World Bank: Half of Bangladesh farmers using excess fertiliser

Almost half of the farmers in the country are using excess fertiliser in an attempt to produce more crops, says a new World Bank report.

The World Bank launched the report titled “Dynamics of Rural Growth in Bangladesh: Sustainable Poverty Reduction” at the CIRDAP auditorium in the city yesterday.

The study has been conducted in partnership with the Planning Commission.

According to the report, almost half of the farmers overuse fertiliser and its excessive use leads to environmental and health hazards.

However,  Agriculture Ministry Additional Secretary Nazmul Islam, ran a counter to what the World Bank report said.

Speaking as a special guest, Nazmul reacted sharply saying: “The information about the excessive use of fertiliser is not at all true nowadays, because it is not a common phenomenon in Bangladesh any more as we have already trained up our farmers.”

Urging the World Bank to correct its information on excessive use of fertiliser he said: “There might be a few areas where a handful of farmers are still using excess fertiliser.”

The report was presented by Madhur Gautam, lead economist at the World Bank and also team leader of the study while Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain attended the ceremony as chief guest.

The World Bank study identifies key changes in the rural economy, principal drivers of rural income, policy implications, and actions needed to foster growth, reduce poverty, and improve food security and nutrition.

“Agriculture is a leading contributor to poverty reduction in Bangladesh since 2000. The country 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. Pro-poor agricultural growth has stimulated the non-farm economy,” reads the World Bank report.

According to the report, it estimates that a 10% rise in farm income generates a 6% rise in non-farm income. Hence, the growth of the non-farm economy largely depends on agriculture. Although rural non-farm employment is almost 2 times higher than all urban employment put together, non-farm activities are not progressing sufficiently in scope or sophistication. The report calls for greater attention to foster a robust rural non-farm economy.

“Bangladesh has raised agricultural productivity significantly in the last few decades. It is remarkable that, with so many people and so little arable land, the country has been able to provide sufficient food for almost everyone,” said World Bank Country Director for Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal Qimiao Fan.

“While rice will remain its focus, Bangladesh needs to find effective ways to diversify its agriculture, as well as adapt to a changing climate.”

Bangladesh is widely recognised for its progress in human development, but its achievements in agriculture remain little known. Several factors supported the sector’s growth: extensive irrigation, high-yielding varieties, more efficient markets, and mechanisation, all backed by policy reforms and investments in agriculture research, human capital, and roads, the report said.

Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Minister Khandakar Mosharraf Hossain said: “The findings of the report that growth of non-farm activities depends on connectivity, and whereas mega cities are benefiting from connectivity, poorly connected secondary cities are falling behind.”

The government is investing in rural transportation in order to facilitate non-farm activities in rural areas, he added.

The migration is a rapidly growing phenomenon and the impact of remittance on the rural economy is substantial which has been left out from the study, he said.