The rapid increase of salinity and high tidal inundation has been a great problem for agricultural crop cultivation in the coastal areas over the last few decades in Bangladesh. Shrimp cultivation started in the mid-eighties and is still popular, although production has fallen tremendously due to cultivation year after year on the same land, where paddy cultivation is not possible due to severe salinity.
People of the coastal area cultivate saline tolerant fish as adaptive livelihoods options, mainly tilapia and pangus . The Department of Fisheries (DoF) has established a saline water tolerant fish breeding centre in Paikgachha Upazila in the western Khulna District several years back, however, there is no Crab Hatchery to produce young for fattening by the rural poor, though, it’s a very profitable livelihoods option in the coastal area of Bangladesh. There are crab hatcheries in Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.
Crab fattening has been a profitable adaptive livelihoods option in coastal areas of Bangladesh as it is both low in cost and easily available. There is a good market for crab in South East Asian and European countries. Some are also purchased by restaurants in metropolitan cities serving Chinese, Japanese, Korean or other western foods. The fattened crab is sold at a very high price and is 2-3 times more profitable than shrimp cultivation. But, population pressure and over exploitation of crabs from natural sources are threatening the crab population. There was only 3 – 4 crab ghers (farms for fattening) in Munshigang and Atulia Unions under Shyamnagar Upazila of the southern Satkhira District in 2010, which, after 13 years in 2013, has been increased to about 300 ghers. Such increase of crab fattening has put pressure on crab biodiversity, which may also be harmful for the aquatic ecosystem of the coastal areas. So, developing crab hatcheries is essential to produce young crabs to facilitate this important adaptive livelihoods option for thousands of the poor coastal people.
Crab fattening as an adaptive livelihoods option has been increasing. Crabs are collected from shrimp farms and natural sources i.e. rivers and river channels around the Sundarbans. They prepare small pond/gher, often adjacent to their homestead, put pata (made of bamboo), so that crabs can’t escape. Rotten fishes are the main food for the crabs in the gher. Crab fattening takes a cycle of two weeks only. Thus, it could be done many times by a farmer and can be continued for almost throughout the year. Poor fishers/farmers can get a significant financial return from crab fattening on a sustainable basis and can break out of the poverty trap within a reasonable timeframe.
So, to facilitate the livelihoods of thousands of coastal poor people and to protect the aquatic ecosystem, establishing a crab hatchery is important without delay. Government, NGOs and private sector could take on the intervention.No Comments » | Add your comment
There are many great challenges facing the world in the coming years, from climate change to feeding and housing a rapidly growing population. Yet the direction of the research, innovation and development efforts globally are acutely failing to meet the needs of billions of poor and disadvantaged people. Even worse is that even the research which is specifically targeted towards addressing these global challenges is based on a flawed system of ‘technology transfer’, rather than locally developed appropriate solutions.
It was reported yesterday by Grain that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, one of the largest donors with over $38bn of funds, provided just 4% of its agricultural funding to African NGOs, with more than three quarters of all funding going to research institutes in the USA. The picture becomes even more stark when the types of research and projects funded by the Gates Foundation are considered – they are almost exclusively supporting large-scale, industrialised monoculture solutions, an approach which almost completely excludes smallholder farmers. Yet these smallholder farmers comprise over 70% of farmers globally, produce nearly three-quarters of food, and are the single biggest group in extreme poverty.
But the Gates Foundation is not alone. SciDev.Net recently reported on the misdirection of government funded research in Bangladesh, with the former Minister of Science and Technology, Abdul Khan, stating, “The priority of promoting scientific research has drifted to one which is concentrated on commercialism and unethical money-making. Budget allocation is now often seen from a point of view of investment and commercial profit.” Instead, Khan argues that budget allocation should be need-based.
Food security is generally understood by policymakers as requiring increased production. But for many smallholder farmers living in marginal lands and with limited resources, minimising the risks of crop failure and crop wastage is the overriding concern.
This misdirection of funding and research incentives is creating technology injustices on an enormous global scale. Poor people are unable to access the appropriate technologies they need to live decent lives; innovation practices are failing to address global challenges such as climate change and food security while concurrently undermining poor farmers; and the use of many technologies, such as monoculture farming which is dependent upon massive use of chemical inputs, is damaging both the land and the environment, now and for future generations.
The very research which should be tackling inequality and meeting the needs of humanity are sustaining and exacerbating existing inequitable systems and unsustainable practices. We need Technology Justice to meet existing Millennium Development Goals and the forthcoming Sustainable Development Goals, to eradicate poverty, and to ensure our world can sustain the growing global population for generations to come.No Comments » | Add your comment
What comes to your mind when you think about inequality? To me, it’s living in a sea of woes. Not because you are unworthy, but due to external factors that persist in the society and surroundings.
Touch someone and be prepared to get ostracised
I hail from a small village in Eastern Nepal and whenever I get to my native place, I like savouring local delicacies. While I was gulping down the mixture of puffed rice and chick-pea curry, an elderly man, in his late fifties approached the shopkeeper with a glass in his hand. The shopkeeper, keeping a distance from the man, poured tea from a kettle into his glass. With other customers, he would go to them with the glasses of tea and serve them with respect.
I know both the men quite well. The tea-seller is a Haluwai whose traditional occupation is making sweets. Another man is a Dom whose traditional occupation is making household items from bamboo and rearing pigs. While the former is free to mingle with anybody, the latter is not even allowed to touch anybody. He is not even allowed to touch a hand-pump from where other people fetch and drink water. People still avoid touching him. And if by chance he touches anybody, he gets severe scolding and one who is touched runs towards a water source. To sprinkle water over his body in order to get purified.
This is inequality to the extreme.
Rare toilets and ubiquitous mobile phones
The next thing that baffles me is the non-presence of toilets. In the urban areas almost every household has a toilet but it is a rare item here and people think having a toilet is leading a lavish lifestyle.
This, to me, is inequality that can be addressed. In India, Prime Minister Narendra Modi issued orders to construct 5.2 million toilets in 100 days which turns out to one toilet every second.
While almost everybody here has a mobile set today, people are not willing to construct toilets in their backyards. Since they are able to afford buying mobile phones and bearing the expenses of recharging from time to time, they simply need cheaper toilets. A little bit of change in behaviour and technology support from government and non-government organisations.
Electricity at night means no sleep at all
Adding to the woes is the frequent electricity cut-downs. While rest of the country too faces the power-cuts, the problem here is extreme. It affects agriculture as well. The sea of wires across the fields to run electricity-powered pumps remains useless most of the times during the day. And while people sleep at night, the farmers are busy running their motorised pumps to irrigate their pieces of land.
Coping with the inequalities
In spite of living amongst inequalities, people here are cooperative and always smiling. The scenario of untouchability is changing. People now have started communicating properly with Doms and other so-called lower castes, thanks to the social change and awareness brought by different agencies. Practical Action has supported such communities in Nepal and Bangladesh as well.
While toilets were wonder items in the village, people returning from the Gulf and other countries (where most go to work as menial labourers) have started building toilets. The variety of different technologies used by Practical Action, as appropriate to each community, will be helpful to improve sanitation and health.
Practical Action offers simple solution to sleepless nights for the farmers. The introduction of treadle pumps has increased the income that farmers generate from their land, both by extending the traditional growing season and by expanding the types of crops that can be cultivated. Called dhiki pump, it can be operated by legs. No electricity required!
People are happy that the situation is changing and I am proud that Practical Action is one of the change-makers.1 Comment » | Add your comment
“Employment opportunity to above 5000 rural youths in just three years is definitely an amazing figure!! More encouraging is that 50 per cent of these youths have turned themselves to an entrepreneur – having started their own business”
This is an outcome of a recently completed project ROJGARI – Raising Opportunities for Jobs in Gramin Areas for Rural Incomes, funded by the European Union. Practical Action implemented this project in three rural districts (Doti, Achham and Kailali) of Far-Western Nepal targeting youths aged 16 to 40 years. The project capacitated six Technical and Vocational Training Centres (TVTCs) to offer market-driven courses to rural youths. Parallel to several capacity building activities, the project also promoted fee based trainings that was equally popular among the youths. We launched a rural job information web portal www.rojgari.com in close collaboration with the private sector where one can search and post job offerings. To make the job related information more accessible, the project also promoted a SMS service; which is being extensively used to generate enough revenue to make the system viable.
No doubt, access to information is key towards entry to job market. In order to help unemployed rural youths with the self-confidence, networking and accessing the potential employers, the project has established 11 job resource centres. During the project period alone, a total of 107 youths were employed through these JRCs. The project has established and strengthened several local level networks and groups so that the youths come together, discuss and be informed about the job market.
These are some of the examples of what the project did and what it resulted into. Many rural youths would otherwise migrate to the closer urban centres, and abroad to earn their livings; they are now spending quality time with their families and making money in their own place using the local resources. Having realised that youth energy is vital for the overall development of the nation, the project also analysed and made appropriate recommendations on the existing employment policies and provisions for enhancing rural employment in Nepal.
Practical Action’s work in this project is surely remarkable and has contributed in enhancing the quality of rural life. The innovative approaches and practices promoted by Practical Action through this project is worth-replicating in other parts of Nepal and word-wide with similar socio-economic settings!No Comments » | Add your comment
I was at field trip to rick- duck project sites in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts last week to observe how well the farmers have been adopting the project ideas and approaches. But, as I concluded my trip, I came to the realization that the farmers know better. “Addressing Malnutrition through Integrated Rice-Duck Farming in Nepal”, is being implemented in Chitwan and Nawalparasi districts since April 2014. This is 1.5 years project funded by Grand Challenge Canada. The major objective of the project is to increase the income of the farmers and make the availability of protein rich duck meat to small holder farmers in order to address the problem of malnutrition.
The principle behind rice-duck farming is integration of ducks in the rice field to exploit the symbiotic relationship between rice and ducks resulting into increased productivity of rice. The project has set a target to reach 1000 small holder farmers within its time frame.
I was really impressed to observe that the famers are not only adopting the project ideas well but also bringing forth the innovative ideas themselves. Group farming was one of the ideas which caught my attention.
Instead of doing individually, some of the farmers have chosen to be united in the group of twos, fours or fives to do the group farming. This was observed in many Village Development Committees (VDCs) including Khairaheni, Kathar, Kumroj, Kumarwarti and Nipeni. A group of five Tharu women: Draupati, Sunita, Krishna, Mina and Poonam in Kathar became enthusiastic when they knew about rice-duck farming through Practical Action. Four of them did not have rice field nearby their home due to which they were unable to meet the criteria set by the project.
Where there is a will, there is a way. These four women finally came up with an idea to do it together in their friend’s rice field which is close to their home. Now, they are doing rice-duck farming together.
The women expressed that rice-duck farming is superior to traditional rice farming in many ways;
“We are happy to do rice-duck farming. In fact, it is more than farming. We love these ducks like our kids. We have also built the small shed inside the rice field to allow ducks to rest when it is very hot in the afternoon. We keep a vigil on the ducks whole day to protect them against predators. We have also placed a tin in the corner of the rice field. When we see some predators coming to attack ducks, we sound off the tin to chase them away.”
They have found that group farming has yielded several benefits to them and all lead to saving the cost and labor of the production. Instead of fencing a small plot of rice field individually, fencing the larger field minimises the cost, time and labour for fencing.
In the same vein, farmers can supervise the field turn by turn to protect the ducks against predators. They can do the things together like transplanting rice, collecting fencing materials and local feeds (sewar and karkalo) and taking care of ducks. Farmers also expressed happily that learning and sharing is more pronounced while working together. The presence of ducks in the rice field has brought smiles on their faces.
“They play in the rice field joyfully. Eat all the weeds and insects. It is incredible to see how they loosen the soil around the rice plant. It makes plant grow faster and also increases the number of tillers. We can clearly see the difference between ordinary rice field and rice-duck fields. Rice-duck field looks more green, clean and healthy.”
Farmers thanked the Practical Action for bring the technology them, But, I felt they deserve it more for coming up with new ideas to make rice-duck farming a better farming technology.2 Comments » | Add your comment
Bangladesh experienced severe political unrest and prolonged blockades/strikes between September 2013 and mid-January 2014 by opposition political parties that traumatized the country, affected its social, economic and other aspects of life, created negative effects on country’s economic growth and development including GDP growth.
More than 500 people were killed in political violence by clashes between opposition protesters and security forces. The blockade largely affected activities of NGOs/INGOs also that work for the extreme poor/small farmers/producers, who mostly depend on farm/off-farm based livelihoods activities, rickshaw/van pulling, day laboring. INGOs could reach only 52% of their beneficiaries during the period, which reveals how program implementation was hampered by blockade/strikes.
Practical Action, Bangladesh commissioned an assessment (February-May 2014) to assess the effects of the blockade on the livelihoods of its poor beneficiaries and to take learnings to use for future precaution measures for programme and service delivery in such a situation and to support the livelihoods of poor men and women. Beside affected poor farmers/producers and NGOs/INGOs, this learning might also be useful to donors, development practitioners/researchers/ planners, etc.
The study covered 118 households in October-December, 2013 in 3 northern districts:
- Negative effects on income opportunities of non-agricultural wage labourers were higher than agricultural
- Non-agricultural wage labourers, rickshaw/van pullers/mechanics lost their employment
- Urban labourers were most affected than rural areas
The blockade affected production, harvesting, processing and marketing levels of both options as marketing and supply chain systems was almost broken down. Farmers failed in marketing products in districts/divisional cities. Supply of the essentials (rice, flour, onion, garlic, chili, oil, pulse, etc.) and agricultural inputs (seeds, fertilizer, fuel/diesel, etc.) were also extremely inadequate at local markets, leading to a price hike in essentials from Tk.4-75/Kg (13%-182% increase/Kg) and higher prices for agricultural inputs.
Due to break down of supply chain systems, absence of wholesalers/paikers and huge supply in local markets, farmers/producers compelled to sell their products at severely decreased prices (Tk.1-2/Kg), mostly, perishable vegetables, potato, tomato, poultry/egg/milk, etc. But, they had to purchase inputs at higher prices. Farmers even discarded their vegetables on roads. Milk producers/small poultry firm/rearers made loss. Poultry vaccinators made 100% loss.
Because of fuel problems, farmers in Sirajganj District could neither plough, nor irrigate land , which, delayed cultivation and resulted in to failure of next crop cultivation.
The overall economic losses occurred for 58% (off-farm 60.78%, farm based options 50.33%). The average loss in taka was 3,760/household against their expected production/gross income Tk.6,495/- for the period. Sirajganj experienced higher loss for both options. Day laborers lost over 52% of their working days/income.
The prolonged blockade left poor farmer and producers in long term economic hardship, which they were coping by receiving credit from NGOs or neighbours or borrowing money from relatives and friends, selling household assets/property; even, consuming less food. Out of 14, 13 members attended in a group discussion received credit/loan from Tk. 2,000-20,000/each in Sirajganj.
The blockade prevented achieving 6% GDP growth rate, which was steady for over the last 7/8 years. Political parties should rethink of their strategy of political actions and Government and NGOs/INGOs need to plan alternative livelihoods supports for the poor/extreme poor people in such a situation.
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On my first day I have been warmly welcomed and well briefed by our Practical Action staff. I discovered 31% of Bangladeshis live below the poverty line with 20% in extreme proverty. Furthermore 1 million have lost their land through river bank erosion. It was a great to hear what great work the local Practical Action tream are doing here.
This afternoon I was very excited to see our Krishi Call Centre. I have heard so much about this from the Dkaka Practical Answers Team but seeing how busy and effective it is in action was fantastic.
We saw three impressively educated young agricultural experts handle technical enquiries coming in thick and fast. Did you know that if fish are suffocating through lack of oxygen in the water sending your children in for a good splashy swim is a great way of re-oxygenating it?
At this time of year with Eid celebrations coming up advice on the best way to fatten cattle in time is popular too. It was lovely to hear one of our team how happy and proud she is to be able to help these farmers, and to explain that as mobile phones are so common in Bangladesh, often she is talking to them as they work with their crops and livestock, in the fields.
Anyone who knows Practical Action staff member Kate Mulkern will want to know that she looks fabulous in her new sky blue Shalmar Kamiz, photo soon!6 Comments » | Add your comment
Sometimes, Practical Action can really get absorbed in systems thinking. We’ve been working in this space since about 2003, and some of its principles have served as the foundation of some great successes we have had. For an oversimplified approach, think of a terrarium. You have soil, plants water and air all living inside a closed pot (it isn’t considered a true closed system, because sunlight gets in, but you get the idea). If you were to adjust different segments of the system, you might see different developments: more water might mean more growth, or more growth might also mean the system burns out.
So what happens when this system shifts, and you start looking at populations? Plants become people, soil becomes the economy, maybe even water stays the same, and you consider the impacts of clean water in a community. That evaluation is a key part of how Practical Action often engages with communities. Two key features of systems are resilience, which often shows up in our climate adaption work, and efficiency, which is often considered key to creating transformative impact in the lives of the poor—because if something isn’t efficient, it will probably not be as replicable, and you lose that whole transformative impact component.
These two systems characteristics are inversely related: resilience is a trade-off for efficiency.
What does that mean? When we talk about resilience in relation to the extreme poor, we are often talking about those who are able to bounce back when they face a system shock. That could be a drought, a flood, or an economic collapse. If you think about it, resilience gets built up by being able to quickly adapt to a change in a system, and that often means there are multiple support systems created that can create the flexibility needed for that change. In the case of drought, that might mean there are several different kinds of crops that are raised, some that work better in wet seasons and some that work better in dry seasons. This could also mean there exists a knowledge base that allows for more resilience as well—you become a generalist as opposed to a specialist so you can perform multiple tasks.
Then there is efficiency. However you achieve it, be it economies of scale, or through specialization, efficiency is important, because it means you are completing a task more effectively. If you can increase efficiency, you will be able to replicate that task. So when people talk about creating transformative change in a community, efficiency is often necessary for that change to take root. Think of a treadle pump. The first time someone built one, it probably didn’t work very well, but over thousands of years, the design has been improved upon, to the point where many look very similar: they are cheap to build, easy to replicate, and in a word, efficient, given their circumstances.
These days, efficiency is a major focus in many drives to end poverty. You have limited resources, and efficiency allows for expansion that maximizes those resources. But it also means that you are developing systems that require many of your “resources” (READ: people) to specialize in a given approach. As a result, you aren’t as flexible, and your trade-off is resilience. Think of GMO super crops—they are efficient, because they can be made to resist certain pesticides, and can grow bountifully. But they aren’t resilient, because once an infestation comes along that is particularly brutal to that crop, there is no other crop there to create resilience—food prices go up, and people go hungry.
So does this mean that the world should be extremely resilient? Or should we focus our efforts wholeheartedly on efficiency, hoping to create economies of scale that are extremely good at overcoming system shocks? Ultimately, this conversation starts sounding more like one with a personal finance advisor. If you are preparing for the future, you need a diversified portfolio. Like in that terrarium, finding the appropriate balance is key, and it will rarely be wholly efficient or wholly resilient.No Comments » | Add your comment
Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change. Because of increased salinity, the absence of agricultural practices (other than shrimp culture), a lack of grazing land and acute fodder problems cattle resources have been reduced seriously in the coastal areas of Bangladesh. However, there is much scope of rearing small domestic animals like sheep, goats and pigeons there instead of big animals (cows, buffalo etc.). Further, the area lacks sufficient employment opportunities since shrimp cultivation in gher is the major and dominant livelihoods option in the coastal area. But, most poor and marginal people don’t own land for shrimp cultivation.
Salinity, being the major dominant feature, crops and vegetables, other than saline tolerant variety, don’t grow in this area. However, people are not well aware of saline tolerant crops and vegetable varieties. So, sheep rearing, considering the salinity and climatic variability context has been considered to be an important adaptive livelihood option in the area, although, there is lack of grazing land and fodder. Sheep is highly salinity and temperature tolerant.
The rearing of sheep has been increasing gradually in coastal areas as a household based adaptation and alternative income option. A 5´x 8´ house is required for 5/6 sheep. Sama a local grass is the major feed for sheep and this grass grows well in saline soil. Cultivation of this grass is often done on land adjacent to the homestead.
Monsoon is the best season for producing this grass since there is sufficient rain and no need for irrigation. Besides sama grass, kura (waste from rice husking), different other grasses whatever available in the locality and leaves from trees are also fed to the sheep. Sheep eat almost everything.
Sheep require regular vaccination and de-worming to avoid diseases and unexpected death. A sheep of 5/6 months can be sold for Tk.1500-2000. Besides this the income from sheep-dung can’t be understated. Sheep-dung is used as saar (compost) for vegetable production and as fuel. One can get fuel of Tk.450/monthly from 5/6 sheep for cooking.
This clearly shows that sheep rearing is an important adaptive livelihood option in the increased salinity context for poor, marginal and small farmers. Sheep rearing can contribute to employment creation and eradication of poverty of the poor and marginal, specially, as household based income generation option, where, employment scope is a major problem.4 Comments » | Add your comment
Cultivation of crops is almost absent in the South Western coastal region of Bangladesh, where shrimp farming has been dominant since the mid-eighties. Salinity intrusion into agricultural land is increasing because of sea level rise due to climate change. Thus the practice of agriculture has been almost stopped in the coastal areas except for shrimp farming.
The introduction of cropping on the dyke of shrimp gher has been an important innovation by Practical Action, although it was practiced a while back. However, dyke cropping was neither very common, nor systematic. Practical Action, Bangladesh, under its Climate Change Programme in the South Western Coastal District Satkhira demonstrated some livelihoods technologies including Dyke Cropping following an improved method.
Mr. Zillur Rahman (35) of Kalikapur village, a small holder demonstrated vegetable cultivation on the dyke of his shrimp farm. He had prior experiences of dyke cropping. In October-December 2011, he did ‘dyke cropping’ with Practical Action’s technical support on 4 dykes of different lengths (25-30 to 130 feet). The dyke’s width was 3 feet and height above the flood water level.
Rahman cultivated vegetables on the dykes in winter (October-December 2011) and during the monsoon (May-September 2012). The vegetables he grew included pumpkin, water gourd, chalkumra, cumcumber and carrala in the winter season and pumpkin, water gourd, chalkumra, cumcumber, carrala along with jhinge, chichinga, dhundal, papaw, ladies fingers, brinjal and puishak in the monsoon. Monsoon cropping required no irrigation as there was sufficient rain, while, drip irrigation technology was used for winter cropping in the pits made on dykes. The size of pit differed for each vegetable (50x50x50 to 80x80x80 centimeter). Both organic and inorganic fertilizer in appropriate doses was used in the pits for vegetable cultivation. The dyke cropping helps to maximise land use, promoting food security and reducing dependency on shrimp farming.
Technological differences were significant between the earlier and later project. Better dyke design was introduced with adequate height and width than earlier. In the improved system, organic fertilizer use was predominant, however, in-organic fertilizer use was also used in appropriate doses; machan on dyke prepared with branches of trees earlier, but, bamboo/wooden pole and net were used in the improved system. The cost of machan more than doubled and survived 4 years instead of 1 year for the conventional one.
Rahman harvested a total of 182kgs of vegetables in winter and sold at an average market price Tk.15/kg. He harvested a good amount of vegetables (181 Kgs.) by mid-September 2012 and sold at a market price of Tk.16/kg in the monsoon. He expected further 111kgs (approx) up to December 2012 and could sell thse at Tk.15/kg.
In the improved system, he harvested 2.5 times more compared to earlier practice. The dyke cropping could suitably be expanded and replicated, where vegetable production is almost absent or very poor due to salinity increase, which, could benefit the shrimp farmers by bringing extra income along with household consumption.No Comments » | Add your comment