Food Security: Massive ‘SaFal’ project rolled out for Bangladesh farmers

In one of the largest programmes involving Solidaridad Network Asia in the region, the Embassy of the Netherlands in Dhaka and CARE Bangladesh has jointly rolled out a € 12-million project that will impact on the lives of thousands people in five impoverished south-western districts in Bangladesh.

Dhaka, Bangladesh: Smallholders and landless workers of southwest Bangladesh, lack access to markets and struggle to make a livelihood from agriculture due to salinity of land and unsustainable agricultural practices. This is leading to large-scale poverty and food insecurity in the region. The SaFaL programme (meaning ‘success’ in Bangla) will target rural communities in Bagherhat, Khulna, Jessore, Satkhira and the Narial districts in southwest Bangladesh and aims to connect 250 000 people to aquaculture, horticulture and livestock value chains.

The implementation of the sustainable agriculture, food security and linkages programme will start next year and run for four years.In this period the programme will enhance the food and nutrition security of 250,000 smallholders and landless workers. SaFaL will also support farmers and workers in agricultural production and supply; and on how to adopt global sustainability standards in farming to improveproductivity, quality and achieve costs reduction.

Nico Roozen, executive director of Solidaridad Network International, said: “We have to make the farmers better agriculture entrepreneurs so that they can produce more food in small lands, whilst keeping the production cost down and with fewer negative consequences for the environment." He further said that transition to a bio-based economy is inevitably. This means the farmer will not just be a provider of food, but also a supplier of renewable energy and raw materials, and thus linking the issues of food security for developing countries and globally. Roozen believes this should start with the recognition of the potential of the smallholder farmers and women, who are often the leading drivers of sustainable change.

Importance of targeted sectors

In his presentation, Shatadru Chattopadhayay, managing director of Solidaridad Network Asia, said the project aims to adopt sustainable agricultural practices in livestock, horticulture and fisheries to develop sustainable livelihoods.He pointed out that the targeted agricultural sub-sectors in the country will not only help to improve food and nutrition security, but also contribute to household and national economic growth. “These sectors are easier to adapt to major weather fluctuations and provides more regular income for integration into existing agricultural practices,” he explained.

The aquaculture sector on the other hand is seen as one of the most dynamic sectors of the economy of Bangladesh, and is the second largest export industry after Ready Made Garments (RMG). It makes an important contribution to the income and employment opportunities of many poor and marginalised communities. Says Chattopadhayay, “In the last three decades, aquaculture has played a growing economic role in providing employment and improving the livelihoods of the rural poor. There are further opportunities to improve productivity of the sector through adoption of improved technologies.”

Similarly the country’s livestock sub-sector offers important employment and livelihood opportunities for the rural poor and landless people. About 75% of people in the rural areas partly rely on livestock for their livelihood, which indicates that the poverty reduction potential of the livestock sector is very high. Despite large numbers of cattle in Bangladesh, due to low yields, the current production of milk and meat is inadequate to meet the current demand.

The potential of horticultural crops has not yet been fully explored in Bangladesh, since the focus of government as well as many donor agencies mainly tends to be on large-scale rice production. As a result, productivity in horticultural crops has been much lower as compared to rice. The SaFal project partners believe increased horticultural production will contribute to the commercialization of the rural economy and create many off-farm jobs.

Envisaged project goals

Jamie Terzi, country director of CARE Bangladesh, said the project plans to adopt a resilient approach for the people in the region so that it has a lasting impact. She said the region they have targeted is a difficult one because of its vulnerability to storms, salination and climate change.

The unique features of the programme entail incorporating the supply chain and market development initiatives of Solidaridad, with the knowledge and experiences of CARE Bangladesh to address food security and sustainable livelihood. The Embassy of the Netherlands will focus their support on technology promotion, infrastructure for water resources management through coordination and harmonise Dutch funded initiatives. Linkages will also be established with the Dutch-Bangla Chamber of Commerce.

Some of the key features of the programme are to increase farm productivity of the smallholder farmers through adoption of sustainable agricultural practices; increase the availability of diversified and nutritious food items through market chain development and to improved food intake (balanced diet) at household level. The promotion of increased agricultural productivity from women in the sector will also be addressed.

Chattopadhayay said under the project a unique element is to set up five village supermarkets in each of the five districts, which can give the farmers the opportunity to get maximum prices. The markets will also give the beneficiaries access to nutritious foods, inputs, create jobs and provide a produce distribution channel for the targeted groups.

The SaFal project has enjoyed wide coverage, since its launch. Below are links to some of the media articles.

Unsustainable agri practices in southwest leading to poverty

Dutch govt gives 12m euro for rural people

Project to improve lives of 2.5 lakh poor