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19 January, 2019 00:00 00 AM
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Combatting challenges of cropland loss

One serious question is left unanswered or unaddressed as to how we will feed our ever increasing population with proportionately squeezed productive land volume in the context of the global warming and climate change
Sakib Hasan
Combatting challenges of cropland loss

Disappointingly alarming rate of cropland loss worries each and every conscious Bangladeshi citizen at a frightening pace as far as the question of feeding the teeming millions is concerned. Only during the last two decades, Bangladesh has lost 25% to 30% of her fertile cultivable land because of recklessly fast anthropogenic activities under the label of development. In a country like Bangladesh with naturally possessing infinite farming potentialities and possibilities, this extremely huge farmland loss statistics is simply staggering and even more bewildering given our ever increasing population within a heavily disproportionate space. Farmers being the owners and cultivators of farmlands, their concerns and consensus with regard to cropland use should matter the most. Farmers’ awareness and concerns in saving cropland once finds a quickly spreading responding voice among the whole community, it will be the best possible warranty for food security.

Since the antagonistic effects of global climate changes are visibly taking enormously heavy toll on core areas of life like agriculture and environment, our determination in sustaining cereals production is being challenged beyond our capability. Extremely strange and eccentric operations of seasons are continually spewing their massive venoms on growing crops in one hand and absence of viable defensive mechanism on the other hand drastically reducing our agricultural productivity. In the backdrop of the changing climatic pattern, the whole issue of sustaining agricultural production will have to be addressed involving all stake-holders and beneficiaries. If a country with only 147000 sq.km arable land loses 1% or 72,077 acres of operable fertile agricultural land, hardly anybody can deny the mounting concerns arising out of this losing spree.    

Like all living entities, human beings’ primary priority for survival is food. Drumming up often Bangladesh’s claim of achieving self-sufficiency in rice production, all incumbent governments seem to bank on people’s favor totally disregarding the ground reality of catastrophic process of agricultural land loss being continually occurring before our very eyes.

This flimsy claim of self-sufficiency in food sounds totally hollow when we have to import rice from India, Vietnam, Thailand, etc. almost every year. As a part of bilateral trade, Bangladesh signed a deal of importing 150,000 metric tonne of rice from India at $440 per tonne in the financial year 2017. It is everyone’s simple math that only required volume of fertile farm holdings can assure an increased production figures essential to feed our gargantuan population. Unfortunately, existing arable land volume of Bangladesh falls far below the required mark.   

For combating increasing cropland loss effectively, the primary initiative has to be launched by the 70% people directly involved in agricultural production processes right at the grass root. Unplanned expansion of onrushing urbanization, non-availability of adequate farm workers, abnormal increase in input prices, disappointingly poor market prices of local farm products, non-viable import policy etc. are obviously making aggressive incursions on agriculture-based earning resources of 87% people of Bangladesh. Already proved to be a losing concern, innumerable number of deprived farmers belonging to top, middle and lower order have left their traditional vocations and are now exploring and trying non-agricultural options for the struggle for survival.

When in the name of development and industrialization, fertile arable land is being converted to posh commercial shopping complexes, amusement parks, manufacturing companies and the like, one serious question is left unanswered or unaddressed as to how we will feed our ever increasing population with proportionately squeezed productive land volume in the context of the global warming and climate changes. Once we permanently opt for importing cereals from overseas, it will certainly be a short-sighted vision which will most likely back paddle in the event of drastic crop failure in these countries being affected by outrages of global warming as well as climate changes.

 My clear message must not be misinterpreted in that I am advocating against establishing industrial zones or new economic zones. Rather, I am strongly pleading for setting up these industrial hubs at suitably planned sites away from the fertile farm holdings.

For saving our most valuable asset, our arable land, we have to adopt without sparing a single further day, a strict arable land reservation policy under which strictest terms and conditions have to be imposed on the owners so that they can neither sell nor convert their arable land to non-agricultural uses at their own sweet will. We have to believe the cruelest truth that loss of any further chunk of arable land will surely dent an irreparable loss and reduction to our life supporting reserves beyond any repair.

Government land requisition policy coupled with aggressive purchasing spree of both local and foreign companies and firms have emerged over the years as merciless land grabbing giants who have captured a vast tract of already reduced volume of arable land which is why agricultural productivity has already been threatened gravely.

Land-owning farmers have to be rigidly conscious about the invaluable practical utility of their non-exchangeable real assets and as such have to resist with acetic sternness the dangling offers of the privatization firms and companies. All our sincerest concerns towards our productive fertile lands will eventually go in vain once our supreme planners fail to address our genuine urges for survival.

 

The writer, an Assistant Professor of English at Bogra Cantonment Public School & College, is a contributor to

The Independent. E-mail:shasanbogra1@gmail.com

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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