Partners review progress of the MFS initiative in Bangladesh

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Bangladesh, where agriculture forms the backbone of livelihoods, the One CGIAR initiative on Mixed-Farming Systems (MFS) stands as a beacon of innovation and progress. Recently, a team comprising representatives from IRRI Bangladesh, Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), and CIMMYT Bangladesh embarked on a comprehensive visit to observe the impact of MFS in Kishoregonj and Nilphamari Sadar districts. Led by Dr. Humnath Bhandari, Country Representative of IRRI Bangladesh and MFS Country Focal Person, the team engaged directly with beneficiaries to understand the initiative’s multifaceted activities and their implications on the ground.

This CGIAR global initiative is currently being implemented in Bangladesh by IRRI and CIMMYT with the collaboration of BARI, BRRI, Bangladesh Livestock Research Institute (BLRI), and Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), aiming to enhance farmers’ livelihoods, ensure family food security, promote environmental health and biodiversity conservation, and intensify and diversify agricultural production. Currently, the initiative is working on several innovations such as crop intensification and diversification, homestead gardening, organic manure production, crop-linstock integration, and mechanization services.

 The team’s visit provided a firsthand glimpse into the transformative effects of MFS on rural communities. Dr. Debasish Sarker, Director General of BARI, Gazipur, lauded the initiative’s efforts in promoting year-round homestead-based vegetable and fruit production, a model pioneered by BARI to ensure family nutrition. He highlighted the innovative collaboration between BARI and IRRI in introducing special seed packets for homestead vegetable production, enabling farmers to access quality seeds at affordable prices.

Dr. Md. Shahjahan Kabir, Director General of BRRI, Gazipur, emphasized the importance of crop diversification and the introduction of short-duration, high-yielding rice varieties. He underscored BRRI’s contributions in releasing varieties like BRRI dhan75 and BRRI dhan87, designed to optimize cropping patterns and enhance agricultural productivity. Dr. Kabir commended SI-MFS for its integrated approach toward increasing farmers’ household income and promoting sustainable agricultural systems. He also empathized with rice mechanization and mentioned mechanized DSR can save labor, and water and reduce environmental footprint. For mechanized DSR we have to long way to go.

During the visit, Dr. Bhandari said, “Through MFS initiative, we are developing local service providers and linking them with respective government/private organizations to ensure quality service to the villagers, as well as establishing ‘MFS’ agricultural learning centers in the working villages for integrated information dissemination after the end of the initiative phase.”

In addition, Dr. Sharif Ahmed, a Post-doctoral Fellow from the IRRI Bangladesh Office, and Dr. Zannatul Ferdous, a Senior Scientific Officer (SSO) from OFRD (BARI) Rangpur, provided a comprehensive overview of the various activities conducted by MFS. The program has significantly expanded its activities, reaching 15 villages and covering 3,060 farmers’ households across Northern Bangladesh.

Higher official of BARI, BRRI, DAE, and IRRI Bangladesh country representative visiting the Community Agricultural Learning Center established under the MFS initiative in Nilphamari, Bangladesh. Photo: Bappy Kumar, IRRI

One of the notable achievements highlighted during the discussions was the extensive training provided to farmers. A total of 930 farmers have undergone training sessions on various topics crucial for sustainable agricultural practices. These sessions covered Homestead-based gardening, compost/vermi-compost production, intensified and diversified crop production, as well as fodder and improved livestock production. The emphasis on holistic training reflects MFS’ commitment to equipping farmers with the knowledge and skills necessary to enhance their agricultural practices.

The collaboration between MFS, IRRI Rangpur, and BARI, BLRI and BRRI has facilitated the provision of essential agricultural machinery to local entrepreneurs. Thirty Straw and Fodder chopper Machines, four Mini rice husking mills, one PTOS machine, two Maize Shellers, and one mini power tiller have been distributed among young entrepreneurs in MFS villages. This initiative not only promotes entrepreneurship but also enhances agricultural productivity by providing access to modern machinery. Additionally, the distribution of fodder-cutting among 1150 beneficiaries underscores MFS’ commitment to improving livestock production and fodder management.

The team’s field visits and discussions with beneficiaries provided valuable insights into the impact of these interventions on rural communities. Farmers expressed gratitude for the training and support received, highlighting the positive changes in their agricultural practices and livelihoods. The collaborative efforts between research institutions, government agencies, and local communities are driving meaningful change, empowering farmers to adopt sustainable agricultural practices and improve their overall well-being.

The visit also provided an opportunity to interact with beneficiaries whose lives have been positively impacted by the MFS initiative. A 28-year-old farmer, Akhi Moni, a member of the SI-MFS household-based farmer group in Khamergragram, shared her journey from dependence on market vegetables to cultivating diverse crops in her homestead, thanks to initiative training and support. Similarly, Fatema Begum, from the same village, narrated how cultivating short-duration Aman rice varieties led to early harvesting, enabling subsequent Rabi crop cultivation, and enhancing overall farm productivity.

 Amidst changing climatic conditions and labor shortages, MFS has introduced Direct Seeded Rice (DSR) as a climate-smart alternative to traditional transplanting methods. Dr. Mahesh Gathala from CIMMYT Bangladesh highlighted the advantages of DSR in mitigating water scarcity and reducing labor costs. Farmers like Rafiqul Islam and Masiur shared their positive experiences with DSR, expressing optimism about its potential for widespread adoption and impact. The majority of farmers have agreed to continue using this particular method in the upcoming season.

 

Contributed by Bushra Humaira Sadaf

Feature image: Higher official of BARI, BRRI, DAE, and IRRI Bangladesh country representative visiting climate smart rice production (late boro DSR) trial field in Nilphamari, Bangladesh. Photo by Bappy Kumar, IRRI

 

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