Farmers are changing profession due to environmental disaster


Coastal upazila of Shyamnagar in the southern district of Satkhira. The farmer Fazle Mia came to the grocery store at his last age. Due to the effects of salinity, his cropland is no longer cultivated. The lands are abandoned. Most of the people of this town near Sundarban are forced to leave agriculture and change their profession.

Fazle Mia lamented and told Jago News, ‘Once salt water enters the land, cultivation cannot be done for several years. Only in the case of minor natural disasters in this area, salt water enters the agricultural land. Then nothing can be done except for shrimp enclosure. But most of the poor farmers do not have that ability. Then forced to leave agriculture. Even rearing cows and goats becomes difficult. Because the land does not have grass or plants.’

The salinity is increasing in the southern region due to various environmental disasters including cyclones, floods, river bursts. On the opposite side of the country, the ground water level is going down due to natural causes in the northern region. This crisis is evident in Varendra area. It is difficult to get potable water in most parts of Rajshahi, Chapainawabganj and Naogaon districts. Water is not going even for agriculture. Rivers also do not have enough water when needed. As a result, many are leaving farming.

The economy and livelihood of Bangladesh rests on four pillars, one of which is agriculture. Climate change is having a huge negative impact on agriculture. Farmers are forced to leave agriculture. Some are changing the way of farming. – Professor Dr. Mohammad Jahangir Alam

One such farmer is Mahabub Hossain Badsha of Manda Upazila of Naogaon. He once cultivated five bigha of land himself. Due to various reasons including the constant increase in irrigation costs, he is unable to support his family through farming. So he came to Dhaka and drives easy bike.

He told Jago News, ‘I don’t get water during irrigation. Those who give water in Barendra region, they do anarchy. Do not give water even with more money. Crops are not yielding properly. People like me who were dependent on agriculture, have been cornered. Most of the time there is a loss by cultivating paddy alone. And due to lack of water, other crops cannot be grown.’

Farmers are changing profession due to environmental disaster

Badsha said, ‘I am earning by driving easy bikes. Earlier we had a close relationship with agriculture. Occupation of father and grandfather. But it is not possible to run the family with that.’

The latest data of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) labor force survey says that 15 lakh 80 thousand people left agriculture during the period from January to December 2023.

Due to various frustrations, they left this profession. Despite the potential, people are leaving the agricultural profession due to various reasons including food insecurity, income disparity, reduction of work area due to mechanization, climate change. Many farmers are now going abroad to grow crops for others instead of farming in their own country. Currently, 49 percent of the workers who go abroad for employment are in agriculture.

Analyzing the latest data of BBS, it can be seen that the number of farmers in the country has decreased at an alarming rate in the span of 11 years. In the 2022 census, 37.91 percent were agricultural workers, while in the 2011 census, this rate was 47.03 percent. In other words, farmers have decreased by 9.12 percent. However, the data also says that in those 11 years, the labor force has decreased only in agriculture. Workers have increased significantly in industry and service sector.

Meanwhile, environment and agriculture experts say that the biggest reason behind the drastic reduction in the number of farmers in the country is environment and climate change. Currently, extreme heat waves in summer, extreme cold and undesired rains in winters, lack of rains in monsoons, premature and prolonged floods, hailstorms etc. are the direct effects of climate change in this country. Due to these reasons, the fertility of agricultural land is decreasing day by day. They also fear that food production may be at serious risk in the coming days.

This year also fish died in the pond due to extreme heat. Livestock including poultry are dying. Due to heat, laborers were not available for harvesting in many areas. Crops have been damaged by floods and hailstorms. The latest Cyclone Rimal caused major damage to agriculture. During the same year, agricultural production is disrupted due to such adverse weather conditions. Farmers are the biggest victims.

Farmers are changing profession due to environmental disaster

According to the data, the contribution of agriculture sector to the total domestic production is about 11.50 percent. About 41 percent of the labor force is engaged in various forms of agriculture. And about 80 percent of the total population of the country is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture. Bangladesh has only 0.1 percent of the world’s arable land. With this small amount of arable land, Bangladesh has to provide food for 2.7 percent of the world’s total population. Among them, the growth rate is decreasing in various sectors of agriculture including rice and fish.

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According to the ‘Global Climate Risk Index’ published by the international research organization ‘German Watch’, Bangladesh ranks seventh among the countries most at risk of long-term global climate change disasters. And Bangladesh is one of the top 10 countries affected by climate change. According to a report by the Asian Development Bank, agriculture is one of the most affected sectors due to rising temperature, salinity and sea level rise. By 2050, Bangladesh will lose 2 percent of its GDP due to climate change alone.

Farmers are changing profession due to environmental disaster

Former senior technical officer of United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization Subhash Dasgupta told Jago News, ‘In 1972-73 the contribution of agriculture to GDP was 371 million dollars. In the financial year 2022-23 it stands at 41 billion dollars. However, in the last two decades, the growth rate of rice production in the country has decreased a lot. As the profits are low, the rice farmers remain poorer. The major reason is the impact of climate change on agriculture.

Bangladesh Agricultural University Professor of Agricultural Business and Marketing Department. Mohammad Jahangir Alam told Jago News, ‘Agriculture is the life force of Bangladesh’s economy. The economy and livelihood of Bangladesh rests on four pillars, one of which is agriculture. Climate change is having a huge negative impact on agriculture. Farmers are forced to leave agriculture. Some are changing the way of farming.’

Barisal region was once famous for paddy cultivation, but now the opportunities for cultivation there are decreasing. As a result, some of those who depended on paddy cultivation in that area are going to other professions, some are adapting to the changes and inventing new farming methods. But the rate of change of profession is high. – Former Director General of Agriculture Extension Department. Abdul Mueed

He said, ‘Reviewing various research reports, it can be seen that by the year 2100, there is a danger that the sea level will rise by a maximum of 1 meter. Due to which about 18.3 percent of the total area of ​​Bangladesh can be submerged in water. If this forecast is true, it will seriously endanger the country’s food security.

In addition, billions of people in the coastal region are also in danger of various dangers. If the sea level rises by 67 cm, the entire Sundarbans will be submerged in water.’

There are no precise statistics on the percentage of farmers who have left farming due to climate change. However, a recent survey by the People’s Foundation (MJF) revealed that 17.1 percent of farmers in char, haor, hill and coastal areas have changed their farming practices. In that survey, the impact of climate change was taken into consideration in 28 upazilas of 14 districts. However, the survey did not show the percentage of people who changed their profession among the participants.

Farmers are changing profession due to environmental disaster

According to the Water Resource Planning Organization (WORPO) research, 71 percent of the Barendra region is vulnerable to moderate, high and extreme levels of water scarcity. Due to low rainfall, prolonged drought and groundwater extraction, the water table is decreasing. Last summer, the groundwater level in Tano area of ​​Rajshahi dropped to 113 feet. Due to its non-recharge, the average water level in the region has dropped to 4 feet. At the same time, the temperature is increasing at an abnormal rate. There is a significant change in the quality of life of people in that area.

The information also says that about 4,000 square kilometers in the north-eastern part of the country and about 1,400 square kilometers in the south-eastern part of the country suffer from sudden floods at various times. Floods caused by tides cause extensive damage to coastal areas. Currently, about 1.5 million hectares of land in Bangladesh are affected by floods every year. 9 districts of the country were affected by the floods in 2022. Out of which Sylhet, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Habiganj and Netrokona were the most affected. In addition to 7.3 million people, agriculture was damaged by about 1 billion dollars in this flood.

River erosion is increasing due to climate change. As a result, a lot of productive agricultural land is being lost to rivers. According to a survey by the Bangladesh Water Development Board, 1200 km of river banks have been eroded so far and another 500 km are at risk of erosion.

Abdullah Al Mamun, an assistant researcher at the University of Agriculture, said that drought is one of the obstacles to crop production in Bangladesh along with other disasters. Due to climate change which is becoming evident day by day. A drought occurs when evaporation is greater than precipitation in an area. Every year 30 to 40 million hectares of land are affected by drought of varying degrees.’

Farmers are changing profession due to environmental disaster

‘Crop yield depends on the severity and duration of drought in drought-prone areas. Due to the effect of climate change, the intensity of drought in the north-western part of the country is increasing day by day. Aman paddy is cultivated on 60 percent of the 8.3 lakh hectares of cultivable land in the country affected by varying degrees of drought. Apart from this, the cultivation of Aush and Boro paddy, jute, dal, oil crops, potato, sugarcane and winter vegetables is being severely affected due to drought.

He said, ‘At present, due to the decrease in the flow of water in the Teesta river, the intensity of drought in its basin has increased more than before during the dry season. This year, due to extreme drought, the production of various crops including paddy is being disrupted.

The former director general of the Department of Agricultural Extension. Abdul Mueed told Jago News, ‘Barisal region was once famous for paddy cultivation, but now the opportunities for cultivation there are decreasing. As a result, some of those who depended on paddy cultivation in that area are going to other professions, some are adapting to the changes and inventing new farming methods. But the rate of career change is high.’

NH/ASA/ASM