Recently the Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh has published a draft policy on agriculture, “National Agricultural Policy 2011” for discussion which has created dilemma with context and text of the policy. At the very beginning under the context, the draft policy has recognized the importance of agriculture to reduce poverty and to increase employment. It has also recognized the importance of small farms in agricultural development.
But the text of the policy has undermined the above context described as principles. As principle, the draft policy has intended to introduce the commercial and competitive agricultural system in the near future. But the urgency of competitive commercialization of agriculture is not described at the context or the draft has hidden the context.
The agricultural campaigners is making blame to the agricultural ministry particularly the bureaucrats and consultants who were engaged in drafting the policy, for lending the policy framework from Asian Development Bank (ADB). Blames have also been made to make a cut, copy and paste from agricultural policy which were formulated in 1999 and agricultural policy of India.
However, it is drafted and we have got it at the table for discussion. Now we are coming to the point with dilemma with context and text of the policy. Already we have said that the ministry of agriculture has shown an intend to introduce the competitive commercial agricultural policy. But the policy have not described the principle of competition. So, competition has made a hidden agenda which will create a bigger threat to the small farms. It has denied the context of importance of small farms in agricultural development, which will also create more poverty and poor people. A very small number of jobs could be introduced in commercialized agriculture, but we couldn’t say, it will increase employment. Dilemma is here which need to be analyzed carefully before entering in the competitive commercialized agriculture.
The policy documents e.g. Perspective Plan 2021 (Vision 2021), Country Investment Plan, 6th fifth year plan including the election manifesto of the present government shows eagerness to reduce poverty 65 million to 45 million by 2013 and 22 million by 2021. We have also seen the eagerness to reduce unemployment 28 million to 24 million by 2013 and 15 million by 2021.
Have the policy direction been reflected in the agricultural policy? apparently not! The draft policy is not prepared within the policy framework which is indicated above paragraph. A very simple example is, the draft policy has satisfied the policy framework of PRSP-2 (Clause-1.4) which has already declared abandon by government and a draft of 6th fifth year plan formulated under the policy framework of vision 2021. It has shows negligence to read the policy framework for economic development of present government which should be addressed.
The policy has formulated to address the crops sector particularly, because the government has policy for forestry, animal husbandry and fisheries. But the policy has only address cereals and forgotten to address the non-cereals sector like jute, sugarcane, cotton etc. If the government intend to formulate the crops policy, then it needs to be address the non-cereal crops also.
We are in the traditional agricultural system with limited uses of technology and farmers engaged in the farms have limited skills and knowledge on contemporary competitive agriculture system which should be addressed in policy to increase the skills and knowledge of the farmers. But there is not policy direction in the draft policy.
The educated youths irrespective of poor and rich agricultural families migrated to the urban for seeking employment who have some practical knowledge on the agriculture. A small initiative from government could make these youths a skillful and knowledgable modern agriculturalists who could sustain in the competitive commercialized agriculture. It could reduce poverty and increase employment in the rural areas. But we have not found any policy framework in the draft agricultural policy to develop effective human resources for commercialized agriculture which should be addressed given most importance in policy agenda.
After independance of Bangladesh, the first agricultural policy gave a great importance in coperative agricultural systems. But the consequent government after Bangabandhu Shikh Mujibur Rahman did not pay attention to cooperative policy. This is the time to examine it again while we need to enter in the competitive market in agriculture which has been address in the draft policy. Only cooperative system could save the small farms in the competitive comercilized agricultural system.
In the budget documents for fiscal year 2010-11 and 2011-12, we found that the government has introduced farmers club and producers markets in the agricultural regions for ensuring fair prices for the agricultural product to the farmers. But the draft policy did not pay attention to this policy which should be addressed as policy agenda.
While the world is standing against the genetically modified organisms in foods, then Bangladesh has just stood in opposite in the issue. Genetically modified organisms injects in the foods in Bangladesh and the draft policy has also stood for GMO. We should examine it!
While high court of India has given stay order in BT brinjal, invented by Mahico, an Indian Company; for the same time, in Bangladesh, we are promoting it! Gene of a gram positive bacteria named bacillus thuringiensis injects at the brinjal which have created a toxic protein within the brinjal. The toxic protein and trasmission of genes could be a great threat to the human being! But we have shown don’t care motive! The government should go vigorus research on GMO before permiting the company to produce the GMO foods which should crearly declared in the agricultural policy.
The process of formulation of the policy has already been questioned by agricultural campaigners, organisations and institutions. The results for not communicating the policy to the stakeholders have shown to above. So, the government should hear the cry of the stakeholders before drafting the final policy.