Friday, October 31, 2008

Learning to adapt to drought in Bangladesh

IRIN: Climate change pundits have not only forecast more water for Bangladesh, brought by flooding rivers, sea level rise and intense weather events like cyclones, but also less water in its already drought-prone parts.

"The fact is that the agriculture sector and food security could be severely affected," said Ad Spijkers, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) representative in Bangladesh. Agriculture contributes 30 percent to the country's gross domestic product and employs roughly 63 percent of the labour force.

Bangladesh had made "tremendous" progress since the major droughts of 1973/74, 1978/79, 1981/82, 1989, 1992 and 1994/95, he said. In the 1978/79 drought the country lost probably 50 percent to 100 percent of its foodgrains - more than was lost in floods in 1974 - "showing that drought can be as devastating as a major flood or cyclone".

Since then the country has attained a certain level of sufficiency, said Spijkers, but population was a bigger problem than food production, inasmuch as food production was basically keeping pace with population growth.

…An intercropping technology developed jointly by the Bangladesh Sericulture Research and Training Institute, and the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, recommends the cultivation of rice, wheat, garlic, mustard, chickpeas and mung beans in mulberry fields. The cropping pattern calls for growing rice in the monsoon season, with wheat, mustard, garlic and chickpeas in winter, and mung bean in the pre-kharif season – the summer crop grown ahead of the monsoon season.

Farmers have also been encouraged to diversify into growing mulberry, which is grown mainly to rear silk worms and does well in drought conditions. Sericulture, or silk production, is a labour-intensive industry that can provide a source of income to both male and female members of the household.

Another adaptation strategy is the excavation of miniponds, filled with water harvested during the rains, to rear fast-growing fish varieties as an alternative source of income…..

The Ganges River Delta, NASA

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