Bangladesh food

Addressing food security and climate change through regenerative agriculture

Bangladesh must gradually shift to regenerative agriculture to limit the impacts of environmental and climate vulnerabilities to ensure food security for a growing population

April 24, 2022, 10:45 a.m.

Last modification: April 24, 2022, 10:47 a.m.

Bangladesh’s growing population and shrinking available arable land will increasingly threaten food security.

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Bangladesh‘s growing population and shrinking available arable land will increasingly threaten food security.

One of the significant challenges facing Bangladesh is ensuring food security for a growing population. The most viable and holistic solution to this problem is regenerative agriculture. Although the term may not sound familiar to many, it has become a groundbreaking initiative to support agriculture around the world.

Regenerative agriculture is an agricultural system that attempts to conserve soil and contribute to multiple ecosystem provisioning, regulating and supporting services. And it aims to improve the environmental, social and economic sustainability of food production. Some practices included in regenerative agriculture are diversified crop rotation, no-till/no-till, cover cropping, compost/manure application, livestock integration, and agroforestry.

Regenerative agriculture can also be considered as a nature-based solution (NbS). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines NBS as “actions aimed at protecting, sustainably managing and restoring natural or modified ecosystems that respond to societal challenges in an effective and adaptive manner, while simultaneously providing benefits for human well-being and biodiversity”.

Ecosystem approaches such as agroecology, silvograzing, agroforestry, aquaculture, pasture cultivation, biochar, and holistic planned grazing are all regenerative agricultures that fall under NbS. These practices contribute to ecosystem restoration, ecosystem-based adaptation, mitigation, disaster risk reduction, integrated water resources management and area-based conservation.

Despite being a densely populated and climate-vulnerable nation, Bangladesh has made various efforts to try to be prosperous, sustainable and more resilient to climate change. The country has already taken the necessary measures to ensure food security.

People have been practicing NbS in Bangladesh for many decades. A rich body of knowledge exists in Bangladesh on how to implement NbS to adapt to climate impacts. To maximize the positive effects of NbS, the country has implemented a number of projects related to swamp forest restoration, coastal reforestation, floating agriculture, slope vegetation, and many others.

Photo: Saikat Bhadra

Photo: Saikat Bhadra

Photo: Saikat Bhadra

However, if the country practices NbS, why pay special attention to regenerative agriculture? The answer is to ensure the sustainability of agriculture in the long term. This can only be ensured when soil health is improved and prioritized while helping to improve water and air quality, storing carbon to help mitigate the effects of climate change, and enhancing biodiversity. ecosystems.

Regenerative farming methods increase the amount of arable topsoil. It improves the physical properties of the soil by decreasing soil compaction, improving the stability of aggregates and improving the chemical quality of the soil by increasing their nitrogen and phosphorus content and increasing exchangeable potassium, sodium and magnesium.

This form of agriculture also increases the biological quality of soils by significantly increasing the content of soil organic carbon, particulate organic carbon and particulate organic nitrogen, and positively affects soil microbial respiration as an indicator of soil activity. soil biology. Causing a positive impact on the environment without compromising the nutritional status of crops, regenerative agriculture is a preeminent option for ensuring food security in Bangladesh.

Practices integrated with regenerative agriculture can help Bangladesh cope with vulnerability to climate change and high demand for food from the population in the future. For example, diversified crop rotation and livestock integration will continue to produce food all year round.

Diversification helps improve the regulation and support of ecosystem services such as soil fertility and health, pest control, pollination, nutrient cycling, water regulation, and protection from extreme temperatures. An example of diversification is the diversification of legumes which can be effective for both mitigation and adaptation. Legume diversification achieves this by reducing the use of fossil fuel-derived nitrogen and providing ecosystem services through nutrient cycling, increasing soil biological activity and controlling erosion.

As a result, the timing of the adoption of crop diversification can promote yield stability and reduce the risk of crop loss. Agroforestry practices such as legumes that improve soil fertility and microclimate, low or no tillage or retention of crop residues and organic amendments – in addition to traditional and locally adapted mixed crops, can increase diversity biological soil organisms, which can help build resilience to multiple stresses such as pest control and drought.

Agriculture has always played an important role in Bangladesh in terms of GDP. Bangladesh’s growing population and shrinking available arable land will increasingly threaten food security. At a time when we need to be more climate resilient and have sustainable development, valuing soil health is crucial.

Soil plays a key role in absorbing carbon and filtering water. Causes of soil destruction include deforestation which increases erosion, chemical-intensive farming techniques and climate change. Despite high yielding varieties (HRV) of crops, chemical fertilizers and pesticides at subsidized rates, expansion of irrigation facilities, mechanization, the country still faces various challenges in sustainable agricultural development.

Bangladesh has incorporated techniques and tools to maintain soil health, but a more gradual step

must be taken to make it effectively sustainable. Regenerative agriculture combines all the safe practices of previous farming methods and innovative new ones to keep the soil healthy and sustainable for the future. This agricultural method can be designed and decided according to the socio-economic and environmental context.

The established practice of tillage systems, the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, the market design of the current farming system cannot be drastically changed as this will affect production and cause confusion among farmers and parties. concerned stakeholders.

By studying different geographical contexts and current agricultural practices, a slow transition should be planned and executed to mainstream regenerative agriculture through knowledge generation and capacity building of farmers, relevant institutions and stakeholders.

Therefore, a gradual transition with a contextual application of the type of regenerative agriculture that can be used to ensure food security and reduce environmental impacts and vulnerability to climate change must be implemented.

Md. Bodrud-Doza is Director of the International Center for Climate Change and Development (ICCCAD) at the Independent University of Bangladesh (IUB). Email: [email protected]

Suraiah Khan is a Junior Research Fellow at ICCCAD at IUB. Email: [email protected]

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