Enabling and empowering the local community to co-manage the natural habitat for crop protection

Our idea of sustainable crop protection is on two fronts. One is group formation. Essentially, we believe that if people in rural communities can form groups, say of 20-25 households, they can enjoy economies of scale from agriculture. Two, we believe in co-management of forests. As there is a decrease in natural greenery due to anthropogenic activities, reforestation and afforestation is required where community and government would undertake a collaborative venture. The objective is to increase household income by crop production and protection.

At present one of our projects is titled “Creating access to land and other resources to poor and marginalized” in collaboration with Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) http://www.alrd.org/. Here, we intend to work with women micro level entrepreneurs and engage them in collaborative crop production. The other project is titled “Integrating Community-based Adaptation into Afforestation and Reforestation” (ICBAAR). It is in partnership with Nature Conservation Management (NACOM) http://www.nacom.org/Home, United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and several government agencies such as Forest Department. Our working areas are 4 sub districts of Hatiya, Char Fassion, Tzumuddin and Galachipa of 3coastal districts namely Noakhali, Bhola and Patuakhali in Barishal Division.

Households in rural farming communities are less motivated to engage in agriculture due to low margin. Also, they are engaged in deforestation as a means for livelihood.  Hence, in retrospect to the mentioned problem we create groups so that they can pool resources. Consequently, they can leverage their produce by mass production, sharing transportation cost and thereby a strengthen value chain. Again, we are planning to enable and empower the local community to co-manage the natural habitat for crop protection. One set of groups are by women. These women group are encouraged to pool their saving, access resources and then engage in croup production such as lentil cultivation. The other set of groups are named “Forest Resource Protection Group” (FRGP). We are scheduled to undertake activities to increase the intuitional capacities of FRGPs

At present we have a target group of two sets of beneficiaries. One is 300 (we intend to increase the number) women lead households (HHs) with whom we are creating groups for agriculture purpose. The other is 2500 HHs with whom we are engaging in afforestation and reforestation incentive with a view to increase livelihood. Other stakeholders include, but are not limited to government duty bearers and local government representatives. Again, in order to add value to the incentive we engage the local civil society.

We have conducted focused group discussions (FGD) in rural char (river islands) communities. We have also established women’s groups. These women have started saving with an intention to pool their capital. We have linked these women to government social safety net so that they can access resources such as government appointed agricultural officer assigned for their area. We also have 4 staff with an agricultural background, 5 support staff, 1 community mobiliser, 1 manager and 2 fiancé personnel besides me on payroll to materialize our work plan.

According to the World Bank, the arable land in Bangladesh was 73.4% in 1989 but, decreased to 59.6% in 2015. Our activities will increase the green habit via crop production and protection that are climate resilient. Then again, there are some challenges such as an increase in salinity due to global warming. This essentially means that the traditional methods of agriculture are obsolete.  Consequently, here are some social economic upheavals such as farmers migrating to urban area to work manual laborer. This result in social vice such women HH members become septic crime that occurs in a patriarch society as the norm is men are supposed to protect the women. Our activities intend to restore social harmony by re-engaging farmers in crop production and ensure its protection. This will also increase the food security and sovereignty in the region.

I am passionate about the idea because I believe in the power of unity in local communities. I am also an advocate of participatory development such as via farmer field school (FFS).  Bangladesh is numbered to have around 700 rives and is along the Bay of Bengal. Thus, it is constantly being affected by river erosion. This means that communities along the banks of the rivers are constantly becoming landless. This creates unemployment, crime and other unfortunate vices. But again, new land emerges, especially, in the form of Chars. Here again, there are settlements of communities. The lands until claimed are declared Kash land (government land). We also see settlements in these lands. Since there are no ownership lands, the local communities deforest the habitat with a view to make a living. For instance, cut trees to sell the wood with no replanting incentive. Such ecological change means further induction of climate change. We believe that by enabling and empowering local communities by knowledge transfer in crop production. I believe that they can engage in high value crop (HVC) production that are climate resilient and increase their purchasing power per capita (PPP) in a sustainable way.

Although Bangladesh has natural resources for crop production, the agricultural value chain (AVC) is not very strong. As final consumers we pay a high price for food while farmers are underpaid. I want to see more fair trade in place where farmers are more rewarded while we pay lower price by improving AVC for crops. After completing my masters I intend to engage in higher studies again on an inter-disciplinary subject such as international development or disaster management. This venture will increase my capacity and give me the necessary tools to enroll and do well in further studies. As a human resource with increased capacity I can also better serve our beneficiaries. My community will benefit due to increased access to resources for improved production technology in crop production and protection. The women in particular will benefit by a shift in paradigm as when they have their own income from agricultural activities. In particular their influence in decision making with the community will increase. The role of farmers in society will also be more appreciated. Thus by crop protection we can see integrated ripple effects in our community.

Mohammed Tanvir (Nick) Mosharraf, Bangladesh