A Murdoch University professor is helping introduce more sustainable cropping practices to northwestern Bangladesh.
Professor Richard Bell of Murdoch’s School of Environmental Science has been working as a project leader on an Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) project for the past six years.
Together with international non-profit organisation iDE and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT), he and ACIAR have helped introduce minimum tillage techniques to Bangladeshi farmers, resulting in significantly reduced costs and increased production.
“Bangladesh is home to 150 million people, approximately two-thirds of whom are farmers. North-western Bangladesh is one of the poorest regions in the country. They have regular food shortages, and because of a move to grow more rice and wheat, there has been fewer protein-rich pulses grown,” Professor Bell said.
“The farms are very small, around 0.6 hectares, but they are very productive, regularly growing three crops a year. The farmers carefully manage their scarce resources to feed their families and to make a profit.
“Our project has reached out to many of the poor farmers in the region to see if a range of research outcomes could help, including introducing an additional pulse crop such as chickpea and lentils into their crop rotation and looking at minimum tillage, which is widely used in Australia.”
According to project estimates, minimum tillage farming has succeeded in reducing fuel costs for farmers by 70 per cent and has allowed them to grow crops using 30 per cent less labour.
“Traditional methods in Bangladesh saw land ploughed four to eight times before planting crops like rice, wheat and mung-bean, which was time-consuming, costly and damaging to soil structure,” Professor Bell said.
“At the end of the day, more nutritious food is now being grown and profits are increasing. Also, new business opportunities have come with the changes. Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the outcomes to date.”
To acknowledge the project’s success to date, ACIAR has produced a video to be released for the UN's annual International Anti-Poverty Day on October 17.
It is available here.