Transforming Barind: The CRAAB Project Fosters Sustainable Agriculture in Bangladesh

Publish: 2:04 PM, May 27, 2024 | Update: 2:04 PM, May 27, 2024

B. M. Saidur Rahman: The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA), funded by the Hongkong Shanghai Banking Corporation Limited (HSBC), is driving positive change in Bangladesh’s Barind region with the Climate Resilient Agricultural Advancement in Barind (CRAAB) project. This multi-faceted initiative aims to empower farmers, enhance agricultural productivity and build resilience against climate uncertainties by December 2025.As part of its comprehensive approach, the CRAAB project incorporates drought-resistant strategies to equip Barind farmers with the tools they need to thrive even in times of water scarcity.

The Barind Tract, a vast and fertile plateau in northwest Bangladesh, faces a critical challenge on water scarcity. This lack of readily available water threatens the region’s agricultural productivity, impacting the livelihoods of countless farmers. Several factors contribute to this water crisis like the Barind Tract experiences uneven rainfall distribution, with dry seasons leading to severe water shortages. Second cause is over-reliance on groundwater extraction for irrigation has caused the water table to recede. According to BMDA (Barind Multipurpose Development Authority) they lifted about 3.7 billion liters per year specially in boro season and it is only 30% of total extraction. 70% water lifted by local service providers and farmers for their own irrigation schemes. This makes accessing water more difficult and expensive for farmers. The third reason is the dominance of silty clay soil below the topsoil hinders rainwater infiltration. This leads to a low recharge rate in some areas it is only 5%, meaning aquifers struggle to replenish themselves during the rainy season. Excessive groundwater extraction during dry seasons further exacerbates this problem. Currently, groundwater depths range from a critical 35 meters in the dry season to a concerning 48-60 meters year-round. If unsustainable extraction continues, the region risks desertification.Furthermore, the another most important cause is rising temperatures and changing weather patterns further exacerbate drought conditions, adding stress to the already strained water resources.

This water scarcity has a devastating impact on agriculture in the Barind Tract as insufficient water directly affects crop growth, leading to lower yields and potentially impacting regional food security and when water is scarce, loss of soil organic matter and fertility can occur, further hindering agricultural productivity.Therefore, the farmers struggling with water shortages face economic hardship and may be forced to abandon their land, jeopardizing their livelihoods.

A Brighter Future for Barind

The CRAAB project offers a beacon of hope for the Barind region. By equipping farmers with climate-smart practices and fostering a supportive market system, CRAAB paves the way for a more sustainable and prosperous future for Barind’s agricultural sector by improving some Key Focusing Areas:

  • Climate-Smart Agriculture Practices:
    • Beneficiary farmers learn climate-smart techniques, enhancing their capacity to adapt to changing conditions.
    • These practices include optimized drought resistant crops selection, crop diversification, efficient water management, and soil health improvement.
  • Irrigation Efficiency Enhancement:
    • Drip irrigation and AWD adoption are key components of improving irrigation efficiency in this region, directly benefiting project participants. Lastboro season farmers save 3-5 irrigation based on locality and increase production at 12% than non-AWD followed plots. On the other hand, there was no Brown Plant Hopper (BPH) affected in the field as well as the AWD practices reduce the Ethen Emission from the rice field.

The project encourages farmers to explore other water-saving techniques, such as

Photo 1: Farmer practiced AWD at their rice field

The project encourages farmers to explore other water-saving techniques, such as mulching, rainwater harvesting, sprinkler irrigation and efficient canal management.

Photo 2: Ultra high-density mango plantation with drip irrigation

  • Enhanced Productivity:
    • Ultra-high-density mango production withdrip irrigation for increased yield.
    • Laser land leveling and alternate wetting and drying (AWD) techniques for efficient rice cultivation.
    • Using Vermicompost for restoring soil health and increasing water holding capacity of soil.
    • Increasing homestead vegetable production for dietary diversification and nutritional management of beneficiaries. Photo 3: According to crop cutting result production increased at 12%

Photo 3: According to crop cutting result production increased at 12%

  • Empowering Youths & Women:
    • Targeting 40% of youth (18-35 years) for capacity building in agriculture.
    • 50% of youth supported in developing agribusiness ventures through “Farmers’ Hubs.”
    • Sponsorship for disadvantaged women and ethnic communities to embark on agro-entrepreneurship.
  • Building a Sustainable Ecosystem:
    • Supporting ag-startups for sourcing from farmers and export readiness of fruits and vegetables.
    • Facilitation of carbon credit registration for farmers.
    • Providing access to clean drinking water for beneficiary families.
  • Building a Climate-Smart Market System: By creating stronger links between farmers, input suppliers, and buyers, CRAAB aims to ensure access to essential resources and better prices for crops.

Photo 4: Seedling producing at farmer’s hub

Photo 5: Farmers commercially produced Vermicompost for maintaining soil health

  • Women in Agriculture: The project is committed to promoting women’s entrepreneurship and employment opportunities within the agricultural sector.

By December 2025, CRAAB expects to significantly improve the lives of 25,000 farm families in the Barind area. This includes increased productivity, diversification of income sources, and a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. With a focus on youth and women, the project has the potential to create a lasting positive impact on the region.

The HSBC funded CRAAB project represents a beacon of hope for the Barind Tract. The DASCOH Foundation collaborates with SFSA as a co-implementer to enhance the efficient local implementation of activities. By tackling water scarcity, boosting productivity, and fostering a vibrant local agribusiness network, CRAAB empowers farmers to build resilience against a changing climate. This collaborative effort paves the way for a sustainable future where Barind’s agricultural sector thrives, ensuring food security and economic prosperity for generations to come.

Author: B. M. Saidur Rahman, Project Manager – CRAAB Project