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Early rice harvests ease annual famine in Bangladesh

Bangladeshi farmers are benefiting from research that allows farmers to harvest rice earlier, giving them more time to grow a second crop to provide desperately needed food and ease hunger during monga -- the hunger months.

Monga is a yearly famine that occurs in northwest Bangladesh from September to November after the previous season's food has run out and before the harvest of transplanted rice in December.

According to the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, monga affects more than 2 million households in 5 districts that depend on rice for their food.

Through the Irrigated Rice Research Consortium (IRRC), the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BRRI), and the local alliance Northwest Area Focal Forum are encouraging practices to reduce the time it takes to grow a rice crop.

"Adopting direct seeding so rice can be sown earlier and planting a shorter-duration rice variety can bring the harvest forward 25-40 days," said Dr. David Johnson, IRRI scientist and IRRC work group leader.

"This can significantly improve the quality of people's lives and reduce monga by creating early harvest jobs for the landless poor, delivering an early food supply, increasing the chances that a second crop can be grown, spreading the demand for harvest labor, and creating jobs for the landless and income for farmers," he added.

New management techniques, and particularly weed management, must be simultaneously adopted with these new practices.

According to Dr. M.A. Mazid, head of the BRRI Rangpur station, direct-seeded rice can reduce crop establishment costs and may slightly increase rice yields.

"With a better chance to grow a second crop after rice, such as maize, potato, mustard, wheat, chickpea, or vegetables, farmers will have more food and an opportunity to make some income," he said.

The Bangladeshi government is now also promoting the adoption of the shorter-duration rice variety and direct seeding as part of a national program and three-year action plan to mitigate monga.

"This project demonstrates how effective it is to link government and local nongovernment organizations that work closely with farmer groups and rural communities to improve technology transfer," said IRRI's Dr. Johnson.


Contact: Sophie Clayton
International Rice Research Institute

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