Bangladesh is disaster prone country because of its conical shape. The risk of climate change, drought, flood and natural disaster has increased uncertainty of agricultural production, which has also increased the level of food insecurity in the country, writes Minhazur Rahman Rezvi
By Minhazur Rahman Rezvi
Bangladesh is a predominantly agro-based developing country. Agriculture is the country’s largest economic sector, with around 62% people engaged in farming and managing their subsistence from agriculture.
The percentage of dependency on agriculture is higher in rural areas, with 87% of the rural population relying on agriculture, directly and indirectly. Agriculture has played several key roles in the process of economic development and greatly contributed to national GDP.
According to World Bank, in 1972, agriculture contributed around 52% of total GDP. Agriculture’s share in national GDP has been decreasing because the growth rate of agriculture has been declining. In recent years, it has fallen to slightly above 16 % only, including with the crop sub-sector contributing about 12-13 points of that. In FY2016-2017, the contribution of agriculture was 14.79 % of total GDP.
Agricultural production is declining along with its share in total national GDP. There are several reasons behind falling agricultural growth in Bangladesh, like high population growth rate, pressure on agricultural land and climate change.
Climate change is the major reason for declining agricultural production. Bangladesh is most vulnerable to climate change, which is responsible for increasing intensity of river erosion, floods, flash floods and intrusion of salinity inland. Weather and climate are important factors, which play a significant role to agricultural productivity. Agriculture is among the most sensitive sectors to climate change, particularly changes in temperature, rainfall patterns, and increased likelihood of extreme events such as droughts .The impact of climate change is a matter of concern for Bangladesh, where lives and livelihoods depend mainly on agriculture.
The country is facing the reality of climate change due to global warming. Changes in temperature and rainfall patterns have already affected crop production in many parts of Bangladesh. An increase of 4°C in temperature would have a severe impact on food production in Bangladesh, resulting in a 28% reduction in rice and a 68% reduction in wheat. Farmers say one of the most obvious fallouts of climate change is the gradual shifting of the rain-fed rice season (aman) due to drought and delayed monsoon. The production of rice and wheat could fall by eight % and 32% respectively by 2050.
Irregular and heavy rainfall in the country is an outcome of climate change. Because of climate change and rising temperature, the intensity and frequency of floods and flash floods has increased in recent years.
From March 2017, vast areas of the country have experienced flash floods that caused devastation of standing crops, infrastructure damage and human suffering. According to the Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE), flash floods submerged 1, 41,000 hectares of farmland in six northeastern districts, affecting around 423,000 farmers. Devastation of crops and drowned farmlands in flash floods caused decline in agriculture production last year.
Increased salinity in the soil is also caused by climate change, with salinity increasing in coastal farmlands due to an increase in sea level. According to the Bangladesh National Adaptation Program of Action, the sea level along the Bangladesh coast is rising at about 3 millimeters a year, and salinity is also rising inland. Salinity spread increased by 27% between 1973 and 2009 (Soil Resource Development Institute, 2010).
Due to salinity, water logging and drought, about 30 - 50% of net cropped areas are not cultivable. Salinity affected 1.1 million hectares of land in these coastal areas. The increased proportion of salinity, both in coastal and inland areas, may result in significant reduction in rice production, by as much as 15.6% in 30 years and lead to significant shortage of irrigation for rice production. In the southern parts and coastal areas of Bangladesh, groundwater aquifers have also been affected by increased soil salinity.
Bangladesh is disaster prone country because of its conical shape. The country is affected frequently by floods, droughts, cyclones, and salinity due to climate change. The risk of climate change, drought, flood and natural disaster has increased uncertainty of agricultural production, which has also increased the level of food insecurity in the country.
(The author is studying for Bachelor in Social Sciences (BBS) in Development Studies at Dhaka University. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)