City Profile / 1st Quarter 2020


by Arfar Razi

One of the main concerns of Bangladesh, home to 170 million people, is to strengthen food security for its people. The percentage of the country’s total arable land has been decreasing since 1989. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization’s report, the country had 73 per cent arable land in 1989, which decreased to 59 per cent in 2012.

According to the Global Food Security Index, Bangladesh was ranked 83rd in 2019, the lowest among the South Asian countries. To improve the country’s position in terms of securing access to food, the government of Bangladesh has developed high-level policy initiatives, such as Vision 2021 and Perspective Plan. Such top-down tools and initiatives can only achieve their projected targets if the complex characteristics of the country’s diverse deltaic ecosystem is understood thoroughly, while acknowledging the value of ecosystem services.

Abdul Mazid, 64 (photo courtesy of Ar. Nabila Binte Nasir)


Shrinking of Farmland?

One of the key factors causing a loss of agricultural land worldwide is attributed to urbanisation. Economic expansion is often positively correlated to the loss of agricultural land. However, this expansion is not uniform in rural and urban areas, and this has led to an influx of people into the cities, especially in Dhaka city.

It is estimated that in Bangladesh, about 1 per cent of farmland is being lost annually to non-agricultural activities. Agricultural land per capita has decreased by 50 per cent in the last 25 years. In Dhaka, open and cultivable land has been converted to built-up areas, thus, decreasing agricultural land at an alarming rate.

Farming in and around Dhaka

The main driving forces for farmers in cities to become engaged in urban agriculture are food security and income generation. The urban agricultural markets are developing in response to growing demands inside the city; the demand for fruits and vegetables is increasing, which has led to the development of small farms in the city’s periphery.

A similar trend is observed in response to livestock and poultry demands inside the city. A study conducted by UNDP 1996 estimated the economic benefits of urban agriculture producers and found out that Dhaka’s urban food producers are earning $500 per person monthly from urban food production, which was much higher than the poverty line. Therefore, the expansion of urban agriculture could pull a significant portion of the urban poor out of poverty.

Awareness of the loss of farming culture: Who works?

There is a general lack of awareness of rights among farmers in Bangladesh and a lack of self-organisation. There is also a general lack of awareness of the loss of farming culture in the city. In Bangladesh, there are three categories of organisations working for farmers’ rights.

Agricultural land per capita has decreased by 50 per cent in the last 25 years.


Climate Change and the Food Situation

With multiplying impacts of climate change—increasing floods; cyclones; droughts—a variation of practising agriculture has been observed. Bangladesh is one of the worst affected countries of climate change. Since the majority of the population depends on agriculture, people need to shift their mode of farming.

Displaced farmers: Loss of skills?

Displacement and migration have been the consequences of natural and anthropogenic phenomena. Usually, displaced people mean those who have been forced to live in other places from their roots. Bangladesh has been one such country that has a serious number of internally displaced population.


Food Demand and Supply

Bangladesh has nearly achieved food security in terms of rice production, the staple food in the country. Rice production has tripled over the last three decades. However, a report by the United Nation’s World Food Programme (WFP) in 2016 found that an alarmingly large number of people still lacks food security and remains hungry, and most people do not have a sufficiently nutritious and diverse diet.

Food Waste: Who and How is it Handled?

Dhaka produces approximately 5,000 tonnes of food waste daily. The people in Bangladesh are wasting about 5.5 per cent of the total procured food. Of the total wastage, 3 per cent is being made during procurement and preparation stages; 1.4 per cent during serving; and another 1.1 per cent from the plates (BIDS, 2016).

They come to Dhaka and as there is no farmland in the city, they change their profession to rickshaw pullers and day labourers, small business owners, etc.


Curtin University of Australia, Dhaka University’s Meteorology Department and Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) conducted a research and found out that the average temperature of Dhaka remains at about 2 degrees Celsius higher than that of the rural areas in summer and monsoon seasons. Only 2.7 per cent of the total area in Dhaka is now protected as a green area.


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