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Three farmer field days in Bangladesh

Efforts to further disseminate and train farmers on conservation agriculture (CA) practices, specifically for rice, are underway in Bangladesh. Three farmer field days were held on 30 September and 01 October by the project “Sustainable Intensification of Rice-Maize Systems in Bangladesh,” which is jointly run by CIMMYT and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and funded by the Australian Center for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR).

Around 150 farmers attended the three events held at three different project sites. The first field day was hosted by Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Services (RDRS), a non governmental organization in northern Bangladesh, and organized by M.G. Neogi, coordinator of RDRS’s agriculture program. The event attracted 60 farmers as well as media personnel and representatives from the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), and the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA) project. The other field days were held in the Rajshahi district; one in Durgapure and the other in Paba. Israil Hossain of BARI organized the event in Durgapure, which was attended by nearly 55 farmers, while N.R. Sharma of BRRI was in charge of activities at Paba, attended by approximately 50 farmers.

At each location farmers gathered in front of rice fields to share their experiences and discuss benefits and constraints of farming with CA practices. “At all project sites there are farmer-participatory adaptive CA trials and researcher-managed trials for nutrient management, and there are also trials planted with traditional farmer practices for comparison,” said Jagadish Timsina, IRRI-CIMMYT senior scientist and project leader, who oversaw and coordinated the three field days.

There was a consensus among participating farmers that the CA practice of direct-seeded rice matured 10-12 days sooner than the traditional practice of transplanted rice and required less tillage and no puddling, resulting in reduced costs. Because of this, farmers in Paba said direct-seed rice was the best sowing option, while farmers from Durgapure and Rangpur thought non-puddled transplanted rice on raised beds—a resource-conserving practice—was the best.

“Data on yield and production costs are being collected from the trials and will allow us to compare the production and profitability of various CA technological options against farmers’ current practice of growing rice,” said Timsina. However, he adds that there are still barriers to overcome. “Unavailability of machinery and skilled machine operators, combined with increased weeds and a lack of proper herbicideapplication knowledge, are major constraints we need to and will address.”

The “Sustainable Intensification of Rice-Maize Systems in Bangladesh” project has been in operation since November 2008 in four districts of Bangladesh: Rangpur, Rajshahi, Comilla, and Gazipur. The project aims to increase dissemination of improved CA and nutrient management technologies using training and capacity building with farmers, researchers, extension workers, machinery manufacturers, and service providers.