnerable.
The continued spread of blast in South Asia—where more than 100 million tons of wheat are consumed each year—could be devastating.
Researchers with the CIMMYT-led and USAID-supported Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) and Climate Services for Resilient Development (CSRD) projects partner with national researchers and meteorological agencies on ways to work towards solutions to mitigate the threat of wheat blast and increase the resilience of smallholder farmers in the region. These include agronomic methods and early warning systems so farmers can prepare for and reduce the impact of wheat blast.
This series of infographics shows how wheat blast spreads, its potential effect on wheat production in South Asia and ways farmers can manage it.
CIMMYT and its partners work to mitigate wheat blast through projects supported by U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR), CGIAR Research Program on WHEAT, and the CGIAR Platform on Big Data.
See more on wheat blast here: https://www.cimmyt.org/wheat-blast/
Weed infestation is among the primary barriers to achieving the full yield potential of crops, including improved cultivars, in South Asia. According to Virender Kumar, Senior Scientist – Weed Science, International Rice Research Institute, “Unlike insects and disease where effects are more often immediately evident in the field, weeds are like a slow poison, working unseen in the background. Weeds are endemic to agricultural fields, have received relatively less attention from farmers, and are difficult to react to.”
Studies have shown that yield losses due to weeds can range from 15 to 90 percent in Bangladesh (Mamun et al. 1990, 1993, 2013*; Mazid et al. 2001*; Rashid et al. 2012). In India, studies (Rao and Chauhan, 2015; Milberg and Hallgren, 2003) have shown approximately 33 percent yield losses were attributed to weeds, followed by insect pests at 26 percent and diseases at 20 percent. Specifically for rice, 15 percent of losses in transplanted rice were attributed to weeds, as were 30 percent of losses in direct seeded rice. The situation worsens for rice cultivated in upland ecologies, such as Mayurbhanj district in Odisha. Here, 45 percent, or higher, of yield losses have been attributed to weeds.
In the geographies where the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), is active, effective, accessible and affordable weed management tools are needed as manual hand-weeding still dominates and weeds continue to be poorly controlled. In southern Bangladesh, the Indian states of Bihar, eastern Uttar Pradesh and Odisha, and the Terai region of Nepal, herbicide use remains very low and herbicide markets are only at a nascent stage of development. Increasing labor out-migration and the resulting rise in wages is expected to eventually drive up herbicide demand in these regions, but imprecisely or incorrectly applying herbicides is not the answer.
Farmers often lack knowledge on safe and integrated weed management practices. Therefore, all across South Asia, CSISA has adopted a new approach to safe and efficient use of herbicides, with the major focus still on the agronomic management of weeds. CSISA research results show that the integration of new classes of safe and effective herbicides with other cultural practices, supported by hand and mechanical weeding, resulted in up to 25 and 29 percent increase in grain yields in Odisha and Bihar, respectively, for transplanted rice and a reduction in weed control costs compared to farmers’ current practices. This method of integrated weed management (IWM) addresses labor bottlenecks in intensive rice-based systems and is also an important enabling factor for the adoption of sustainable intensification technologies such as direct-seeded rice and zero-tillage wheat.
“Most rice farming in South Asia is subject to water shortages, imbalanced fertilizer use and increased frequency of extreme weather, which allow complex weed flora to dominate and weeds to triumph in the face of crop–weed competition. We’re trying to move from conventional to new systems, to reduced water consumption and tillage. Naturally, this means we’re going to see even more weeds,” said Kumar, who also leads CSISA’s work on IWM. By undertaking collaborative applied research and creating business intelligence with national agricultural research and extension systems and private sector partners, CSISA hopes to help build a critical mass of IWM adopters in these regions. CSISA is working on demonstrating the efficacy of new molecule combinations for the control of complex weed flora, facilitating market development of new molecule combinations, and on promoting other non-chemical options such as dust mulching, fallows management, better land preparation, cropping system intensification and mechanical weeding.
In Bangladesh, by partnering with the Agricultural Input Retailers Network, CSISA has leveraged an existing platform of private sector agricultural input dealers to ensure its practical lessons on implementing IWM reach nearly 25,000 farmers this year alone. Approximately 800 input dealers underwent training on IWM conducted jointly by CSISA, Bangladesh Department of Agricultural Extension and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute. Sajedul Islam, an agricultural input dealer from Jhenaidah district, said, “The method of calibrating the herbicide sprayer is a new and useful aspect of herbicide use, which I have learned from this training. I am now capable of doing the calibration myself and shall be able to pass this knowledge to farmers, which will help reduce their risk from improper herbicide use.” The other participants, like Islam, are naturally motivated to help disseminate these lessons to a much larger audience since it would directly benefit their businesses.
CSISA is working to create a similar network in India as well. A consultation organized in Odisha in January, for example, brought together representatives of major herbicide companies, research organizations, sprayer manufacturers, NGOs, dealers/retailers and service providers. By providing these organizations a common platform to share their knowledge and pool their resources, CSISA hopes to build a robust platform that will ensure its message on IWM reaches farmers quickly.
This article is authored by Anurag Ajay, Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist, CIMMYT-India and M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.
*Mamun, A. A. 1990. Weeds and their control: A review of weed research in Bangladesh. Agricultural and Rural Development in Bangladesh. Japan Intl. Co-operation Agency, Dhaka, Bangladesh. JSARD. 19: 45-72.
*Mamun, A.A., S.M.R. Karim., M. Behum., M.I. Uddin., and M.A. Rahman. 1993. Weed survey in different crops under three agro-ecological zones of Bangladesh. BAURESS Prog. Report. 8: 41-51.
*Mamun, M.A.A., R. Shultana., M.M. Rana., and A.J. Mridha. 2013. Economic threshold density of multi species weed for direct seeded rice. Asian J. Agril. Rural Develo. 8: 523-531.
*Mazid, M.A., M.A. Jabbar., C.R. Riches., E.J.Z. Robinson., M. Mortimer., and L.J. Wade. 2001. Weed management implications of introducing dry-seeding of rice in the Barind Tract of Bangladesh. In: Brighton Crop Protection Conference, 13–15 November 2001. 211–216 pp.
Last year, the devastating disease wheat blast was observed in South Asia for the first time. Caused by the fungus Magnaporthe oryzae pathotype Triticum (MoT) and first discovered in Paraná State, Brazil, in the mid-1980s, blast constitutes a major constraint to wheat production in South America. The sudden appearance of a highly virulent MoT strain in Bangladesh presents a serious threat to food and income security in South Asia, home to 300 million undernourished people and whose inhabitants consume over 100 million tons of wheat each year. Last year, blast caused considerable production losses in Bangladesh. Approximately 15,000 hectares in the south-western and southern districts of Kushtia, Meherpur, Chuadanga, Jessore, Jheneidah, Barisal and Bhola experienced crop losses due to blast. Average yield loss was estimated at 25-30 percent, but in severely infected fields, the entire crop was lost.
Actively responding to this problem, the Ministry of Agriculture formed a task force through the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council to suggest recommendations to mitigate wheat blast. Recommendations included a combination of integrated pest management and the development and adoption of resistant cultivars and agronomic methods. A fact sheet with recommendations prepared by the task force was distributed among farmers to raise awareness on how to manage wheat blast. In combating the disease, it is paramount that scientists and extension personnel are adequately trained to assess and manage blast.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), led by the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in partnership with national and international partners, organized a 12-day training on “Taking Action to Mitigate the Threat of Wheat Blast in South Asia: Disease Surveillance and Monitoring Skills” in February in Bangladesh. Experts from CIMMYT, the CGIAR research program on wheat, Cornell University and Kansas State University facilitated the training, in addition to scientists from Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Bangladesh Agricultural University, for 40 wheat pathologists and agronomists from Bangladesh, India, and Nepal.
The training focused on providing participants information about the science and practical constraints in designing and conducting a disease survey, obtaining and analyzing the results and formulating the interpretation. In-depth classroom and lab sessions were held at BARI’s Wheat Research Center in Dinajpur followed by week-long practical surveillance exercises in farmers’ fields throughout all major wheat growing areas of Bangladesh, and sessions on molecular analysis of wheat blast at BARI in Gazipur. “This training will increase the capacity of Bangladesh and neighboring country scientists, thereby strengthening research on wheat blast and monitoring disease through intensive surveillance,” said Md. Fazle Wahid Khondaker, Additional Secretary (Research), Ministry of Agriculture, at the inaugural session.
The training was funded by BARI, CIMMYT, CSISA, Delivering Genetic Gain in Wheat project led by Cornell University and Kansas State University and Australian Center for International Agricultural Research.
This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.
Low-cost interventions to promote healthy rice seedlings scaled-out in Bangladesh
Rice nurseries are an important, but often underappreciated, component of a successful agronomic production cycle. How a rice crop is managed in its early stages influences performance and yield later. For example, it is very important to transplant healthy seedlings at an appropriate time to get optimum yield. However, in the absence of proper nursery management and supervision, many farmers obtain suboptimal yields.
As a common practice in South Asia, rice seedlings are grown in nurseries on flat seedbeds, and are then transplanted manually into puddled soil. In Bangladesh, transplanted rice covers around 85 percent of the total rice area. In the aman (wet) season, farmers start preparing rice nurseries after the onset of the monsoon in mid-June and usually transplant more than 30-day old seedlings from mid-July to August. While in the boro (dry) season, farmers start preparing rice nurseries in late-November and usually transplant more than 40-day old seedlings from early-January to early-February.
Many Bangladeshi farmers are knowledge-, labor- or resource-constrained and do not follow optimal nursery management practices. Farmers practice less productive methods, such as not making drainage channels in seedbeds, not removing half-filled or empty seeds, not treating seeds with chemicals to reduce the risk of insect and disease infestation at the later stages of crop growth, using unnecessarily large volumes of seeds, not applying farmyard manure and or optimal doses of fertilizers while preparing land for seedbeds, and transplanting old or thin seedlings.
The use of old and unhealthy seedlings has a huge economic cost. Studies have shown that the use of old and unhealthy seedlings can cause more than 10 percent yield loss in rice. This means that scaling the adoption of young and healthy seedlings in at least half of Bangladesh’s 11.7 million hectares rice area could produce an additional 2.5 million tons of paddy per year, which would contribute an additional US$ 680 million to the national economy, and potentially improving the food security of millions of poor Bangladeshis. This would make a huge positive socioeconomic impact for the country and it is achievable by rolling-out some simple interventions.
A variety of improved rice nursery management options are available for Bangladeshi farmers, including seed treatment before sowing (to reduce the potential for diseases), adopting optimal sowing dates for different cultivars in different environments, planting in the correct seed densities, using balanced organic and inorganic fertilizers, and following optimal transplanting age and density. The latter is particularly important for avoiding transplanting shock, which in addition to causing yield losses can also result in delayed crop maturity and harvests, and can further delay the sowing of the subsequent boro crop, in the case of monsoon aman rice. However, majority of farmers are not using these improved options because of knwoledge gap or lack of resources.
The Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) is playing a catalytic role to scale out healthy rice seedlings in the Feed the Future Zone in Bangladesh. Working collaboratively with the Department Agricultural Extension, NGOs, development projects, input dealers, farmer groups and lead farmers, CSISA has focused on a two-pronged approach to scale-out the use of healthy rice seedlings. First, targeting individual rice farmers to produce and use healthy rice seedlings through better nursery management practices. Second, targeting rice nursery entrepreneurs for large-scale production and supply of healthy seedlings in the market alongside income generation through rural enterprise creation.
A diagnostic survey has indicated significant potential to promote improved rice nurseries management practices for production and use of healthy rice seedlings in FtF zone, especially when these messages are deployed at a large scale by development partners and livelihood initiatives, and by linking entrepreneurs to markets. However, the interventions cannot be scaled-out in the tidal flood prone areas of Barisal Hub and the submergence prone areas of Faridpur Hub.
Through mass-media campaigns such as showing a video and distributing leaflets to farmers, training lead farmers and farmer groups on ideal rice nursery technologies, training rice nursery entrepreneurs and input dealers on production and marketing of healthy seedlings, and conducting training of trainers workshops for extension agents of government and NGO, CSISA has supported large-scale awareness and adoption of healthy rice seedlings among farmers across Faridpur, Jessore, and Barisal Hubs in this year. In 2016 aman season alone, CSISA, working together with partners, showed a video to more than 23,200 farmers, distributed leaflets to 650 farmers, initiated eight new community-based nurseries, trained 20 rice nursery entrepreneurs, and conducted training of traniers workshop to 80 extension agents. These activities will continue and expand in coming seasons.
This article is authored by Humnath Bhandari, Agricultural Economist, International Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh.
How can agricultural research organizations rapidly and effectively reach large numbers of farmers with messages on improving crop productivity? The overwhelming number of farmers in rural Bangladesh presents formidable challenges to turning research into impact through agricultural extension and farmer training. Through CSISA, the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in Bangladesh and Agricultural Advisory Society (AAS), an NGO, have worked to overcome this challenge through the use of rural village and television video screenings. This initiative was recently awarded the prestigious international Access Agriculture Award for the use of training videos for farmer outreach in 2015. The Video Outreach award is awarded each year to organizations that show exceptional and inspiring use of video to reach farmers and improve their livelihoods by supplying relevant and entertaining training messages in local languages.
Between 2012 and 2014, CIMMYT-Bangladesh and AAS jointly organised 482 screenings of the Bangla language video ‘Save more, grow more, earn more’ that introduces farmers to the use of small-scale agricultural machinery, which can be attached to two-wheeled tractors for seeding and fertilizing crops in a way that saves fuel and labour, allowing farmers to profit more while reducing irrigation requirements.
“Our goal was to create wide-scale farmer knowledge of, and demand for, innovative machinery appropriate for the small-scale of farmers’ fields in Bangladesh, while introducing technological options that could allow farmers to conserve important agricultural resources,” said Timothy J. Krupnik, CIMMYT Systems Agronomist. “And by strategically partnering with AAS, we overcame the problem of extension by scaling-up the video’s training messages through entertaining formats that farmers enjoy.”
Harun-Ar-Rashid, Executive Director of AAS said, “The purpose of the video screening organized by the volunteers was to create large-scale farmers awareness and motivation on mechanical planting of various crops through using community-based approaches and strategies along with the full participation of the relevant private sector players and our achievement has been enormous.”
Filmed and produced by Agro-Insight in consultation with CIMMYT and the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, use of the video for farmer outreach was done as part of the USAID- and Bill & Melinda Gates-funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), with screenings held throughout Bangladesh’s Feed the Future zone. Locations included farmers’ fields, markets, schools, community centres, tea stalls and in total, over 110,000 farmers saw the videos in rural village showings.
‘Save more, grow more, earn more’ was also aired by the popular television program, Mati-O-Manush, on BTV 12 times, resulting in a documented viewership of 28 million people nationwide. An additional 3,000 DVDs were distributed by 20 groups of volunteer organizations, including the Department of Agricultural Extension, the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council, and local NGO and CBOs, who independently organized screenings. Follow-up research indicating each volunteer reached 180 people each. Similar organizations were engaged by AAS to facilitate additional volunteer showings in 332 communities in 11 districts across south-west Bangladesh. These efforts were documented in a scientific research paper, published in the international peer-reviewed Journal of Agricultural Education and Extension, that analyzed the effectiveness of volunteer groups to distribute videos to larger audiences of farmers.
The award was declared and handed over to the recipient organizations on 12 November in Nairobi, Kenya, in Eastern Africa. To watch the Access Agriculture Video Award Ceremony online, click here.
This article is authored by Mohammad Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT Bangladesh.
Farmers in Laharhat, the riverine char (islands formed from sedimentation) of Barisal district in southern Bangladesh, are witnessing a change to their traditional agricultural practices. Soon after the monsoon rains last year, farmers grew Aman rice, which has been a traditional practice in this region for many years. Last year, however, they followed the rice crop with wheat, which was new for this area.
“We thought one crop was enough for Laharhat. We had limited knowledge and resources to grow a second crop here,” says farmer Enayat Hawlader. “This year we saw a miracle. I did not even imagine that this land could produce more. And, wheat grew well here,” shares Nantu Hawlader, another farmer.
Earlier, farmers used to grow only one crop in this char during the Aman (September to November) season. The rest of the year the vast land would remain fallow. “We used to think this char had no capacity to grow more,’ says farmer Habib Mollik.
During 2011-12, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) started adaptive trials of wheat in a limited area in Laharhat. In winter 2013, CSISA-Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) started to work initially with 12 farmers to practice mechanization for improving yields. CSISA-MI introduced PTOS (power tiller operated seeder) in the demonstration plots, which resulted in better profits and attracted new farmers to grow wheat using PTOS.
Md. Washiq Faisal, Agriculture and Machinery Development Officer, CSISA-MI, says, “This year we proved that the vast char land of Laharhat could be properly utilized to produce crops.” In February 2015, during the harvesting of wheat with a reaper, enthusiastic farmers came to see the results. They were amazed to see that the yield had reached 3.71 tons per hectare. “The farmers who visited to see the harvesting of wheat with multi-crop reaper wished to cultivate their fields in coming seasons,” adds Faisal. In the dry season this year, about 30 percent of Laharhat, that used to remain fallow earlier, has been brought under wheat cultivation after paddy harvesting.
According to Yunus Hawlader, the local service provider (LSP), there is opportunity for more LSPs to provide services in the next season as it is not possible for him to support the huge number of farmers in Laharhat alone.
Monirul Alam, District Training Officer, Department of Agricultural Extension, Government of Bangladesh, says, “I am so happy to see the smiling Laharhat farmers and next year, wish to see the whole Laharhat producing wheat after Aman rice. The land is appropriate for wheat as a second crop.”
According to Alam, in a few cases where farmers used to grow lentil as a second crop, farmers have switched to wheat as it gives more profits. Farmers have also adopted new technologies like PTOS, axial flow pumps and reapers for better yields. “Laharhat will no longer be considered fallow in future,” he added.
This article is authored by M. Shahidul Haque Khan, Communications Officer, CIMMYT-Bangladesh.
In June, CSISA led a 10-member delegation of senior officials from National Agriculture Research and Extension Systems (NARES) from Bangladesh, India and Nepal to Washington, DC for a meeting with the Modernizing Extension and Advisory Services (MEAS), followed by a workshop entitled, ‘Strengthening Agricultural Research, Extension, and Input Markets in South Asia: Evidence from Regional and Global Practice,’ organized by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT). MEAS, a USAID-funded initiative, helps to define and disseminate good practice strategies and approaches to establishing efficient, effective and financially sustainable rural extension and advisory service systems in selected countries.
The visit provided an opportunity to all the participants, working in close collaboration with National Agricultural Research Systems and International Agricultural Research Systems (IARS), to exchange ideas based on their diverse experiences of implementing extension services in different parts of the world. The theory of change model was highlighted during the deliberations for improving the performance of workforces in research-for-development in South Asia.
The workshop looked at addressing multiple questions that will help improve extension systems in South Asia. Are extension programs cost-effective in South Asia? Can new approaches empower smallholder farmers, particularly women? What performance indicators can researchers use to determine whether programs are successful? How can policies encourage farmers to adopt new technologies and practices without exhausting limited development funds?
Among a variety of other topics, participants discussed the effectiveness of subsidies to promote farmers’ adoption of agricultural inputs. Madhur Gautam, lead economist in Agriculture Global Practice at the World Bank, noted that the purported benefits only accrue under certain circumstances. Subsidies often remain in place long after their positive impacts have diminished, diverting scarce resources from other potential investments that may yield greater long-term returns, such as agricultural R&D and rural infrastructure.
In South Asia, subsidies were largely successful at addressing market failures during the early days of the Green Revolution. Yet market conditions in the region have improved considerably, and policymakers need to adapt their policies and investments accordingly.
Based on the discussions during the visit, specific issues were identified for further action and brainstorming to streamline research in the delivery process of agricultural technologies in South Asia. These issues included:
- The organization and structure of extension systems, as well as the constraints to their functioning, and changes needed to create improved and market-focused extension services by Krishi Vigyan Kendras (agriculture science center) in India and other extension agencies in South Asia
- The capacity of extension agencies to conduct trainings in a participatory manner with local contextual training material
- Ways to improve implementation monitoring and impact evaluation
- How local service providers could be strengthened through better linkages and communication in order to provide decentralized extension services
- How to make systems more equitable by linking gender and nutrition across extension programs and organizations.
Further, participants and their respective organizations from each country (Bangladesh, India and Nepal) will work with CSISA partners to focus on local research agendas in extension and innovations.
A team of seven participants from India was led by Dr. Ashok Kumar Singh, Deputy Director General (Agriculture Extension), Indian Council of Agriculture Research. Bangladesh was represented by Dr. Mohammad Zakir Hasnat, Agriculture Information Service and Sheikh Md. Nazim Uddin from Department of Agriculture Extension. From Nepal, Dr. Rajendra Adhikari, Joint Secretary, Ministry of Agricultural Development, participated.
In addition, the delegation toured the US Capitol building and met with Senator Mark Warner, head of the Indian Caucus in the US Senate.
Source: Excerpts from the summary of the workshop are posted on the IFPRI website. To read the full summary of the workshop, click here.
In Bangladesh, women usually do not work on agricultural tasks such as preparing seedbeds, transplanting seedlings, weeding and applying fertilizer. They do, however, manage approximately 80 percent of all postharvest activities. They also manage pond fish culture in their homestead area, a practice that has become increasingly popular. Nearly every household in southern Bangladesh today has a small pond, but few are optimally managed.
One of the objectives of the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia in Bangladesh (CSISA-BD) is to increase women’s participation in agriculture to reduce the gender gap and enable women and men farmers to innovate and adopt improved technologies and varieties. In 2012, Urmila Shil joined one of the 25 women fish-farming groups created by CSISA-BD. Shil lives in a remote village in West Kirthipasha, Jhalakathi sub-district, Southern Bangladesh, with her husband and three children. Over the year, she received training and support on household-based pond aquaculture and horticulture for income and nutrition organized by WorldFish.
In 2013, Shil harvested a total of 496 kg fish from a 20 decimal (247 decimal = 1 hectare) homestead pond that was valued at BDT 67,456 (US$ 865). She earned another BDT 3,380 (US$ 43) from dike cropping. “Earlier we could barely afford to buy fish once a week. Now we can have fresh fish and vegetables every day,” she says.
Shil was named ‘Best Fish Farmer’ during National Fish Week 2014 and is one of the 63 award-winning farmers working with CSISA-BD. Many women living in her village have been inspired by her success. They too have undertaken initiatives to improve their family income through aquaculture and homestead gardening. Shil regularly shares her knowledge and experience with them so that they can replicate her success.
About the Project
The USAID-funded CSISA-BD is a five year initiative implemented through a collaboration between three CGIAR centers, the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and WorldFish. It works to increase productivity by increasing women farmers’ access to suitable technologies, information and markets.
To know more, visit the CSISA Bangladesh page.
A recent research report ‘Groundwater Management in Bangladesh: An Analysis of Problems and Opportunities’, published by the USAID Feed the Future Funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia – Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI) project, highlights that the policy focus in Bangladesh so far has been largely on ‘resource development’ and not sufficiently on ‘resource management.’ This has resulted in drawdown of aquifers in intensively irrigated areas and high expenditure on subsidies to support the energy costs of pumping water for dry season irrigation. Unless water use efficiency practices and policies are adapted and adopted, these challenges in groundwater irrigation can become a serious threat to sustain agricultural growth in Bangladesh.
“Dry season rice production using irrigation helped Bangladesh to increase its total rice production from 18 million tons in 1991 to 33.8 million tons in 2013. However, this dramatic increase in rice production comes with costs – namely the high energy requirements needed to extract groundwater by pumps, which is a concern giving mounting fuel and electricity prices in South Asia” said Timothy Krupnik, CIMMYT Agronomist and co-author in this study.
Diesel pumps consume about 4.6 billion litres of diesel every year to pump groundwater for dry season rice production, costing USD 4.0 billion. This cost is in addition to USD 1.4 billion of yearly energy subsidies supplied by the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) to maintain groundwater irrigation. Such considerable investments add to the energy cost burden, and may not be financially sustainable in the long-term, the report says. This conclusion is underscored by the GoB’s interest to reduce energy subsidies and shift from ground to surface water irrigation, which is energy-wise less expensive.
The report highlights several supply- and demand-side solutions for sustainable groundwater management. Improving water use efficiencies through the adoption of resource conserving crop management practices such as direct-seeded rice and bed planting could help in reducing groundwater demand for agriculture. In surface water irrigated areas, use of more fuel efficient axial flow pumps that the CSISA-MI project is working with the private sector to scale out, is also crucial.
Water demand for irrigation can also be reduced by rationalizing cropping patterns – specifically by shifting from rice to more profitable crops like maize, and to other food security cereals like rice, in areas where groundwater is a concern. Involvement of water users, investments in improved water and agricultural technologies, and providing extra support for farmers making transition to less water demanding crops is needed.
Since the concept of ‘more water-more yield’ is still prevalent among farmers, the report also highlights the need for policy to focus more on awareness raising through educational programs aimed at wise water use and volumetric water pricing. In addition to technical solutions, strong linkages and improved communications between different organizations involved in the management of groundwater resources will also be required to shift to a more water productive, and less costly, agricultural production system in Bangladesh.
This article is authored by Anuradha Dhar, Communications Specialist, CSISA.
Agricultural mechanization in South Asia is helping conserve natural resources, improve productivity and increase profits, but many small-scale farmers have yet to benefit from emerging sustainable farming technologies and machinery. Factors such as the high cost of machines and farmers’ lack of access to finance make the machinery unaffordable for resource-poor farmers. However, Bangladesh leads by example and has been a hotbed of innovation, particularly with the 2WTs that are more appropriate for small-scale farmers than the four-wheel variety. Bangladesh has a strong agricultural tradition – nearly two-thirds of its population works in agriculture. It has achieved near self-sufficiency in rice production and has rapidly developed its agricultural sector over the past 20 years, despite being ranked 146th on the global human development index and having roughly half the per capita income of India. Bangladesh’s agriculture sector contributes 19 percent to the country’s gross domestic product. This is the bright side. The other side, however, is that farmers’ land-holdings are very small – an average farming household owns just 0.2 hectares or less – and Bangladesh is home to intensive cropping rotations. Every square centimeter of arable land is used 1.8 times a year, putting intense pressure on natural resources and making the system unsustainable in the long term. Farmers have to continually adapt to challenges including climate change, rising temperatures and increasing fuel prices to sustain productivity. As a result, many farmers are using innovative agricultural machinery to improve the precision and speed of planting and harvesting operations while reducing fuel, irrigation water and labor requirements. With the introduction of cheap, easy-to-operate and easy-to-maintain 2WTs, agriculture in Bangladesh has become highly mechanized during the last decade. Nearly 80 percent of farmers use 2WTs because they are versatile and can be fitted to a variety of innovative auxiliary equipment for planting, threshing and irrigation. A new CIMMYT book, Made in Bangladesh: Scale-appropriate machinery for agricultural resource conservation, highlights the innovative machinery that can be used with two-wheel tractors (2WT) for sustainable farming and gives detailed technical designs to help standardize production quality, making the machines more accessible to farmers. The information in the book is meant to have real-world impacts. Each chapter has scaled technical designs of the machinery, developed with computer-aided drafting to allow manufacturers in Bangladesh and beyond to reproduce and make improvements on the machines. The chapters focus on zero tillage, strip tillage seed and fertilizer drills, bed planters, axial flow irrigation pumps, strip tillage blades, improved furrow openers and seed metering mechanisms. “Many of the machines in the book are inspiring innovations,” said Timothy Krupnik, CIMMYT cropping systems agronomist and one of the book’s authors. “Bangladesh is often seen in a negative light – most international media focuses on its political tragedies, grinding poverty and pressing environmental concerns. But, if you live in Bangladesh, you can see beyond this because you get inspired every day by the creative ways that many of the world’s poorest people come up with creative solutions to the problems they face. All of the machines in the book were either designed and made in Bangladesh, or borrowed from other machines in South and Southeast Asia and then were manufactured in Bangladesh.” The book’s technical designs can be easily replicated by machinery manufacturers, scientists or farmers. “The drawings were developed in a reverse engineering process, where I measured the machines manually and immediately sketched them on paper by hand,” said co-author Santiago Santos Valle. “Once back in the office, I produced the computer-aided drawings using the hand-made sketches.” A learning module on technical drawing interpretation and instructions on how to use the drawings have also been included. Santos Valle added, “While developing the book and working on the drawings, we did a training workshop with local manufacturers and machinery researchers from partnering institutions in Bangladesh to familiarize them with the drawings. The learnings and feedback from the workshop helped to develop and improve the learning module and the instructions included in the book.” Standardization and Affordability There is a great need for small-scale farmers to adopt new machinery in order to overcome rural labor shortages in Bangladesh, which become more severe each year. “Wheat and maize yields decline between 1 and 1.5 percent per day when planted late, so you can imagine the effect if you use the machines to reduce tillage,” Krupnik explained. “Applying seed and fertilizer in one go can save seven to eight days that farmers would have otherwise spent plowing and preparing the land.” One of the most significant problems confronting mechanization in South Asia is design standardization. “Bangladesh has been a ‘hot bed’ of innovation, particularly for the two-wheel tractor,” said Andrew McDonald, CIMMYT cropping systems agronomist and co-author. “But much of this innovation has not reached farmers at scale because commercialization has been impeded by the lack of standardization. Essentially, most workshops create a unique machine every time a new piece is fabricated, which drives up costs to both manufacture and repair the machinery. Quality control is also an issue.” He emphasized that CIMMYT is playing a catalytic role to ensure high-quality machinery is available at a reasonable cost in Bangladesh. The organization is helping formalize the design elements of innovative machinery and working with workshops and industrial houses to implement these designs. In the USAID-Bangladesh Mission funded project, Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia – Mechanization and Irrigation (CSISA-MI), CIMMYT partners with the NGO International Development Enterprises (iDE) to develop and execute business models to encourage companies and agricultural manufacturers to produce and distribute the machines through commercial mechanisms. In turn, agricultural service providers are linked to finance entities and farmers to purchase machines and to assure demand in the field. These efforts are boosted by technical backing from CIMMYT scientists who assure that land is planted with reduced tillage implements or irrigated with energy efficient pumps. As a result, the adoption of these machines has significantly increased in the last few months – the machinery is now being used on over 2,000 hectares of new land in southern Bangladesh alone – more than a four-fold increase compared to the year before. The machines included in the book have wide applicability and use outside of Bangladesh, and can be used in many smallholder farming contexts in Asia and Africa. “We want the work done in Bangladesh to inspire agricultural machinery manufacturers to reproduce and improve machines in other countries,” Krupnik said. “For this reason the book is free and available through open access and can be downloaded, printed and shared with others as widely as possible.” The PDF version of the book is available online and can be downloaded from the CIMMYT repository.