Bangladesh and IRRI
The partnership between Bangladesh and IRRI goes back more than five decades. 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 3.6 times -- from 15 million tons in 1971 to 54 million tons in 2019 -- the fourth 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, rice seed systems, public-private partnership in rice breeding, food value chain analysis, socioeconomic analysis, gender and the youth, and capacity building in rice science.
IRRI’s work in Bangladesh is currently supported by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Krishi Gobeshona Foundation (KGF) Bangladesh, and the CGIAR funds.
Despite the success, many daunting challenges still exist. Bangladesh’s rice sector is highly susceptible to natural disasters such as flood, drought, salinity, and cyclones. In 2017, severe floods damaged about 10% of the rice production and increased rice 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:
- Improved rice varieties
- Improved health and nutrition of rice producers and consumers
- Building the climate change resilience of agriculture
- Improving agricultural productivity of unfavorable environments (coastal, haor, barind, and hill track)
- Sustainable intensification and diversification of the rice-based production system
- Mechanization and post-harvest technologies
- ICT in agriculture
- Improved rice seed systems
- Inclusive and sustainable rice value chains
- Socioeconomic and policy research including gender and youth
- 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.
Ongoing projects in Bangladesh
Location: Habiganj, Sunamganj, and Kishoreganj Districts in northeast Bangladesh
Duration: 2020 - 2025
In the Haor areas (low-lying marshlands) of Bangladesh, boro has been the most important crop, with BRRI dhan-28 and BRRI dhan-29 being the most grown varieties accounting for over 90% of the cultivation in this region. The average growth durations of BRRI dhan-28 and BRRI dhan-29 are 140 and 160 days, respectively, and these are usually harvested between mid-April and mid-May. However, recently, the Haor areas have been experiencing early-season flash floods almost every year, usually in the first week of April. These completely inundate mature rice right before harvest, causing massive losses for farmers and posing threats on the food security and livelihood of the people. In order to escape from early-season flash foods, crops need to be planted early and harvested by the end of March which requires cold tolerance in the crop at the reproductive stage. However, currently there are no rice varieties with cold tolerance at the reproductive stage. The development and promotion of improved rice varieties with shorter growth duration (120-140 days),higher yield (6-7 t/ha ) and cold tolerance at the seedling and reproductive stages can overcome the early-season flash flood problems in rice farming in the Haor areas . Therefore, the overarching objectives of this project is to improve the livelihoods of the farmers of this region by developing and promoting cold-tolerant and high-yielding rice varieties with shorter growth duration in the boro season. The project also examines the livelihoods and market systems in the Haor areas for product targeting. Expected outcomes include at least two promising lines and 30,000 breeding lines, product profiles of rice varieties, data and evidence about livelihoods and market systems in the Haor areas , and generated evidence for rice breeding.