01 January, 2015
Syful Islam (RTNN): With water level continuously going down many farmers in country’s north-eastern districts nowadays prefer growing mango to paddy, posing a threat to food security.
The impacts of climate change are causing droughts in several north-eastern districts leading to a significant fall of water level. At the same time, the average rainfall in those districts nowadays has also reduced significantly creating water shortage which hampers rice cultivation.
Statistics collected from Hardinge Bridge area shows that during the last twenty years water levels at the river during rainy season were between 17 and 20 metres and in summer between 7 and 10 metres. The low water flow from upstream has caused riverbeds to be filled up with excessive sediments creating massive water crisis during rainy season.
Farmers of these drought-prone districts say they need to depend on irrigation to grow rice which becomes much costlier and minimises return. As a result farmers of a large area of the district are now growing mango in paddy fields finding it more profitable than rice cultivation.
Officials at department of agriculture said the volume of arable lands in Rajshahi district has come down to 185,666 hectares in 2013 from 202,803 hectares in 2010. The rest 14,000 hectares of land is now being used in mango farming.
They also said the diversion of farmers to mango farming from rice or wheat cultivation is posing threat to food security of the area. Farmers of the area had produced 672,337 tonnes of rice in 2010 which in 2013 came down to 598,435 tonnes.
In Bholahat union under Chapainawabaganj district some 30 to 35 per cent lands have now come under mango farming instead of paddy or wheat. A number of researchers of Rajshahi University found that during the drought season farmers need to depend on irrigation to produce rice. As a result the cost of rice production goes significantly up which led their diversion to mango from rice production.
Akbar Mia, a mango farmer in Bholahat union, said water scarcity has pushed them towards mango farming.
“We sometimes see that rice and other crops wither before maturity due to water shortage. So, we switched to mango production from paddy getting no other options,” he said.
At the same time mango farming is also increasing in Charghat and Godagari upzilas under Rajshahi district. As a result livelihood of several thousands of day-labourers in those areas is under threat as mango farming needs less manpower.
The area is under Barind Tract which is the largest Pleistocene era physiographic unit in Bangladesh and the Bengal Basin. Officials said water level in the Barind Tract has gone down by 15 feet in last ten years.
In Bangladesh farming with deep tube well water had started in 1960s which in Barind Tract began in 2012. According to a report of Barind Multipurpose Development Authority some 14,620 deep tube wells were installed in the area. The excessive water extraction through these tube wells has caused fall in water level.
Senior Scientific Officer of Mango Research Centre, Rajshahi Alim Uddin acknowledged rise of mango farming each year as it costs lower than cultivating other crops there.
He said mango is a very important agricultural item in this region. “Farmers find mango cultivation more profitable than other crops since mango farming needs less volume of water, pesticides, and nurturing.”
Chief Scientific Officer of Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI) Shajahan Kabir said mango farming is rising in high drought-prone areas since cultivation of rice and other crops is not suitable there.
He said BRRI has recently introduced three drought-tolerant rice varieties to encourage farmers in drought-prone districts in rice production to keep food basket intact.
“We requested farmers to cultivate Aus varieties which need less irrigation than Boro rice,” he added.