Innovation platforms and learning centres are helping farmers in northern Bangladesh to protect their crops from insects and other pests – and improving the lives of women.
These facilities are part of the Sustainable Development Investment Portfolio, a collaboration between the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade that aims to increase water, food and energy security in South Asia.
The first phase is the Sustainable and Resilient Farming Systems Intensification a four-year project that aims to reduce poverty in the Eastern Gangetic Plains (EGP) of Bangladesh, India and Nepal by helping small farmers.
Around 300 million people live in the Eastern Gangetic Plains, which have the world’s highest concentration of rural poverty and depend on agriculture for food security and livelihoods. The region could become a major contributor to South Asian regional food security, but rice and wheat productivity remain low and diversification is limited because of poorly developed markets, sparse agricultural knowledge and service networks, and inadequate development of available water resources and sustainable production practices.
In the northern Bangladeshi districts of Rangpur and Dinajpur, ACIAR and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), based in Nepal, are working with the Bangladeshi government and others to provide funds and technical support to local farmers.
Dr John Dixon, ACIAR’s Principal Advisor for the Cropping Systems and Economics (ECE) program, said: ‘That project in the first four years has made remarkable progress.’
Innovation platforms supply technology, input and farm machinery directly to poor and marginal farmers. These platforms are learning platforms for farmers’ extension, the private sector and researchers to learn from each other.
‘They foster sharing,’ Dr Dixon explains. ‘That learning environment helps to fine-tune research, to initiate scaling out processes, and to build capacity for farmers.’
Those innovation platforms have been adapted to local circumstances across 40 hubs in the three countries. Now they are considered a one-stop service, and a common service model ensures that the platforms deliver services farmers need.
Dr Dixon said: ‘They’ve seen quite a remarkable increase in yields, and an even more remarkable savings of energy and water.’
The project is also introducing conservation agriculture, which uses zero till drills to plant directly into unexplored ground or straw from a previous crop, without having to plough. This reduces the drudgery for women doing this work.
‘Women,’ Dr Dixon says, ‘are the mainstay of crop production and livestock management. They work more hours per day than men across India. By reducing ploughing and improving crop productivity, we’re increasing family income and women’s income, and reducing their labour burden.’
Agricultural Community Clinic and Information Centres have been established in Mohonpur, Birganj, and Dinajpur. Farmers can learn which crops to plant and how to control diseases, pests and weeds. This model is very successful and the project aims to disseminate it to other areas.
Our project page:
'Experiencing and coping with change: women-headed farming households in the Eastern Gangetic Plains http://aciar.gov.au/files/tr_83_web.pdf