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Agricultural mechanization revitalizes Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban

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Farmers in these regions benefit from this machine-enabled global transformation of agricultural practices, which not only improves production but also contributes to sustainable development.

October 8, 2023, 12:40 p.m.

Last modification: October 8, 2023, 12:41 p.m.

Md Saiful Islam from Lama, Bandarban, with his rice transplanter. In addition to cultivating three acres of his own land, he provides machinery services on 40 acres in the neighborhood, benefiting about 15 farmers. Photo: Courtesy

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Md Saiful Islam from Lama, Bandarban, with his rice transplanter.  In addition to cultivating three acres of his own land, he provides machinery services on 40 acres in the neighborhood, benefiting about 15 farmers.  Photo: Courtesy

Md Saiful Islam from Lama, Bandarban, with his rice transplanter. In addition to cultivating three acres of his own land, he provides machinery services on 40 acres in the neighborhood, benefiting about 15 farmers. Photo: Courtesy

Agricultural mechanization has a significant positive impact on Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban regions of Bangladesh. Its use involves not only the youth, but also Machinery Solution Providers (MSP), Agriculture-based Light Engineering (ABLE), Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) and Women Entrepreneurs.

Farmers in these regions benefit from this global transformation of agricultural practices facilitated by machines such as combine harvesters, rice transplanters, harvesters and threshers. These machines improve production and contribute to sustainable development.

Mechanization is a crucial approach to increasing productivity and efficiency in the agricultural sector. It has particular importance in the National Agricultural Mechanization Policy 2020 formulated by the country’s Ministry of Agriculture.

Recognizing the potential of modern technology in agriculture, the ministry and non-governmental organizations have collaborated to introduce several initiatives and regulations to promote mechanization. These initiatives include the provision of financial incentives and technical assistance to farmers and relevant stakeholders.

Traditional agricultural practices have long hampered agricultural productivity and efficiency in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts. These practices hinder farmers’ ability to reach their full potential because they rely heavily on manual labor, lack access to modern equipment, and are inefficient. One of the biggest challenges facing farmers in these regions is labor shortages. On the other hand, the use of agricultural machinery has led to significant progress.

The USAID-funded Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia – Mechanization Extension Activity (CSISA-MEA) has had a significant impact on the Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban regions. Its aim is to promote sustainable agriculture in Bangladesh by working with small farmers and SMEs to encourage the adoption of agricultural machinery. One of the main results of its success is the active participation of young people in agriculture.

Young tertiary graduates are engaging in agricultural machinery initiatives, playing roles as MSPs and farmers. According to CSISA-MEA data, around 73 youth ABLEs and MSPs operate in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban, constituting 50% of the total MSPs in these districts.

Emam Hossen, 29, an MBA graduate from Cox’s Bazar Government College, represents one of the young entrepreneurs in Cox’s Bazar. He has invested in a mower and three rice transplanters, which he uses to cultivate four acres of land and provide machinery services to another 18-20 acres, thereby benefiting 25-30 farmers in his locality and neighboring areas.

MSPs have become key collaborators in the advancement of agricultural mechanization in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts. They offer a wide range of services, using modern agricultural machinery such as combine harvesters, rice transplanters, harvesters and threshers, while also providing technical support to farmers. CSISA-MEA data indicates that there are 271 MSPs operating in these regions in various capacities.

Md. Saiful Islam, a 38-year-old MSP from Lama, Bandarban, owns a mower, rice transplanter, tiller and thresher. In addition to cultivating three acres of his own land, he provides machinery services on 40 acres in the neighborhood, benefiting about 15 farmers. He points out that labor costs are high in his locality, making it costly for him as a farmer.

In addition, finding labor during the harvest period is a challenge. Machines have therefore become a solution to overcome these challenges and improve productivity.

The influence of mechanization in these areas is further strengthened by the participation of ABLE SMEs, with 151 of them operating in the two regions, including 135 in Cox’s Bazar, according to CSISA-MEA data.

ABLE SMEs specialize in the creation, repair and modification of agricultural equipment to meet the specific needs of farmers. They ensure that farmers and MSPs have access to affordable, tailored automation solutions that increase production and reduce manual labor. The expansion of ABLE SMEs also contributes to community empowerment and local economic development.

Agriculture-focused women entrepreneurs have also gained prominence in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban districts. With the adoption of mechanization, women are actively participating in various aspects of agriculture, from growing seedlings to transplanting rice. CSISA-MEA data indicates that there are currently 15 female MPs in the regions, representing 6% of the total number of female MPs.

Kulsum Akter Pakhi, a 35-year-old seedling entrepreneur from Chakaria, Cox’s Bazar, expanded her skills by growing rice seedlings for rice transplanters and learning how to operate a rice transplanter. During each rice transplanting season, around 20 to 25 women work with her on a daily wage basis.

Not only does this empower her, but it also paves the way for other women to participate in income-generating activities through agriculture. This increased participation strengthens women’s economic independence, contributes to social progress and advances gender equality.

Mechanization of agriculture is reshaping the agricultural landscape in Cox’s Bazar and Bandarban regions. Youth participation, collaboration with machinery solution providers, involvement of ABLE SMEs and empowerment of women entrepreneurs are the driving forces for this transformation.

Farmers in these regions reap the benefits, including increased economic opportunities, reduced labor costs and higher productivity. Agricultural mechanization paves the way for lasting prosperity and a promising future.

The development of agricultural machinery is already benefiting stakeholders in the agricultural sector. However, given the region’s vast cultivable land, there are still significant opportunities to involve more people in the mechanization process. Alongside its agricultural policy, the government could consider integrating local agricultural machinery manufacturers on a large scale. This move could mobilize the domestic market and, in the long term, reduce dependence on imported agricultural machinery, thereby strengthening the impact of projects like CSISA-MEA.


Asmaul Husna works as a communications analyst at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)


Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of The Business Standard.

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