Creating opportunities for sustainable agriculture and green growth
Although Bangladesh is an agricultural country, the share of agriculture in Bangladesh's overall economy and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has been on a sharp decline for the past four decades. This trend is part of the qualitative transformation process of Bangladesh's economy towards the service and industrial sectors. While there has been an accompanying declining trend in agricultural employment along with rising wages, almost half of the national work force continues to be employed directly or indirectly in the agriculture sector.
Marginal farmers and landless farm workers also constitute a major part of the population below the poverty line in Bangladesh. As such, the strategic importance of agriculture in meeting basic food demand and providing livelihood for a substantial part of the population deserves added and focused attention. The country has been mostly successful in attaining food security notwithstanding some deficiency in nutritional target. However, there are lots of soft grounds to cover, in terms of efficient resource utilization and delivery the projected outcomes.
Agriculture sector is comprised of four sub sectors: crops, forestry, livestock and fisheries while crop sub-sector is the predominant one. In spite of the gradual decline of the relative importance of crop sector in agriculture and in national economy, it still has remained the most important sector of agriculture. More importantly, the crop sector provides staple food such as rice and wheat, and other daily necessities like pulses, oil, sugar, vegetables, spices, and fruits.
Non-crop agriculture (livestock, fisheries and forestry) also plays a significant role in terms of employment generation and contribution to GDP. According to the 6th five year plan (2011-15), although livestock accounts for only 3 per cent of total GDP, it employs about 20 per cent of rural labour force. Fisheries sub-sector contributes about 5 percent of total GDP and employs about 13 per cent of rural labour force.
Livestock sub-sector contributes output for both production and consumption. However there exists a gap between requirement of livestock products and their current levels of production and, this gap is expected to widen further due to increase in per capita income and change in food consumption pattern. Fisheries sector contributes 4.4 per cent of total GDP and 22 per cent of agricultural GDP. The small-scale open water capture fisheries which was dominant in the 1970s has given way to close water culture fisheries, which is now playing an important role in the development of the sub-sector.
Forestry sector contributes about 1.8 per cent of the total GDP. Forests also play an important role in protecting watersheds, irrigation and hydraulic structure and also in keeping the rivers and ports navigable and protect coastal areas from natural calamities. The role of forest in protecting the environment from pollution and its contribution towards bio-diversity is immense. In addition, the participatory social forestry contributes towards rural poverty reduction.
The major targets Bangladesh should achieve to develop a rich agriculture sector are: promoting the use of agricultural technology with supportive policies, reforms, regulations and incentives in place for raising productivity and profitability; increasing diversification of production in line with consumption diversification to promote nutrition; increasing private sector participation in the agriculture and improving agro-processing value chains; reducing instability of production; increasing resource use efficiency; reducing loss of arable land; minimizing yield gap; maintaining food security, safety and quality; expanding irrigation and farm mechanization through appropriate technology; and developing resilience to climate change impacts.
The average farm size in Bangladesh is becoming smaller each year and the cost-risk-return structure of farming is becoming adverse. While adequate production and income growth at national level are necessary, these are not sufficient for eradicating under nutrition. Sustaining agricultural production and developing resilience to climate change will continue to be a key issue.
Bangladesh agriculture is still largely dependent on nature--particularly weather, hence is full of uncertainties and vulnerabilities. Flood, drought, water logging, salinity intrusion, tidal surge, uncertain rainfall, land degradation, extreme temperatures are common events of vulnerabilities.
Sustainable agriculture system must be built on an approach that will explore connection between farming and other aspects of social, economic and ecological environment. Sustainable agriculture will be planned and implemented in such a way that it will be resource conserving, socially supportive, commercially competitive and environmentally sound. Sustainable agriculture should be built on current agricultural achievements while adopting new approaches that can maintain high yields and farm profits without undermining their resource conservation on which the agricultural system depends.
The writer is a student, Jahangirnagar University. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org