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Surface water shortages force farmers to monocrop

Agricultural water shortages in the north-west region of Bangladesh is causing many farmers to monocrop during the monsoon season, contributing to soil degradation and a vicious cycle that squeezes farmers into poverty and could result in depopulation/migration.

The Strategic Foresight Group writes,

"The surface water resource availability in this region is limited during the summer months, which has further led to soil infertility. Over the years, there has been an unprecedented fall in the water level in the Padma River and other wetlands in the region. As a result, increasing number of small and marginal farmers are forced to engage in monocropping during the monsoon season as boro farming in the dry months is affected by lack of water and electricity for running irrigation pumps. Moreover, surface water is being used for commercial purposes by the landlords depriving small farmers of their rightful access to water."

In addition, overextraction of groundwater over the last 20 years has depleted aquifers and further problematizes future irrigation.

A direct link therefore, can be established between unfavourable agricultural environments and high levels of poverty in the region.

Implications

SFG outlines some important implications of soil degradation:

• An increase in seasonal food crises as a large proportion of the population in the region will depend on the cultivation of just one rice crop per year.
• The livestock maintained by poor farmers as a risk management strategy to cope with drought impact will be affected due to decrease in quantity and quality of feedstuffs.
• Increase in conflict over scarce resources
• Loss of farm income is likely to trigger severe poverty cycles in the future among small and marginal farmers, resulting in migration.

IFTF adds that monocropping could increase the strain on soil, further exacerbating the issues outlined above and making farmers increasingly dependent on monocropping and maximizing rice output in the monsoon season. IFTF also highlights the threat of future depopulation or migration if soils become completely unusable.

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Sources:

The Strategic Foresight Group, July 2010, page 6: http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/SFG_July2010.pdf#page=6

Mazumdar, Shoumitra. ‘Growers in north frustrated over sterile boro crop’. New Age. 03 April
2010. <http://www.newagebd.com/2010/apr/03/front.html#5>

Ali, Anwar. ‘Water table falling by 2ft a year in Barind area’. The Daily Star. 23 March 2009.
<http://www.thedailystar.net/newDesign/news-details.php?nid=80877>

Shariful Islam, Sarker. ‘Barind region facing imminent natural disaster’. New Nation. 21 July
2009. <http://www.ittefaq.com/issues/2009/07/21/news0523.htm>

‘Call to declare Barind tract as most vulnerable area’. The Independent. 20 May 2010.
<http://www.theindependent-bd.com/details.php?nid=174239>

‘Water crisis acute in vast Barind tract’ 23 March 2010.
<http://www.ittefaq.com/issues/2010/03/23/all0137.htm>

Asaduzzaman, M. Ringler, Claudia. Thurlow, J. and Alam, S. ‘Investing in Crop Agriculture in
Bangladesh for Higher Growth and Productivity, and Adaptation to Climate Change’. Bangladesh
Food Security Investment Forum. May 2010.

Naya Diganta. 28 March 2010. <http://www.sonarbangladesh.com/newsdetails.php?ID=3348>
(Bangla).

‘Crops are being destroyed due to Drought’. 13 April 2010.
<http://www.sonarbangladesh.com/newsdetails.php?ID=3798> (Bangla)

Amardesh. 20 March 2010. <http://www.amardeshonline.com/pages/details/2010/03/20/23482>
(Bangla)