'Agriculture playing leading role in reducing BD poverty'

Despite being one of the most vulnerable sector to climate shocks, Bangladesh agriculture has been playing a leading role in reducing poverty since 2000, said a World Bank report.

It said extensive irrigation, high-yielding varieties, more efficient markets, and mechanisation, all backed by policy reforms and investments in agriculture research, human capital, and infrastructure development have driven the growth in the sector, reports UNB.

The report, titled ‘Dynamics of Rural Growth in Bangladesh: Sustaining Poverty Reduction,’ was launched at a workshop at Cidrap International Conference Centre here on Tuesday.

According to the report, Bangladesh’s pro-poor agricultural growth has stimulated its non-farm economy. It estimates that a 10 percent rise in farm income generates a 6 percent rise in non-farm income.

Stating that non-farm activities are not progressing sufficiently, the report said a balanced development strategy should be developed for both farm and non-farm growths.

“Today, the largest share of public expenditure on agriculture goes to subsidies. Almost half of the farmers overuse fertilizers. Excessive amount of chemical fertilizers are creating environmental and health hazards, the WB report observed.

Stressing the need for more rapid diversification in agriculture with balanced attention to rice, it said Bangladesh now needs to shift towards high-value agriculture, including horticulture, livestock, and fisheries as well as greater value addition to improve farmers’ income and household nutrition.

Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandkar Mosharraf Hossain was present at the programme as the chief gusset while Madhur Gautam, the World Bank’s lead economist, presented the report.

World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Qimiao Fan, its Practice Manager Agriculture Martien van Nieuwkoop and WB Director Agriculture Global Practice Ethel Sennahauser, among others, spoke at the programme.

Presenting the report, Gautam said, “The evidence clearly demonstrates the pro-poor and catalytic nature of agricultural growth which has been leading contributor to poverty reduction in Bangladesh since, 2000. But, the remarkable transformation, and unprecedented dynamism in Rural Bangladesh are an unexplored, unappreciated, and largely untold story.”

Mentioning that the market operates smoothly in Bangladesh, he said the country now needs upgraded market facilities, increased investments in roads to connect secondary cities, improved rural logistics and access to finance to move to the next level, with more modern and efficient supply chains.

“These improvements will help increase income and productivity, and they are especially important as Bangladesh transitions to a more modern food system involving high-value products and greater value addition,” Gautam added.

Khandakar Mosharraf said, “I fell agriculture will continue to play a vital role in Bangladesh’s rural economy, but given the reality of limited scope of expanding productive land, the further thrust has to be in the rural non-farm sector.”

The minister further said, “We need to sharpen our understanding of why the progress of the non-farm activities have remained limited though the majority of rural households engaged in non-far, activities.”

He said it is necessary to take some policies and actions to facilitate accelerated growth of the rural non-farm sector.

Qimiao Fan said Bangladesh has raised agricultural productivity significantly in the last few decades though it has faced adverse impacts of climate change and natural disasters like tropical storms. “It’s remarkable that, with so many people and so little arable land, the country has been able to provide sufficient food for almost everyone.”

He said Bangladesh is widely recognised for its progress in human development, but its achievements in agriculture remain little known.

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