Bangladesh and IRRI
Bangladesh’s partnership with IRRI goes back more than 55 years. IRRI's first international outreach program was in Bangladesh. In 1965, a set of 303 rice varieties was evaluated at the Savar Farm, a government-run dairy enterprise near Dhaka. Two years later, in 1967, the first widely distributed high-yielding semidwarf rice variety, IR8, was introduced into the country.
In the last five decades or so, great efforts in rice research and farming innovations gave a massive boost to rice productivity. During this time, national paddy production increased a staggering 3.5 times - from 15 million tons in 1971 to 54 million tons in 2019, which is the 4th highest in the world. The spectacular progress was largely a result of improvement in the genetic potential of rice varieties through breeding, availability of climate-smart rice varieties, improved management practices and facilities, and enabling policies that increased access to inputs.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Bangladesh Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA), Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), and many others, together with the IRRI-Bangladesh Office, supported the development and diffusion of these technologies.
IRRI’s research for development activities in Bangladesh have focused on improved and healthier rice varieties, biotic and abiotic stress tolerant rice varieties, climate change adaptation and mitigation, rice-based cropping systems, resource-use efficiency, farm mechanization, improving rice seed systems, public-private partnership in rice breeding, socioeconomic analysis, and capacity building in rice science.
IRRI’s work in Bangladesh is currently supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), USAID, DFID, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Asian Development Bank.
Despite the success, many daunting challenges still exist. Bangladesh’s rice sector is highly susceptible to natural disasters such as flood, drought, salinity, and cyclone. In 2017, severe floods damaged about 10% of the rice production and increased price by 25%. In addition, the population is projected to increase by 15% by the year 2030. Feeding this massive population will be a major challenge for the future given the fact that agriculture is losing land to industrialisation and urbanisation at a faster pace than ever before. This is compounded by the fallouts of climate change and perpetual shortages of water and labour.
To address the future challenges and sustainably increase rice production, IRRI and the Government of Bangladesh have co-developed the 5-year Work Plan in 2018. The priorities identified in the Work Plan are:
- High yielding, shorter duration and desired grain quality rice varieties
- Biotic and abiotic stresses tolerant rice varieties
- Hybrid rice varieties
- Healthier rice varieties
- Improving productivity and resilience of coastal agriculture
- Intensification and diversification of the rice-based production system
- Mechanization and post-harvest technologies
- ICT in agriculture
- Rice value chain and policies
- Capacity development
The government’s principal policy outlook is to maintain the self-sufficiency in rice which was first achieved in 2008, with a special focus on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) 1 and 2.