Discouraging corporate forestry in hilly region
The intermittent research on 'Agricultural Production Practices in Chittagong Hill Tracts' has been conducted by the eminent economist Abul Barkat (Co-authors: Gazi Mohammad Suhrawardy, Asmar Osman, Abdus Sobhan, Rahinur Rafique). This research based manuscript is a meaningful outcome of an exploratory study conducted on Agricultural Production Practices on 3 hill districts of Bangladesh -- Ragamati, Khagrachari and Bandarban which is jointly published by Manusher Jonno Foundation and Human Development Research Centre (January 2017).
This slime volume provides the nature of agricultural production practices in Chittagong Hill Tracts; land endowment and accessibility; soil quality and crop production techniques; access to irrigation; jum cultivation practices; fruit marketing and value chain assessment; food security and finally the women's role in agricultural production.
Authors elucidates that the hill tracts are an effective ground of common crops and fruits -- paddy, banana, turmeric, chili, ginger, mango, jackfruit and pineapple. Although this region is full of 14 different indigenous communities with rich cultural and biological diversity, the economic efficiency of development indicators -- income, food security, poverty, education, water and sanitation, local government services still not ensured.
Writers find organic farming practices are poor here, post harvest loss in case of jum and fruit products were excessive, one-sixth of households are found hardcore poor and one-third are absolute poor.
Authors explains average amount of total land possessed by households 532 decimal which is highest in Bandarban -- 703.6 decimal. Also, average amount of jum of total land possessed by 193.8 decimal which is highest in Bandarban ? 234.6 decimal. In terms of irrigation, for the jum cultivation -- 80 per cent households are dependent on surface water in Khagrachari, 100 per cent households depend on rainwater in Bandarban where 50 per cent households in Rangamati depend on surface water.
Researchers explore soil quality is very indispensable for crop production. But 86 per cent of jum households have primary knowledge on soil testing. also, out of three hill districts in an average only 3.1 per cent households test soil quality - jum (1.9 per cent), plough (4.7 per cent) and indigenous (1.5 per cent). Apart from that, 15 per cent of jum households of Rangamati do not employ chemical fertilizer, where only 5 per cent do not use fertilizer at both Khagrachari and Bandarban district.
Authors give details about food security status in hill tracts zone, crops marketing strategies and how to develop local entrepreneurship. In terms of food security, Chaitra (Bangla Month) is identified as highest food deficiency month when jum households in Bandarban are more sufferers (61.4 per cent).
As we know about hardcore poor where 17.8 per cent household consume less than 1605 K Cal per day. This field based research identifies women are less likely to own and control agricultural land due to social norms and inheritances laws. Their function in production practices is high but the unrecognized culture prohibits them in decision making.
Finally, this root exploring study recommends how to ensure agricultural products marketing governance at hill tracts region. Time offers to encourage farmers to test soil quality for more production; hilly land for jum cultivation should be preserved; financial incentives -- price setting need to be introduced; recognize women's role in agricultural production practices. Researchers discourage corporate forestry at hilly zone; to reduce post harvest loss, storage facilitation, accommodating indigenous practices like cold storage should be guaranteed.
This study is an outstanding way out to resolve the agricultural production and marketing crisis in hill tracts area. However, time has come to support marginal farmers in all development indicators to ensure food security. This manuscript may lend a hand to us realize marginal farmers perception on investment, production and marketing security as well as how we make sustainable nexus among 'environmental, agricultural, pro-poor development and enrichment of hill economy'.
The reviewer is Environmental Analyst & Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association