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Community Contribution

Geodata Based Information Services for Smallholder Farmers in Bangladesh (GEOBIS)

Shamsuzzaman Chisty

Over the last two decades, Bangladesh has achieved considerable economic growth and poverty reduction, but the country still has a poverty rate over 30% and a high level of malnutrition; also the share of the food insecure population was estimated at 45% in 2014. The country has a net cultivated area of nearly 20 million acres. The crop intensity is about 190% and the average farm size is exceptionally small (at about 1.2 acres or 0.5 hectares) per household.
Bangladeshi agricultural sector grew at a rate of 4.8% between 1990 and 2005 and the agricultural productivity improved too, but due to the high pressure on natural resources and the unfavorable structure of the sector, the Government of Bangladesh is pushing for increased use of technology and more intensive agricultural practices to improve food security and sustain economic growth.
Bangladesh is also ranked as the world’s 5th most exposed country to natural disaster, including floods, cyclones, droughts and earthquakes. Recent major floods occurred in 1988, 1998, 2004 and 2007. The 2000 floods directly affected 46 districts and over 40 million people, causing 970 human deaths, affecting 2.2 million acres (0.89 million hectares) of agricultural land and causing 1459 livestock deaths. The country is very exposed to tropical storms and associated storms source which can lead to major causalities in the coastal regions as evidenced by the death toll of 300,000 persons in a 1970 cyclone. Cyclones also cause major damage to agriculture and under cyclone Sidr of 2007 a total of 0.6 million hectares of land were partially or totally destroyed while over 460,000 head of livestock and poultry were killed. The country is also prone to drought. Between 1949 and 1991 the country experienced 24 droughts. The worse drought year was 1971 when 42% of the country was affected. Other risks to agriculture include hail, excessively high temperature, low temperature and crop and animal pests and diseases. The country is also very prone to climatic change such as reduced annual average rainfall and increased average temperatures as expected over the next century.
Poor farmers are often very precise and discerning consumers, whose risk aversion high. Without proper support, they are not likely to experiment with new information sources.

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