Since 2015, Kansas State University (KSU) and International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), in collaboration with Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab (SIIL) and other national research and development agencies have been working in the coastal zones of Bangladesh.
The Feed the Future (FtF) SIIL is a USAID-funded program that supports research, knowledge sharing, and capacity-building in relation to smallholder farming systems, and increasing ecological intensification for the production of food, fiber, and other products in Asia and Africa.
In phase I (2015-2019), the initiative focused on “Unlocking the production potential of polder communities in coastal Bangladesh through improved resource use efficiency and diversified cropping systems”. Building on this, phase II (2020-2023) is targeting “Pathways of scaling agricultural innovations for sustainable intensification in the polders of coastal Bangladesh” (hereinafter referred to as SIIL-Polder project).
The SIIL-Polder project works closely with the Government of Bangladesh, its national institutes, local universities, and nongovernment organizations. In phase II, main collaborators include the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Institute of Water Modelling (IWM), and Shushilan. The project partnered with BRAC in phase I. The project will also cooperate with the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC), one of the SIIL-supported consortia in the country and Cereal System Initiative in South Asia (CSISA).
The coastal region of Southern Bangladesh is home to some of the world’s poorest, most food insecure, malnourished, and socioeconomically challenged people. Despite significant investments in the region’s development, extremely low farm productivity has been a persistent obstacle for improving the food and nutrition security and livelihoods of about one million farming families living within the “polders.”
A unique ecosystem, polders refer to low-lying lands enclosed by embankments and surrounded by tidal rivers.. While farm productivity and profitability have greatly increased through intensification and diversification of agricultural systems over the past 30 years in the rest of Bangladesh, the polders were left behind with traditional practices. This resulted in chronic food and nutrition insecurity, low farm employment, and extreme instability of household income, trapping polder communities in a vicious cycle of poverty. The most affected are smallholder farmers, landless farm laborers, women, and children.
The SIIL-Polder project aims to improve food security, human nutrition, and livelihoods of the rural polder communities in southern Bangladesh. This will be achieved through the scaling and evaluation of pragmatic and feasible farming approaches for more efficient utilization of available resources to sustainably intensify agricultural productivity in the polders.
The project’s major objectives are:
Adoption of more productive, diverse, resilient, and profitable production system options tailored to different parts of landscape and community preferences;
Agri-entrepreneurship for mechanization established with public-private sector investment to improve productivity and livelihoods in the region; and
Supportive policies established and greater investment put in place on appropriate catchment level crop and water management.