Howre Bri-28 is a broken dream of a farmer in a paddy field

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the initiative to ensure the best use of agriculture and the land of this country so that our economy does not fall under major risks due to Corona situation and Russia-Ukraine war. He did not just sit and announce that every inch of land in the country should be used, he himself went down to create an example. When his efforts at Ganabhaban spread through Shaikh Siraj, it created new inspiration for all. But no matter how much initiative and motivation the Prime Minister creates, if there is negligence on the part of the government’s implementing and monitoring agencies, that initiative will die. Such a situation has arisen in our Haor area. Although there is risk and uncertainty about Boro rice in Haor area due to flood, hailstorm and drought, this time the cause of that risk is the gross negligence of BADC and Agriculture Department. Boro paddy of Haor area is very important for food security of the country but extreme disaster has occurred due to these two companies. The reason for this disaster is that because the unaware farmers were not alerted, they have faced huge losses by cultivating Bri-28 in traditional way. Although the agriculture department says that this rice is unfit for cultivation, it is not able to give that news to the farmers. And my question is why did the seed department of BADC hand over this seed to the farmer after knowing it to be harmful.

The most popular variety in Boro paddy cultivation in Bangladesh is Bri-28. Farmers are more attracted to this rice due to its good yield and early cutting. Even after the arrival of hybrids, the interest of farmers towards this variety did not decrease much. But this variety, developed by the Rice Research Institute two centuries ago, is no longer suitable for cultivation. Bri-28 rice was very popular till now. But it caused frustration among the farmers due to increase in attack of fleas and insects. The Department of Agriculture says it is no longer suitable for cultivation. But even though the agriculture department has said that, the message has not been properly conveyed to the farmers. BADC has been selling this rice seed even after saying that it is not suitable for cultivation.

In several areas of Habiganj’s famous granary, Gungiajuri Haor, farmers have been beaten up by cultivating bri-paddy. Even though the rice plant is good, it is full of caterpillars. 75 percent of the crop produced is cheetah and 25 percent is paddy. Many are cutting it for fodder. Again, due to the fact that the dawals (paddy harvesters) do not harvest the paddy, the ripe paddy is lying on the ground. Although this scenario exists on a large amount of land, the agriculture department has mentioned only a small amount of this affected land in their data list. Talking to the farmer there, I came to know that the crop of hundreds of acres of land has been destroyed. But the agriculture department says the extent of damage due to cheetah is only 65 hectares.

Haor’s land is one crop. Boro rice is the main crop here. If the yield of Boro rice is good, there is no rice problem in any Haor family. However, in case of crop failure due to any reason, the people of Haor have to suffer a lot until the harvest of the next season. The farmers did not have much problem in harvesting the crops in the last few years. But this time Bri-28 has disappointed the farmers.

Shah Fakhruzzaman

Those responsible must be held accountable.
If not, our agriculture will suffer a big blow. Farmers will be endangered. Our food security will be threatened

 Through my journalist friends, I have come to know that not only in Habiganj, but also in Kishoreganj, Moulvibazar and Sunamganj, such damage has happened. While discussing with the farmers of Haor area, they said that they do not know that there will be any damage if they plant this rice. For three years, no agriculture officer visited their area. Even while purchasing seeds from BADC no one told not to plant it. Talking to the people of the agriculture department, they said that they have done extensive campaigning among the farmers. But why these rice seeds were given to the farmers is my question. And why administration, public representatives, imams and religious leaders were not involved in campaigning on such an important issue should also be considered.

According to the agriculture department, 70 percent of the land in Haor area is cultivated with hybrid rice. Of the remaining 30 percent land, 15 percent is planted with Bri-28 and 15 percent with Bri-29. But instead of Bri-28 and Bri-29, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute has developed Bri-88, 81 and 12. Their yield is good. Can be harvested early and is cold hardy. BADC is not increasing the supply of these seeds. Farmers are also not being made aware. But it is very important.

There are some departments and agencies of the government where working is not just a monthly salary. Departments of Education, Health and Agriculture are such institutions. But the people of agriculture department will work and get salary from month to month and not worry about the farmers, this cannot happen.

 While our policymakers may not be thinking about this, a development expert from faraway Japan named Tetsuo Tsutsui has. He saw in his long experience that Bri is developing new varieties for the Haor region of Bangladesh. The Directorate of Agricultural Extension helps the farmers in planting this variety. BADC produces seeds according to the demand of farmers. But as there is no coordination in the work of these three organizations, the farmers are not benefiting. Again LGED, Water Development Board and other organizations are working on irrigation.

 There is also a lack of planning and coordination. He spoke about the development of farmers by creating harmony between these organizations. Talking to him, he said that the coordination of these government agencies should be ensured. Otherwise, the seeds must be produced through farmers.

Farmers here once used to grow their own seeds. Now farmers are cultivating 70 to 80 percent Chinese hybrid rice. The problem with these types of seeds is that they have to be purchased every year. So the culture of making seeds at home should be developed. He has taken up a 5 year project in Habiganj from his institute. The main focus of his efforts is to popularize Bri 88, Bri 89 and Bri 94 among farmers. Again conveying the message that farmers can produce their own seeds . He thinks that the big challenge here is not to discover new varieties but to supply them to the farmers after discovery.

Talking to Tetsuo Tsutsei, he said there are many other challenges in the Haor area besides climate change. Due to the filling of canals and lack of water reservoirs, crop cultivation is decreasing. These are also big challenges. The government is not taking proper plans for it. Farmers are affected by Bri-28 rice but there is not much publicity about it. Rice scientists have played a major role in ensuring the food security of this country. Bangladesh Rice Research Institute has developed as many as 106 new varieties so far. But the benefits of this research are not available due to lack of coordination among other organizations. I also wonder why our policy makers are not thinking about it even though development experts from Japan have caught the eye. Talking to rice scientists, I learned that any variety is protected for life if it is in the hands of the breeder. But when this seed is produced through someone else it loses its purity. Immunity decreases. Cannot adapt to climate change. After 5 years of discovery of any new variety abroad, it is removed and the new variety is given to the farmers. This capability is not yet available in our country.
However, rice scientists believe that if a new variety is not changed after 5-7 years, there may be a disaster in crop production. The proof of which is the loss of farmers by planting Bri-28 rice in Haor area. Samples of this damage were last few years. But this time it has exceeded more levels. But now time is very important. There are already many challenges in agriculture due to increased irrigation, fertilizers and inputs. On top of that, this idiocy has put us at a great disadvantage. A few years ago, farmers turned away from agriculture due to lack of good prices. But now when new initiatives and efforts to increase production are visible, this loss cannot be accepted. Those who are responsible for this must be brought to account. If not, our agriculture will suffer a big blow. Farmers will be endangered. Our food security will be threatened. There will be pressure on reserves.

Shah Fakhruzzaman : Journalist and lawyer