Beating adversity in the charlands of Bangladesh through use of CASI technologies

The ‘charlands’, island-like tracts of land arising from riverbeds as a result of erosion and accretion, are home to millions of Bangladesh’s most vulnerable people. The lives of these people, much like the land itself, are at the mercy of nature’s forces and regularly experience erosion and floods. In Eachlirchar, an area of charland in Gangachara (Rangpur, north west Bangladesh), the soil struggles to yield even rice, and the fate of the marginalized char community has traditionally been arbitrarily determined by the course of nature.   

However, Most. Anzuma Begam of Eachlirchar, has demonstrated the socioeconomic development that can be catalyzed by adopting Conservation Agriculture based Sustainable Intensification (CASI) technology on these fragile lands. Promoted by CIMMYT’s Sustainable and Resilient Farming Systems Intensification (SRFSI) project, CASI has been heralded as a major breakthrough in the fight against the charland aridity since 2014. With less drudgery and irrigation and lower costs, CASI enables the family to produce rice and maize yields consecutively. 

After engaging in learning events with the SRFSI project, Anzuma decided to cultivate her small plot of land using CASI technology, and produced mechanically transplanted rice and Strip Till (ST) maize. Her first harvest in 2015 deepened Anzuma’s understanding of the benefits from the comparatively low utilization of irrigation, pesticides and labor in CASI, and she has continued to apply the technologies in the interim years. In particular, Anzuma has yielded a bumper maize crop using strip till technology.

The resulting success of CASI followed an initial period in which the community did not welcome the new technologies. At the time of the initial project interactions, Anzuma’s family’s agricultural land was exclusively used to produce tobacco. Her husband rejected her proposal to participate in the SRFSI project’s introduction to Zero Tillage, weed management and new seeds, but Anzuma stepped forward, despite her husband’s disapproval, defying patriarchal constraints to accept the new agricultural technology.

Anzuma’s socio-economic progress is an inspiration to her charland community. Even the floods in June 2017 failed take the smiles off her family’s faces. In 2018, Anzuma’s family moved from a shack to a well-built tin shaded house. She has ensured proper education and food for her children from the profits of her maize and rice harvests. Anzuma’s husband is now helping her cultivate the land using CASI technology. In his words, Anzuma “did the right thing by not listening to my wrong decision back then in 2014. SRFSI showed her the right way to attain self-reliance through CASI technology. I am proud of my wife.”

For more information, please contact Dr TP Tiwari (t.tiwari@cgiar.org).

Anzuma Begam and her husband with their maize crop.

Anzuma Begam and her husband with their maize crop.