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Home > 2021 > Empowering Smallholding Farmers | Shishir Reza

Mainstream, VOL LIX No 27, New Delhi, June 19, 2021

Empowering Smallholding Farmers | Shishir Reza

Friday 18 June 2021

Reviewed by Shishir Reza

Agriculture of Bangladesh: Political Economy of Fixed Rent Leasing And Contract Farming

by Abul Barkat, GM Suhrawardy
Publisher: Muktobuddhi Prokashona
ISBN: 978-984-34-6629-7

In Bangladesh, agriculture is very important since it is the main livelihood of 80% people. People directly or indirectly depend on agriculture. Coastal areas constitute about 2.5 million hectares, which cover about 25% of the total crop land of the country. Nearly 0.84 million hectares are affected by varying intensities of salinity, resulting in very poor land utilization. Considering the land management and agriculture in Bangladesh, Abul Barkat, GM Suhrawardy has been published a manuscript titled “Agriculture of Bangladesh: Political Economy of Fixed Rent Leasing And Contract Farming” in April (2019) from Muktobuddhi Prokashoni.

This book presents dynamics of fixed rent leasing, causes of fixed rent leasing, food security, women participation in agriculture, right of farmers, soil fertility, factors of contract farming, selling of sterile land. This book is an outcome of a project “Present form and disempowerment process of the rural peasants: A case study on two northern upazilas”.

In general, contract farming makes land more market dependent. It increases food insecurity. About 16.5 lacs fixed rent leasing and about 11 lacs contract farming already lose soil fertility, increases financial instability. Due to fixed rent leasing about 3.10 lacs acre land and about 1.62 lacs acre land has become infertile.

Researchers clarify the causes of fixed rent leasing: unavailability of agriculture land; to make high profit; to access huge crops; to cultivate more crops; commercial farming and to increase fertility. The lands under fixed rent leasing are —9.5% from small and marginal agricultural zone; 31.7% from medium zone; 42.9% from large farming zone; and 4.8% from institution. The fixed rent leasing reduces the fertility of land in Rangpur —7,005.91 acre land as well as 5,252.32 acre land loses fertility in Gaibandha. Over the last 10 years, the total financial loss and farmers debt in Rangpur 40,800 taka and 33,244 taka in Gaibandha. In this context, marginal farmers are joining in garment, rickshaw pulling, and non-farming sector. Consequently, women participation in agriculture is reducing.

Writers depict the causes of contract farming: aiding ingredients; more profits; ensurity of selling; touchy and catchy proposals of contract companies; credit benefits; suitability of land; pressure of land lord; and economic efficiency. 56.4% contracted farmers think they lose their rights on indigenous farming. Uneven relationship between peasant’s and companies make a trend to reduce farmers control on land.

In general, 5% organic matter presence in soil means healthy and fertile soil. But due to contract farming and employing chemicals/fertilizers losing soil structure and texture. Research says only 1% organic matter present in our soil. In this context, soil needs organic fertilizer to increase fertility and crop production.

The fixed rent leasing reduces the fertility of land in Rangpur —3,840.84 acre land as well as 1, 62,460 acre land loses fertility in Gaibandha. Over the last 10 years, the total financial loss and farmers debt in Rangpur 12,772 taka and 65,327 taka in Gaibandha.

Commercialization of agriculture with the dynamics of change in its nature and diverse impact is now a reality in rural Bangladesh. Prevalence of commercial cultivation has undoubtedly contributed to food security. But concerns are there whether all the rural households can avail the benefits? Apart from that the environmental and ecological degradation is very much obvious and penetrating in the development agenda of Bangladesh as intensification of cultivation. In order to minimize the adversities of the fixed rent leasing and contract farming, author recommends to employ bio-fertilizers to increase soil fertility; contract farming should not long-term; tobacco cultivation should be heavily discouraged; high tax should be imposed on tobacco companies; unplanned land use including grabbing of land should be stopped; farmers need to understand that too much use of fertilizers and pesticides could be counterproductive. To raise their awareness, campaign about the optimal use of inputs should be made by the concerned agencies.

To minimize the extensive use of ground water, for avoiding arsenic contamination and other human and natural disasters, the rational use of surface water in the Boro period needs to be encouraged. For that purpose, the present river and water management system should be reformed with ‘open river approach’, instead of existing cordon approach, which will accommodate the monsoon over flow of water for the dry season. Farmers, in order to maintain soil fertility, need to be encouraged for conducting rotation of crops, maintaining leisure period of the crop land, going for regular soil test etc. Social Safety Net program in the rural area should be broadened both in terms of coverage and amount. To reduce income inequality due to non-farm activities, institutional arrangements need to be on board so that the poor and marginalized households get an access to education, health, credit and extension services. In the face of growing inequality among the rural households, efficient and target oriented public spending should be ensured to develop human capital of poor and marginalized households.

This reader friendly book represents inclusive thoughts’ to ameliorate the fate of our farmers and marginal people. This manuscript is a valuable one for agricultural scientist’s, economist, environmentalist, entrepreneurs and students of environmental science.

(Reviewer: Shishir Reza, Environmental Analyst & Associate Member, Bangladesh Economic Association)

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