Exploring alternative farming practices has preoccupied farmers, agriculture scientists and others related to the field throughout human history. Efforts in this regard has intensified more in modern times as consciousness increased about the quality of food we consume. Concern about the health hazards of harmful fertilizers and pesticides are more pronounced today than ever before. Thus, efforts towards introducing agroecological principles of agriculture farming methods have gained ground. The term agroecology refers to a science that combines natural agricultural practices in relation to the organisms and the social environment and is believed to involve principles and solutions specific to the ecosystem.
To test its hypothesis of implementing agroecology in the context of agricultural practices in Bangladesh, Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB) undertook a project entitled: Exploring Alternative Farming Practices to end Hunger with funding from BMZ and the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung (RLS), a German political foundation with its office in New Delhi. The report under consideration seeks to disseminate the findings of the exercise to the wider public.
More specifically, the objective of the short-term project was to implement agroecological practices as alternatives to chemical modern day farming in 4 villages of 2 Upazilas (Sub-Districts) of Chittagong District. An effort was made to expose farmers into producing indigenous and modern varieties of crops with nontoxic ingredients available and managed by farmers themselves.
A cursory reading of the report shows the following:
- Awareness was created about the toxic effect of indiscriminate use of fertilizer, pesticide and hormones among not only the direct beneficiaries, i. e. small and marginal farmers but also in the community, local leaders and political actors.
- Training, advocacy and dissemination of agroecological principles applied through the Participatory Research (PAR) approach had a positive influence on shifting to alternative and organic farming practices in the 17-month project period. It highlighted the need to reach out to farmers who lack knowledge or are under the intensive guidance of corporate markets.
- The project helped to build consciousness of farmers that food production also meant nutritional and health security of the family and enrichment of the environment.
- However, it was evident that the short time-frame of the project was not conducive to creating sustenance of the lessons learnt. There is a need to repeat and expand the exercise to larger areas for the establishment of a natural ecosystem countrywide.
It is hoped that the footprints left by the project would lead to further follow-up and nurturing by GO and NGO programmes and policies throughout the country.
I would like to congratulate all those involved in the project and thank the Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung most sincerely for their support to our efforts.
Dr. Shamsul Bari, Chairman, RIB
More information on the Website of Rosa-Luxemburg-Stiftung South Asia in New Delhi.