Within the context of the Australia–Bangladesh country strategy, ACIAR’s focus lies on the achievement of MDG 1 through improved productivity of food grain crops. One of Bangladesh’s key development challenges is food availability within the context of increasing climate-change vulnerability. In addition to this challenge, Bangladesh faces the problem of inadequate nutrition, derived from multiple factors; for example, gendered consumption practices, international market variations and institutional effectiveness. The National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction articulates the government’s vision for agriculture as ‘…to enhance growth through development and dissemination of sustainable technologies which are ecologically adaptable, economically profitable, and capable of generating productive employment; diversification of both crop and non-crop; development of agribusiness services; and human resource development and ensuring “food for all”’.
Bangladesh has been an ACIAR partner country since the mid 1990s. The past emphasis on ‘Rabi’ (winter season) crops such as pulses, wheat and maize is shifting towards a farming systems approach supporting broader food security issues. Therefore, the components on rice-based farming systems will expand to include research on pulses, saline land management and adaptation to climate change. The Bangladesh program includes research on constraints to field crop production (especially the rice–wheat system), and the potential for increasing legume production in cropping systems. This past focus will broaden with the emergence of rice–maize as an increasingly important cropping system. Increased pulse productivity and availability will lessen nutritional problems associated with the dominance of rice in diets.
Concerns are re-emerging about Bangladesh’s ability to maintain food security in the light of its high vulnerability to the impacts of climate change. Low-lying areas and rainfed cropping systems in Bangladesh are negatively impacted by the effects of seasonal climate variability and change. Consequently, Bangladesh is one of four partner countries involved in ACIAR’s climate-change adaptation initiative.
Priorities for collaboration are developed through consultations between senior staff at ACIAR and leaders of agricultural R&D institutions and government bodies in Bangladesh. Both intensification of cereal crops and diversification of rice-based systems remain important research thrusts, and consideration is also given to adaptation to climate change and alleviation of policy constraints. Given the common agricultural production challenges in many South Asian countries, linkages are being strengthened with other countries in South and South-East Asia—in particular, on conservation agriculture and rice–wheat system intensification in the states of Bihar and West Bengal in eastern India, and in the Terai of eastern Nepal.