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IRRI and HSBC Bank Collaborate to Boost Rice Productivity and Resilience in the Haor Region of Bangladesh

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07 June 2024, Bangladesh: The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) has launched a three-year project with HSBC Bank to transform the rice value chain in Bangladesh’s Haor Region. The project was launched in Dhaka, with IRRI and HSBC Bank co-organizing an inception workshop. The project seeks to develop efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable rice value chains in the Haor Region by adopting improved technologies and innovations, addressing critical challenges faced by the region’s rice farming communities.

The Haor Region heavily relies on agriculture and aquaculture, with 55% of the population depending on these activities for their livelihood. A Haor is a wetland ecosystem in the northeastern part of Bangladesh with unique biophysical, hydrological, ecological, agricultural, and economic characteristics.  During monsoon season, Haors receive surface runoff water from rivers and canals, which becomes vast stretches of turbulent water.  The Haor Region comprises seven districts (Sunamganj, Habiganj, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Netrakona, Kishoreganj, and Brahmanbaria), and there are 373 Haors (0.87 million ha) in these seven districts, which accounts for 53% of the total area of the Haor Region.

The total cultivated area in the Haor Region is 1.26 million hectares, of which 66% is under Haors, where farmers can grow only one crop in a year, which is Boro rice from November to May; the land is under deep water for the remaining five to six months of the year.  Accounting for 16% of the country’s total Boro rice production,  sustainable and resilient rice production in the Haor Region is crucial for regional and national food and nutrition security and sustainable livelihoods.

The region’s farmers, who primarily cultivate Boro rice and practice aquaculture, face numerous challenges, including poverty, food insecurity, and limited resource access. While climate change poses a significant threat to rice production, recurrent flash floods, low adoption of improved technologies, and inefficient market systems contribute to low productivity and profitability. Overcoming these challenges and building climate-resilient rice value chains is crucial for improving the region’s food and nutrition security and overall economic development.

Congratulating IRRI and HSBC Bank on this partnership,  Dr. Sheikh Mohammad Bokhtiar, Executive Chairman of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council said, “As we gather here today, let us recognize that the sustainability and resilience of rice production in the Haor Region are not just local concerns; they are integral to our national food security and economic prosperity. Boro rice, the main crop in the region, demands our attention due to the extreme climate change in the region. By investing in innovative technologies, empowering farmers, and fortifying our market systems, we can transform these challenges into opportunities, ensuring the sustenance of our communities.”

The Climate-Smart Rice Value Chain in the Haor Region (CS-RVC) project aims to address the challenges farmers face. The project’s main action areas during implementation will include promoting improved rice varieties, sustainable and climate-smart practices, strengthening rice seed systems, increasing mechanization in the rice production system, raising awareness and knowledge about rice-based innovations, and developing agri-entrepreneurs with a focus on women, youth, and ethnic minorities.

The project is anticipated to benefit 10,000 rice value chain actors within three years, from 2024 to 2027.  The inception workshop kicked off the project, which will be implemented in five upazilas of Sunamganj and Kishoreganj districts. Activities to be undertaken during project implementation include piloting new rice varieties, improved crop management practices, and community-based seed banks. IRRI’s digital tools, such as Rice Crop Manager (RCM) and Rice Doctor, will be deployed to aid farmers in informed decision-making on nutrient management, and local capacity-building efforts will be intensified to ensure the sustainable adoption of new technologies. The project will be implemented in collaboration with public and private sector organizations, universities, and NGOs working on agricultural research and development.

Speaking on the importance of developing rice value chains in the Haor Region, Ms. Syeda Afzalun Nessa, Head of Corporate Sustainability, HSBC Bangladesh, “HSBC’s core focus for philanthropy has been climate adaptation and mitigation  and as Haor region is one of the climate hotspots of Bangladesh, we have collaborated with IRRI to boost the productivity of the region and improve the  climate-resilient rice value chain.”

Present at the event were dignitaries from different government departments. Around 60 experts and practitioners from different government and non-government organizations like congregated at this workshop.

In his opening remarks, the Country Representative for IRRI in Bangladesh, Dr. Humnath Bhandari said, “I am glad that we could partner with HSBC for the implementation of this project.  By enhancing rice productivity, resilience, and sustainability in the Haor region, we also intend to increase the overall production of rice-based agri-food systems in Bangladesh, thereby ensuring food security for the nation and contributing towards strengthening the economy and achieving the United Nations SDGs. I thank HSBC Bank for supporting us to implement this project.” He also emphasized some of the project’s outcomes, which include increased livelihood options, poverty reduction, improved environmental health and biodiversity, gender equality and youth empowerment, social inclusion, and climate resilience in the region.

Also Read: Horticulture Production in India Sees Mixed Trends in 2023-24; Down by 32.51 Lakh Tonnes

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