Zarif Mahmud: Farmers are leaving their profession due to social inequality, lack of financial security, dependence on food imports and lack of effective measures in the agricultural sector. As a result, the stakeholders are afraid of food shortage in the near future. The number of farmers in the country has decreased at an alarming rate in the span of 11 years. Due to decrease in agricultural land due to infrastructure development, increase in price of agricultural inputs, price volatility due to import dependence of seeds and fertilizers, farmers are losing interest in agriculture.
According to the 2022 census, 37.91 percent of the citizens aged 10 years and above are agricultural workers, while this rate was 47.03 percent in the 2011 census, just before 11 years.
Farmers decreased by 9.12 percent. Only agriculture workers have decreased. Industry and service sector workers have increased at a significant rate. The full report of Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics Census and Household Enumeration 2022 has said that the agricultural labor has decreased.
Agriculturalists think that due to climate change, mechanization in agriculture, farmers are losing interest in agriculture. They see a global tradition as a big reason. That is, the father does agriculture, but the children do not want to return to agriculture after being established. The more educated people become the more agrarian they become. However, agriculturists believe that in recent times some educated youth are opting for commercial agriculture as a career.
Even though the Prime Minister said not to do government projects on agricultural land, the rate of taking up government projects on agricultural land is increasing day by day. Various ministries have to acquire agricultural land for various infrastructure development. Farmers have lost their land and are turning to other professions.
Although the interest of farmers in agriculture is decreasing, the production is increasing every year. According to BBS, the total production of jute in the financial year 2022-23 has been 84 lakh 57 thousand 674 bales, which is zero decimal 30 percent more than 2021-22. Aman yield in FY 2022-23 is 3.129 percent higher than previous year. Wheat production is 7.769 percent higher than the previous year. Potato production increased by 2.83 percent. Boro’s production increased by 2.88 percent.
Explaining that farmers leave the profession, Professor of Plant Pathology Department of Sherebangla Agricultural University Abu Noman Farooq Ahmed told, ‘Many reasons. They are leaving agriculture for other professions. Agriculture was once a promising profession. The current government has given much importance to the mechanization of agriculture. Earlier it used to take 10 people to clean the weeds, now it takes two to one; Where it used to take 10 people to thresh paddy, now one or two do it with the machine. Mechanization of agriculture has reduced the involvement of farmers in agriculture. They have moved or are going to another profession.
He said, ‘Another global reason is that farmers are decreasing. That is, farmers’ sons do not want to come into agriculture, they do not consider it a respectable profession now. Those who have passed college, university or passed SSC no longer want to stay in agriculture. If necessary, he goes abroad and works as a laborer.
A portion of the young population, however, has returned to agriculture. Their number is very less. Agriculturist Dr. Abu Noman Farooq Ahmed said, ‘They don’t see it as traditional agriculture. In their language it is an agricultural project. They think of themselves as entrepreneurs. Like investment in business, here too they consider investment. Just like a business has employees, it also has employees. A new form of commercial agriculture is emerging. Educated youth have turned to agriculture commercially. However, the marginal farmers provide the bulk of agriculture. Although the contribution of agriculture to GDP has consistently decreased, the production of agriculture is increasing. Other sectors are doing well, this is also the reason for the decrease in the number of farmers.
He thinks that if someone increases unemployment by turning away from agriculture, it is not good for agriculture. Rather, it is better if unemployment in agriculture is reduced. Mechanization of agriculture is also required and is increasing. Coordination of plans is needed.
The agricultural sector of the country is suffering more due to climate change. Frustrated farmers are turning away from agriculture after several years of crop failure due to major cyclones. According to the Agricultural Information Service, about 3,000 square kilometers of Bhola island has been submerged in sea water in the last four decades. A review of various research reports shows that by the year 2100 the sea level may rise by 1 meter, resulting in the submergence of 18.3 percent of the total area of Bangladesh.
According to the sources of Directorate of Public Health and Engineering, the water level in upper Barendra area of Rajshahi was 48 feet below in 1991, it fell to 62 feet in 2000, and it fell to 93.34 feet in 2007. Currently, both the number and intensity of floods have increased.
Barendra and Haor areas supply the bulk of the country’s rice. At present, the trend of other agricultural activities instead of paddy cultivation has increased in the land of these regions. Traders lease agricultural land from marginal land owners for 10 to 30 years. Traders are cultivating dragon fruit, guava, Ufshi mango, orange, malta, lemon and other fruits and spices. Earlier marginal farmers used to grow three crops a year on this land.
Dr. Abu Noman Farooq Ahmed said, “Due to the climate, it is difficult to grow crops as the salinity of the land used for agriculture in the southern region has increased. As a result, farmers have shifted from agriculture to other sectors. The water level in Varendra area is going down. As a result, they left paddy and went towards mango cultivation. As a result of climate change, different changes are noticeable in different places. Some drought, some waterlogging, some salinity.
Farmers of the country have no financial security. The agriculturist said, there is no crop insurance here. Farmers have no agricultural security, no financial security. We are seventh in terms of climate change. Dangerous country. There is another forecast, there may be another cyclone in the first week of January. There may also be heavy rainfall.
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