A Few Proposals for Sustainable Agriculture and Development

The present world’s agriculture is passing a very crucial time. With the advancement of high technology, a rapid development has been made to meet the immediate demand of food and many day-to-day essentials for growing the population of the world. However, this quick advancement seldom considered long term effect of the earth’s environment. Industrialization, improvement of crop, use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and mechanization of cropping culture has brought rapid changes and has imbalanced/disturbed the spontaneous ecosystems. It is true that cropping/farming is a biased culture which solely depends on the desire of the human being. Moreover, multiple needs have made it commercial i.e. market product for profit/benefit. Obviously market commodities always seek immediate result i.e. more profit. To ensure more earnings, agriculture has become more selective and mechanized and more external input based for which we have lost diversity among and within the species.


From the beginning of the civilization, development of agriculture was started on the fertile lands of the river banks. Recycling of the biomass was practiced since then to supplement the nutrient deficiencies. This recycling was mainly confined within the exploitation zone. For these recycling, natural agencies viz. herbivores, carnivores, omnivores and saprophytes etc. along with external environment made a circuit for balancing the whole system. At present, external aids e.g. fertilizers, pesticides and herbicides, irrigation etc. increased the dependency of nutrients of certain flora but hampers the natural habitats of the others. So, high technique advance agriculture is also responsible for destruction of biodiversity. It is also true that, proper distribution and rational utilization of resources/commodities can easily fulfill the needs of the world population whatever it may be. We need to think about the implication of shortcut systems whether the advancement that we have achieved is progressive or retrogressive. Agriculture may not fully responsible for the change of habitat and loss of biodiversity, climate change and global warming, water and energy crisis etc, but definitely its share is very significant. Therefore, to find a solution for the above critic agriculture can definitely play a great role.

The status of agriculture varies among and within the regions. The cause and effect also differ in different conditions. The solutions of the problems may also vary according to the prevailing conditions. However, the present agriculture can be grouped into:

· High-tech Agriculture,

· Traditional Agriculture and

· Ecoagriculture or Sustainable Agriculture

For a sustainable agricultural practice following measures are suggested:

  1. Awareness about the implication of external inputs: e.g. change of habitat, breaking of natural food chain, residual effect on the produces, on soil structure, micro and macro-flora and fauna and on aquatic flora and fauna and ultimately on higher animals including human being. Any crisis of external inputs hampers agricultural production.
  2. Minimization of irrigation dependent cropping: Irrigation (deep tube well) destroys crop diversity especially the low water demanding crops viz. many varieties of rice, millets, cereals, peas, grams and pulses etc.
  3. Discouraging Dams for withdrawal of water from the up streams: It changes the habitats of both up and down streams. Disturbs the natural water flow, causes impediment, rising of the catchments bed by silt. Moreover, changes the natural cycle of dry and winter flora of the soil and ultimately affects the soil texture and structure. Decreased catchments reduce the water holding capacity and thus cause floods frequently during the wet monsoon.
  4. Avoidance of unplanned roads, highways and bridges: Roads crossing the flood plains should have sufficient water discharge capacity that can easily discharge 100 mm rainfall in 48 hours. Otherwise obstructed water will cause floods in the upper region. Siltation will cause rising of beds and catchment’s area will decrease.
  5. Discouraging expansion of field agriculture: Expansion of agricultural land by replacing the forests, cutting the hills and filling the catchments although facilitates managing agriculture (especially monocrop culture) but decreases land area, biodiversity, and catchments or water reservoirs. Thus causes floods frequently and damages crops. Excess surface water due to flood during the hot season absorbs solar radiation and increases the temperature of the water bodies and thus raises inland atmospheric temperature. It is one of the reasons for global warming.
  6. Discouraging non-ecologically sustainable crops/farming: Plantation of Rain trees, Mahogony and Acacias should be banned as they disturb the growth of other crops. As there no sufficient pasture land goat farming should be discouraged. Moreover, goat damages other crops. These are creating chaos among the people and destroying the social environment.
  7. Landscape management: The Ganges and Brahmaputra delta is a fertile land due to loam soil. Every year millions of tons of silt is depositing from water flows of the rivers and tributaries coming down from the Himalayas and Arakan and Lusai Hills during the wet monsoon. The natural flows of the rivers towards the Bay of Bengal are often obstructed by unplanned roads and highways, dams for dry season irrigation. Before green revolution, there were large ponds, the man made water reservoirs in the rural homes. In the Northern and Southeast regions large ponds (Area more than an acre and 4 to 6 meter deep usually called Dighis) were dug, and small ponds (area less than an acre called Pukur) were excavated in every homes as water reservoirs for drinking and household uses, and farming of fishes and aquatic animals e.g. ducks, prawns, crabs, mollusks and turtle etc. The excavated earth was used to raise the homestead area above the flood level. But after the beginning of green revolution and irrigation (deep tube well) depended cropping culture subsoil water table has gone down and the ponds and natural water bodies e.g. lakes (Haor, Bheel, rivers and streams etc.) dry during the dry winter. As a result, a severe water crisis has been prevailing in this region. Due to deep tube well irrigation we are losing low water demanding crops, aquatic flora and fauna. Moreover, underground water is usually contaminated with arsenic, lead and iron etc. causing heath problem. In the dry winter, temperature falls down unusually due to low or lack of water in the ponds and catchments. Therefore, rapid urbanization, quick and unplanned roads, bridges, dams and mechanical agricultural systems need more deep thinking planning for long term sustainability.

After the mass cross-border migration of Hindu/Muslim population in 1947 to 1965 (about 30% of total population) the homestead vegetations and the ponds were badly affected by clearing out and land filling for flat land agriculture, and the slogan of so called green revolution “Grow more Food” fueled the situation. Homestead farming, multiple and multi-tier cropping culture, short cycle biomass recycling and biodiversity have lost their heritage.

Protection of undulated lands, hills, catchments and natural flows of streams and rivers is essential to protect the normal habitat of indigenous flora and fauna. The catchments should be revived; navigation system must be re-established by dredging of the rivers. Withdrawal of water from the up streams and deep tube well irrigation must be stopped immediately.

The catchments, lagoons, lakes and ponds will work as temporary reservoirs for receiving at least one week’s continuous down pour. Proper use of surface water should be ensured

  1. Choosing the right crop for right habitat: There are so many varieties and species which are tolerant in different climatic conditions, soils and topography. For example, many varieties of rice (Aus) and millets grow well in dry weather condition but some are water demanding prefers wet condition. Some crops are shade loving, some are partial but some requires long sunshine hours. We need to know which crops grow in what condition. We should also know their interrelationship among themselves and with other species. For instance, most of the spices, medicinal plants and arums grow well in shade/partial shade conditions

Therefore, we should know the use practices and the ideal conditions for growing crops and we must bring more species under cropping culture to save biodiversity and to maximize the use of land and productivity. Moreover, in epidemics or in adverse conditions we can get something to meet our demand without losing all that happens in case of monocrop culture.

  1. Forestry and Plantation Crops: Bangladesh and the whole East Indian region are rich with tropical forestry. Other than the wet lands, the rural homes are rich with diversified plants species like, bamboos, multipurpose tree crops, vines and climbers, corms, tubers and arums, nuts and palms, shrubs and herbs with many uses. But it is very unfortunate that, so-called agroforestry with exotic plant species e.g. Mahogony, Rain tree, Sisoo (Indian Rosewood), Acacia mangium, Acacia auriculiformis and Eucalyptus spp. etc. have been introduced in the rural areas and homesteads which are destroying the ecosystem as they are yet to acclimatize and do not allow undergrowth, the leaf litter and fruits and pods are not easily degradable. It needs immediate attention to discourage such plantations. Linear plantation along the roods and highways with those species must be stopped but should be planted with Jackfruits, Mango, Blackberries, coconuts and Palmyra palms etc. With the increasing population the natural forests of the hills and coastal regions are over exploited. It is essential to establish secondary forests with indigenous pioneer plants species suitable to specific environment. Bamboos and sun loving ones should get priority and than with the secondary and tertiary or climax forest species. Bamboo is a unique forest/plantation crop which grows very fast. Some species can grow one meter in 24 hours. It increases porosity and helps to create soil for secondary species. Bamboo has versatile uses e.g. for structural, household utensils, fishing and agricultural equipments, and it is a good soil binder checks erosion and acts as windbreaks. No tillage crop should be planted on the hills and hillocks located in high rainfall zone (above 20 mm in 24 hours).
  2. Encouraging Jute crop: To mitigate global warming and to fix atmospheric CO2 jute can contribute more than that of any other forest crops. The photosynthetic area is much more than tree crops (LAI of jute is more than 15; LAI is directly proportional to biomass production). A jute plant grow 4 to 5 meter within a period of three months and dry biomass production is more than 10 tons/hectare in 5 months period. No irrigation is required. Jute fiber is biodegradable and ecofriendly which can easily replace the synthetic fiber. Moreover, leaf litter is decomposed within a very short period (less than 21 days). The jute sticks are used as a good bio-fuel and also used for paper pulp and particle boards. The water used for rottening jute fiber is very rich with plant nutrients and microbes. The green and dry leaves are edible and have medicinal value. Since, the present sale price is less than production cost, its cultivation is discouraged. People grow less than one-tenth quantity that was grown thirty years back. However, considering its great beneficial properties we must think about jute for carbon sequestering to mitigate global warming. Use of jute fiber based materials can help preventing pollution especially waste disposal, blockage of drainage systems that causes by synthetic fiber and polythene based ones.
  3. Crop rotation: Crop rotation with legumes, porosity plants, biomass crops, low water demanding crops, short and long cycle crops depending on the habitat and season, availability of optimum growing conditions with nutrients, water, light and temperature etc.
  4. Monitoring the activities of Funding and Fund Disbursing agencies: Many funding agencies are giving aids to overcome the food crisis by shortcut methods like HYVs, Hybrids, GMOs, fertilizers and chemical and irrigation dependent crops but these are indirectly destroying the natural habitats and germplasm. Dependency on high inputs and hybrid seeds really creating detrimental effect on the sustainable development. It is only for the benefits of the middlemen not for the real growers/farmers. Funding through micro-credit can hardly do any positive help in sustainable agriculture for rural poor farmers/stake holders. Usually credit is given with an interest 12.5%; the banks calculate the money with interest and ask to pay the money back in 45 installments. Is it not a funny thing, that how can a poor farmer will pay back the money weekly along with the interest of the whole year without getting a crop? A landless man may be benefited by micro-credit but not a poor farmer. If a farmer cannot pay the installment in time he will be defaulter. Moreover, a 12.5% interest will become more than 15% if it is calculated accurately. Will it not create inflation? We should think about the farmers/stakeholders who are the base of rural infrastructure. Moreover, most of the funding agencies and donors are disbursing money on the basis of project write up which ends with report writing, paper works, consultancy, traveling, seminar and symposium etc. hence the directly involved agents are benefited more but not the mass poor population.
  5. Target oriented activities: This year Bangladesh observed “indigenous fish farming week” but practically most of the NGOs’ are funding for high productive hybrid fish species. Is it not the deviation from the targeted ideology?
  6. Market Protection: Most of the field agricultural crops are seasonal. Although most of the cereals can be preserved for long time after harvesting but it is difficult to preserve most of the vegetables and fruit crops. For example, this year tomatoes were sold at BDT. 4.00 – 5.00 a kilo during the harvesting time and the farmers did not get back their invested money. But after a month from the peak harvesting the price of tomato is BDT 50.00 to 70.00 per kilo and it is fetched by the middlemen. No measures have been taken for price protection of many homegrown summer fruit crops like Jackfruits, Pine apple, Litchis, lemons, melons, guava, banana and black berries etc., but imported fruits like grapes, apples, dates, pears and oranges etc. from India, Pakistan, and Bhutan were abundant in the market in the summer fruit harvesting season, although most of the imported items are treated with health hazardous chemicals. There must be definite import policy for such commodities to protect the market price to facilitate the growers. Necessary measures should be taken for storage and transportation. Use of hazardous chemicals for food preservation and ripening should be banned.
  7. Research for Appropriate Technology: Appropriate research for multiple cropping culture, Landscape management, short cycle recycling of biomass, choosing the right crop in right habitat, indigenous knowledge/practices etc. can help Sustainable Agricultural Development and to alleviate poverty. No prescription should be imposed without considering long run effects.

Education for Sustainable Development

Dr. Mohammed Ataur Rahman

August 7, 2008, Dhaka, Bangladesh

Introduction

Nothing in this universe is static but everything is in motion and change is universal. After the creation of the earth, changing is going on from the igneous mass to this present condition having a suitable place for life. In course of evolution human being was developed on earth about ten thousands years ago. From the nomadic life to a civilized present word many changes occurred and men took the key role in these changes. However, adaptation is also in progress with the changes of earth’s environment and hundreds of cycles are running. These cycles are between living and nonliving, organic and inorganic and among solid, liquid and gaseous etc. Some examples are water, oxygen, nitrogen, carbon dioxide, sulfur and phosphorus cycles etc., biological food cycles e.g. host and pathogen, pest and predators etc.

The changes of the nature are influenced by many factors viz. solar radiation, heat and temperature, volcanic eruption, earthquake, wind, ocean current, glaciers, abrasion, wear and tear, action of living bodies including human being. Changes may be very slow which can not be understood by normal feelings but some sudden changes e.g. earthquake, volcanic eruption, cyclones and storms, nuclear and chemical wars etc. are so devastating that millions of lives get destroyed within a short span of time.

However, manmade changes used to influence the nature and its environment. With the advancement of civilization human being superceded all the creations and practiced to explore and exploit the natural resources of the earth. As a most biased species, man protects, cultures and propagates/expands his desired ones and neglects and vanish the undesired things knowing or unknowingly. As exploration, conquering and exploitation are the human behavior, the appetite for advancement and to prove his existence in the world man contributed many significant contributions in communications, medicine, food production, safe and strong structural homes, and recreation and amusement facilities etc.

With the advancement of civilization, rapid urbanization and industrial development has changed the global environment significantly. Science, technology and medicine have reduced the death percentages and the world population has also increased beyond the natural balance of other lives and resources. Competitions for food and survival among the people forced towards quick development without considering long term effect to natural balances those achieved through long run adaptation.

Some of the quick changes are:

1. Loss of huge forests due to extensive logging for structural materials and wood fuels, extension of agricultural land, urbanization and development of industrial parks etc.

2. Loss of Biodiversity due to over exploitation, biased cultural practices and destroying the natural habitat, unkind behavior to the wild animals, misunderstanding the presence and role of diversified flora and fauna.

3. Effect on diversified cropping culture: reduction of inter- and intra-species crop diversity

4. Break of natural cycles and food chains due to industrial development and extra inputs dependent cultural practices and production and use of chemicals etc.

5. Change of Landscape due to siltation from upstream, filling of catchments, dams, obstruction of water flow by unplanned roads, highways, bridges and culverts, cutting of hills etc.

6. Pollution of water, air and sound

7. Subsoil water table

8. Global warming and Climate Change

9. Increased frequency of cyclones and storms and floods

10. Drought

11. Erosion and land sliding

12. Changes of season, wind flow and temperature

13. Changes of behavior of human being

14. Frequent famines, political crisis and unrest

15. Difference between the rich and poor

16. Power and fuel crisis

17. Waste disposal and biomass recycling

18. Unplanned plantation and structures

19. Mechanization and breaking of short cycle recycling

20. Reduced humus status and microbial activity of the soil

21. Increased population of certain pests and predators

22. Increased incidences of certain diseases and epidemics

The major issues/topics are needed to be attended for immediate awareness and to mitigate the problems through education are:

1. Water Crisis

2. Power and Energy Crisis

3. Recycling Wastes and Pollution Control

4. Climate Change and Global Warming

5. Disaster Management

6. Landscape Management

Target People:

1. Academic Staffs

2. Students and youths

3. Scouts, Red Cross Youth Volunteers, Leos

4. Support Staffs

5. Intellectuals, Consultants, cheap Acomplia International Organizations, NGOs, Voluntary Organizations like Rotarians, Lions

6. Peoples Representatives, Administrative Bodies, Officials, Educational and Training Institutes

7. Influential Women Representatives, House holds

Methodology:

1. Workshops and Field days

2. Training

3. Seminars

4. Advertisement/Media/Cinema/Publications

5. Research Feedback

Timeframe:

Phase 1:

· Preparation of Work Schedule

· Organogram and Recruitment of Office and Field workers

· Office equipments and materials and

· Communication system

Phase 2:

Workshop/Field day for

· Academic Staffs

· Support Staffs

· Influential Local Bodies

· Households

Phase 3:

1-Week Training Course for

· Field staffs

· Students

· Youth organizations

· Instructors/School and College Teachers/Educational and Vocational Training Institute

· Industrial Technical Personnels

Phase 4:

Seminars

· Regional and International bodies, Scientific Organizations, Researchers and Environmentalists

Phase 5:

Publicity

· Cinema, Tele films and CCTV

· Magazines, Journal, Brochure and Banners

· Media: Television, Radio, Daily News

Phase 6:

International Sustainable Development Day

· Stand up/Sign up program

· Badge

· Discussion Meeting

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Director, CGEC International University of Business Agriculture and Technology Bangladesh

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