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Stories of shifting farming patterns due to climate change impact in Southern Bangladesh
The word ‘vulnerable’ denotes an alarming situation to the possibility of being harmed. And here ‘vulnerable agricultural sectors’ define the possibly risky situation of agricultural sectors. Climate and agricultural productions are part and parcel of each other. Agricultural practices influence climate change and climate change also affects crop production and farming patterns.
The world’s climate is changing day by day and becoming a more severe threat to agricultural sectors. Due to its vulnerable geographical position and other environmental reasons, Bangladesh is one of the most climate-vulnerable countries in the world. Based on the present climatic scenario, the climate of Bangladesh can be grouped by medium to heavy rainfall in the rainy season, high temperature in the summer season, and high humidity in the winter season, whereas once it used to have six different seasons with their different flavors. Effects of climate change have become a great threat to agricultural sectors in both scholars’ and farmers’ perceptions.
The agricultural sector alone is contributing almost 12% of the GDP and creating employment opportunities for almost 44% of the population (IUCN, nd). Agricultural production mainly depends on climatic factors like temperature, rainfall, humidity, sunlight intensity and duration, and radiation, which are predicted to be erratic due to climate change, consequently posing threat to the agricultural sector.
Climate change may alter crop patterns and volume of production due to increasing crop pests and diseases forcing farmers to use more pesticides like herbicides and fungicides (Lake et al, 2012). In our country over the last three decades, the temperature is rising and the predicted average daily temperature is expected to have an increase of 1.0⁰C by 2030 and 1.4⁰C by 2050 (Alamgir et al, 2018).
Constant natural disasters like cyclones, flood, storm surge, sea-level rise, drought, and rising atmospheric temperature are causing damage to food production rate. Although impacts of climate change have telling effects in the world’s agricultural sector, in Bangladesh’s case, where livelihood and lives mainly depend on agricultural production, it’s becoming a great threat to national food security. Let’s see the practical and present scenario of Bangladeshi farmers in the Southern region (from Koyra Upazila under Khulna district):
According to a couple of Rice farmers – almost 10 years ago they could cultivate rice in more than 10 bighas of land and the overall production cost was relatively low. But in recent times they are very fearful to take the risk of damage in crop production. As farmers don’t have enough updated knowledge about climate change effects, they can’t figure out the solutions to the problems they are facing in rice cultivation.
They have noticed that the variety of crop pests and diseases are increasing alongside the soil fertilization becoming low. As a result, the increase in pesticide and fertilizer costs are proving to be an added burden to them and they are limiting their crop production area to 2 bighas instead of the previously used 10 bighas. Another major problem is natural disasters like cyclones, flooding, and saline water inundation damaging the net production output.
Again, according to the owner of a vegetable production yard, last year he cultivated pumpkins and the final product was not so profitable because most of the pumpkins became rotten. In the running year, he cultivated papayas instead of pumpkins so as not to face the same situation as before. In the first-round his total cultivation cost was Tk60,000, but unfortunately, most of the plants and leaves were affected by fungus and turned a yellow color.
Different types of fungicides and pesticides were used but he was able to sell the Papayas only for Tk7,000. In the next round, he bought papaya seedlings for Tk12,000. But unfortunately, he faced another loss. As it’s the rainy season, most of the plant’s roots rotted due to rain waterlogging. At last he planned to shift his farming pattern totally and made a poultry farm instead in his vegetable yard.
According to Water Resource and Climate Specialist Professor Dr Ainun Nishat, due to world climate change, seasonal change doesn’t occur at the right time and the frequency of natural disasters is increasing with a low return period. As a result, when the crops bloom, they don’t get a suitable environment for pollination, which in return is decreasing the final crop production.
What can be the youth’s contribution to this sector? The youth are the builders who can build a risk-free future. Sadly though, they don’t have much interest in the agricultural production sector, even the ones who are facing unemployment.
In Bangladesh, there are one private and six public universities which are specialized in agricultural science. Instead of the agriculture sector, most of the graduates go for career prospects in unrelated service sectors (Uddin, nd).
But it’s time to apply initiative techniques and up-to-date cultivation knowledge to cope with the vulnerable situations due to climate change. The Youth can play a vital role via engaging themselves and make use of all agricultural initiatives to ensure food security.
Sufiya Khatun is working in Youth Climate Lab (YCL) as a Regional Associate (Bay of Bengal), her research interest lies in Climate Change effects, Conserving vegetation especially the forest area which soaks CO2, and engages youth to initiate and implement sustainable environment-friendly development steps. Can be reached at [email protected]