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"Barishal Model" will be declared as a global standard for regenerative agriculture practices for countries enduring climate shocks.

An agricultural revolution for sequestering CO2 and restoring mineral-rich soil for a healthy and nourishing food system.

Photo of Asaduzzaman Polash
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Lead Applicant Organization Name

mPower Social Enterprises Limited

Lead Applicant Organization Type

  • Large company (over 50 employees)

Website of Legally Registered Entity

www.mpower-social.com

How long have you / your team been working on this Vision?

  • 3-10 years

Lead Applicant: In what city or town are you located?

Dhaka

Lead Applicant: In what country are you located?

Bangladesh

Your Selected Place: what’s the name of the Place you’re developing a Vision for?

Barishal division that covers an approximate total area of 13,120 km^2 and consists of six coastal districts of Bangladesh.

What country is your selected Place located in?

Bangladesh

Describe your relationship to the place you’ve selected.

Farmers in Barishal Division of Bangladesh are the most marginalized and vulnerable communities in the country since they are very exposed to natural disasters like tropical cyclones, river bank erosion, excessive and erratic rain-fall, storm-surge etc. Since the alleviation of the land areas in this region is just around 1 meter above the sea level, saline water intrusion is frequently disrupting the food-systems of the entire location. Also, there is a possibility of going the entire area under sea water in the near future that requires urgent measures to develop the adaptive capacity of the inhabitants.

However, in response to the climatic hazards damaging the food systems and changing the livelihood patterns of smallholder farmers of this area, adaptation of climate resilient and regenerative agriculture practices and technologies is relatively slow. Moreover, the people of this area are far behind the optimum use of the resources e.g. land, water-bodies and manpower etc. that they have for agricultural production. As a result, in one hand, smallholder farmers have been in the vicious cycle of poverty for generations, on the other hand, inhabitants of this location, especially the females and children are becoming more prone to various chronic diseases resulting from malnutrition.

mPower has been engaged in the development of agriculture sector in Barishal divisions through a number of interventions with the government and other local and international NGOs and donor agencies for years. Out agricultural extension services include innovative agricultural production systems, socio-economic integration of extreme poor marginalized groups, forming numerous and diverse types of farmer groups and entrepreneurs, mutually beneficial trade and service linkage between market actors by harnessing ICT reaching millions of farmers give mPower a strong field presence and prior working relationship with all the stakeholders of the agricultural sector in this region.

Describe the People and Place: Provide information that would be helpful for an outsider who has never been there and may have no context about this Place to better understand the area.

“Rice, rivers and canals built Barishal” is a popular phrase in Bangladesh for describing Barishal Division. The region is traversed by numerous tidal rivers and canals covering almost 3,400Km^2 (26% of the total area of the region) through approximately 8,300Km^2 croplands (63% of the total area), 900Km^2 rural settlement (7% of total area) and only 20Km^2 urban settlement on marshlands formed by the merging of islands brought into existence and built up by alluvial soils washed down the great channels of the combined Brahmaputra, Ganges, Meghna river systems. Almost all the rural households have pond(s) covering around 300Km^2 area (2% of total area) and betelnut trees around their residents. A small area of mangrove forests also covers approximately 200Km^2 along the coastline.

The population is mainly composed of Muslims (88.06%), followed by Hindus (11.7%) and the remaining are from other religious beliefs. Just as the other regions in Bangladesh, people live on rice. Vegetables and pulse are popular throughout. Although beef, mutton and chicken are also popular, fish is the dominant meat of choice. Preparing various rice-made cookies during the harvesting season is a common scenario. However, due to low purchasing power apart from low awareness level, agricultural labourers, smallholder farmers, and fisherfolk who make about 70% of the households are not having a balanced and healthy diet regularly.

A large portion of the population of this area residing in close proximity to the Meghna Estuary and the Bay of Bengal are fishermen. But the lion portion of the population are smallholder farmers, who mainly grow rice due to the abundance of irrigation water and lack of suitable crop-lands for producing other crops following traditional farming methods. On top of that, unlike other areas in Bangladesh, most of the crop-lands are used as single cropped and remain as fallow land in the remaining period of the year. The situation is further deteriorated by the intrusion of saline water and increasing salinity in the croplands. The entire region is very exposed to various natural disasters like tropical cyclones, storm surge, river erosion etc. which devastate a huge amount of crops as well as crop-lands every year. Therefore, traditionally referred to as the “Granary of Bengal” for producing rice, Barishal is currently lagging behind other areas of Bangladesh in terms of agricultural production.

Consequently, the poverty rate in Barishal division is higher in comparison to the other parts of the country. Most of the farmers are sharecroppers while other work as agricultural laborers. Similarly, fishermen lack necessary capital and share their income with the lenders. So, a significant portion of the population of Barishal, especially the farmers, fishermen and day-laborers do not have adequate purchasing power to ensure sufficient food to meet the dietary needs for a healthy and productive lives of their families.

What is the approximate size of your Place, in square kilometers? (New question, not required)

13120

What is the estimated population (current 2020) in your Place?

12000000

Challenges: Describe the current (2020) and the future (2050) challenges that your food system faces.

Environment: Barishal is frequently exposed to tropical storms, flooding, river erosion and other natural disasters. Climate change is accelerating the old forces of destruction further. Sea-level rise is pushing saltwater into coastal areas and acres of farmable lands have already been rendered useless. It is promising further to permanently submerge the entire region in the near future. Farmers themselves are also depleting the organic matters in soil by many ways e.g. monoculture and imbalanced fertilization. These have profound negative influence on agriculture, which is worsening day by day.

Diet: Excessive use of inorganic inputs are producing contaminated food. In addition to contaminated food, domination of carbohydrates in food intake over other nutrients is also contributing to serious malnutrition as a risk factor in chronic diseases. Approximately 22% of children in this region are born with low birth weight, 41% are suffering from stunting and 16% from wasting. Half of the women are deficient in zinc and iodine. 

Economics: Average ownership of land per farming household in Barishal division is only 0.29 Hectares. More than 65% of them are landless and work as agricultural labourers. They have limited access to credit facilities and often forced to sell their products at low prices to intermediaries. Agri-input based industry and service sector is also not expanding for inefficient market infrastructure. As such, the scope of earning a sustainable livelihood from agriculture is rapidly shrinking. So the concentration of extreme poverty is highest (26.7%) in this region of Bangladesh.

Culture: Conventional perception of occupational dignity makes the youth group more interested to low-paid urban jobs than a sustainable career in agriculture. Although, women are playing a vital role in household agricultural productivity, food and nutrition security, social-taboos and cultural constraints are limiting their direct inclusion in agriculture till date.

Technology: Many rural farmers are not willing to adopt new technologies e.g. regenerative agriculture, localized weather forecast and customized agro-advisory services etc. for the old behavior of cultivation practices embedded in them for generations. Despite the benefits of pooling resources, lowering production cost and getting greater access to market, cooperative farming is also very negligible. Although the mobile technologies has been extended throughout the country, rural farmers are yet to harness its full potential in agriculture.

Policy: Issues like coordinated efforts for promoting regenerative agriculture, competitiveness of local farmers in changing national and global trade scenario, incentives to rural farmers in adopting regenerative agriculture, loose treatment of diversification, contract farming and supply chain development for high value agricultural products, and lack of linking farm and non-farm activities are inadequately treated at the policy.

Address the Challenges: Describe how your Vision will address the challenges described in the previous question.

Environment: Our vision for carbon negative agriculture through regenerative practices such as agroforestry, cover crops, residue mulching, composting, crop rotation, conservation tillage, integrating livestock etc. will prevent farmers from the use of synthetic pesticides and fossil-fuel dependent nitrogen fertilizer to rehabilitate and enhance the entire ecosystem. By placing a heavy emphasis on soil health, our vision will help smallholder farmers better withstand climate change impacts such as floods, land erosion and salinity. Our vision will also enhance better water management, fertilizer and pesticides use and more. Thus, our vision will ensure the best use of resources available, rather than depleting them.

Diet: Our vision will build a community of safe, healthy and nourished eaters. By decreasing excessive use of inorganic fertilizers and pesticides, our vision will replace contaminated foods with safe foods for the communities. Besides healthy soil microbiome full of necessary bacteria, fungi, and nematodes will produce more nutrient-dense foods. In addition, by improving the agricultural productivity and profitability, our vision will also increase the purchasing power of the farmer communities affording a balanced and healthy diet.

Economics: Our vision will transform and protect local food systems and long term well-being of farmers. Healthier soils will bring up healthier crops. Plants having the nutrients and root systems they need to thrive build compounds to protect insects and disease leading to better yield. It will also reduce farmers’ costs by eliminating external inputs and using in-situ resources. Having safe and nutrient dietary practices will also decrease the cost of medical treatment for their families. Thus, our vision will increase income, sustainable livelihood and the purchasing power of the smallholder farmers.

Culture: Our vision will address the untapped potential of the sizable growing demographics of youth and women by rebranding the agriculture as a lucrative choice of profession. In that vein, our vision will provide them access to knowledge, information, education, financial services and market linkage for promoting regenerative entrepreneurial agriculture ventures.

Technology: Our vision by engaging the young and women in agriculture will remove the reluctance of adopting new technologies to increase agricultural productivity since this cohorts are more likely to use new technologies. Our vision will also harness the rapid expansion of ICT through mobile technologies till the last mile of the country.

Policy: Once our vision will bring the regenerative agriculture as the mainstream agriculture practices among the rural farmers, especially among the youth group, the positive vibe will facilitate policy makers to fine-tune to existing policies as per the demand to advance the transition to regenerative food, farming and land management.

High Level Vision: With these challenges addressed, now provide a high level description of how the Place and the lives of its People will be different than they are now.

If Barishal model is successful, we will see practices include multi-species cover crops, reduced tillage, regular crop rotation, compost fertilization and no more use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides. The holistic farming and adaptive multi-paddock grazing techniques will rebuild the soil organic matter in the region. With little or no antibiotic use in livestock farming and use of ecosystem (microbes and animals) to control pest and disease will transform the region into the world's foremost source of premium quality foodstuffs. In fact, Barishal region will export a significant portion of it’s production world wide after sufficing the domestic demand.

The widespread adoption of stress tolerant varieties that can cope with stress like salinity and heat without decreasing yield and use of various ICT based innovative solution will allow the farmers to practice resilient farming. Hence, even if few farmlands are submerged under water, Barishal region will grow more nutritious food in less amount of land. To help stabilize the land from further erosion and encroachment to the sea, a large mangrove forest will be created, which will not only add new ecosystem that sequester additional carbon but also safeguard the flora and fauna of the estuary from any imminent threat of natural disasters. This will mitigate the shock of climate change.

The use of ICT, machine learning by young farmers will transform the market system into an efficient food system with zero food waste and facilitate a relative win-win situation for the entire value chain. The year round availability of healthy and nutritious food at an affordable cost will improve nutrition and will significantly decrease malnutrition and other chronic diseases among children and women. The improved nutrition and WASH practices will also lead to decreased communicable and non-communicable diseases in the community, which consequently will facilitate a substantial low medical cost.

Full Vision: How do you describe your Vision for a regenerative and nourishing food future for your Place and People for 2050?

Looking forward to 2050, Bangladesh's population is predicted to grow to 230-250 million and Gross domestic product (GDP) at purchasing power parity (PPP) terms is expected to grow to USD 3,064 billion. There are roughly 8.7 million hectares of cultivable land available in Bangladesh and 44.6 MT of rice will be required. Smart technology such as location specific variety, profitable cropping sequences, innovative cultural management, and mechanization coupled with smart dissemination using multiple means will ease the production barriers. While the regenerative farms use stress tolerant varieties which can produce optimum yields with organic fertilizer, their overall profits are 78% higher than the conventional farmers. Partly, this is because the regenerative farmers' need no cash outlays for purchasing costly insecticides and GMO seeds. They also will have two or more sources of income on the same acre — they graze their cattle on rise residue after harvest and get a premium price for pastured beef.

Barishal will pioneer a polyculture food system where vegetables and fruits will be cultivated in zones that benefit from passive irrigation, and natural fertilizer will be provided by on-farm animals, composted manure, and biomass residues. The relationship between the cattle and chickens is dynamic, cattle graze cells intensively for 1–5 days, and chickens then graze that area, feeding off insect larvae around cattle manure. This will provide a protein-rich diet for egg production while also fertilizing the pasture with chicken manure. The beneficial effect of irrigating pasture covered by chicken manure during night will be rapid regrowth of pasture due to soluble nitrogen being fertigated into the grass pasture, providing soluble nitrogen to the grass ecosystem of root microbiome. Rapid uptake of nitrogen by the diverse pasture not only will provide rapid regrowth of grass, it will also reduce the amount of nitrogen gas released into the atmosphere from chicken manure. The practice will make the pasture suitable for grazing again in a far shorter time and results in a higher rate of cattle production. In addition, there is no chance of water pollution. The holistic management and planned grazing by collective farming across the region will produce healthier livestock and birds, which in turn will result in better-quality meat, eggs and less disease by eliminating such factors as ticks and fleas.

Regenerative agriculture will offer a rich and rewarding avenue for family farms and community cooperative farms to transition to a more sustainable future underwritten by the community. Barishal will develop a pro-farmer market system that ensures no middle man can gain huge financial returns which will result in farmers receiving almost all of the profit from value chain. This direct sales to local consumers will make farming attractive to the younger generation because of increased profit. These young farmers will proactively use social media platforms to target a large segment of customers and consumers will be able to pay the commodity price directly to the farmers using digital financial services. Regenerative agriculture will offer a rich and rewarding avenue for family farms and community cooperative farms to transition to a more sustainable future underwritten by the community. Bangladesh will invest a large amount in post-harvest value chains which will offer tremendous opportunities to cut the losses, making more food available to the consumers.

Producing enough food to meet demand at reasonable prices is necessary but not sufficient to achieve improved nutrition. So, Barishal will address the non-food factors that are important for nutrition such as clean water, improved sanitation and hygiene. Understanding the need for diet diversity for meeting nutrient needs, Barisal region will aggressively push for homestead horticulture. The increase in purchasing power will result from affordable and available fruits and vegetables will result in a more diversified diet and increased intake of micronutrients. Improved gender equity will play a pivotal role in ensuring women, including female farmers and farm workers to have access to check-ups during pregnancy and post-pregnancy phase and knowledge about safe food preparation. Furthermore, ICT based capacity building for ensuring sufficient intake of food to meet energy and nutrient needs during pregnancy and lactation will reduce child stunting significantly. The effect of this nutrition improvement will create a positive effect throughout the life cycle for every member of the society due to sufficient micronutrient ingestion and lowering the risk of obesity.

How did you hear about the Food System Vision Prize?

  • Website

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Photo of Trupti Jain
Team

hi Polash sir : Good afternoon from India. Nice submission. will love to learn if your farmers are facing water shortage in summer and winter? Are they having their rainy period crops disturbed due to water logging or flood in monsoon period? If yes then we will love to help you. For last 30 years we are working in this subject. we are helping our smallholders with our World Bank, UNFCCC, Securing Water for Food (USAID) and Millennium Alliance (DFID) awarded innovation BHUNGROO which saves farmers from drought and flood, doubles farmers income and improves soil fertility. We are currently helping more than 100000 farming families across India, SEAsia, EAsia & Africa. We have also designed Youth Climate Leaders and Women Climate Leaders and winner of UN's Gender Just Climate Technology award as well as Green Climate Fund's Gender Champion award. I am sure both Youth Climate Leaders and Women Climate Leaders will add strength to your program.
We also applauded your entry. Will appreciate your feedback on our entry ""Antodaya" through Food".

www.naireetaservices.com , ph: +919825506900, wa: +919825506900, T: @BHUNGROO fb: BHUNGROO , e: biplab@naireetaservices.com

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