Bangladesh and IRRI
Bangladesh’s partnership with IRRI goes back more than 48 years. IRRI's first international outreach program was in Bangladesh. In 1965, a set of 303 rice varieties was evaluated at Savar Farm, a government-run dairy enterprise. In 1967, the first widely distributed high-yielding semidwarf rice variety, IR8, was introduced into the country.
In 1970, donors such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada, and the Rockefeller Foundation supported IRRI’s initiatives to help Bangladesh in its efforts to overcome rice insufficiency. These efforts were focused on improving cultivation practices in various cropping patterns; managing water, nutrients, rodents, and insect pests; and farm mechanization, among others.
In the last few decades, great efforts in rice research and farming innovations were made to boost rice productivity in Bangladesh. Rice yield subsequently rose to 4.3 tons per hectare in 2012 from 1.7 tons per hectare in 1970. Higher production also created jobs, particularly in the rural areas. This success is largely a result of genetic improvement in the form of high-yielding, climate change-ready, and short- duration rice varieties. In many cases, short-duration varieties have allowed Bangladeshi farmers to include a third crop such as mustard, maize, or wheat, into their cropping schedule. Irrigation, fertilizer, and mechanization also contributed to the increases. There are currently about 600,000 two-wheel tractors in Bangladesh. The country’s Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), and many others, together with the IRRI-Bangladesh Office, supported the development and diffusion of these technologies.
Despite the success in rice production, the country still faces many challenges in the agricultural sector because of forecast climate change impacts, scarce and degraded natural resources for production, and a continuously growing population. Temperature increase, erratic rainfall, uncertain weather, and extreme climate events such as frequent cyclones, prolonged flooding, and sea-level rise are already felt in Bangladesh.
IRRI’s work in Bangladesh is currently supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), USAID, Australian Aid, the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the European Union.