The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC), and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) organized a day-long consultation and user engagement workshop on collaborative development of agricultural drought monitoring services in Bangladesh on 17 August 2017. The event took place at the BARC campus in Dhaka, Bangladesh. The workshop was organized under the USAID-funded SERVIR Hindu Kush Himalaya (SERVIR-HKH) Initiative and the Climate Services for Resilient Development (CSRD) in South Asia partnership.
The workshop brought together key partners to discuss anticipated methods, work plans, and the user engagement process for the effective development and long-term sustainability of the agricultural drought monitoring service. The northern region of Bangladesh has been facing agricultural droughts. This can reduce the productivity of farming communities, especially where irrigation is not available. Climate change projections suggest a future decrease in precipitation in the dry season, with uncertainties for the spatial location of precipitation in the future monsoon season. Where farmers are unable to adapt, bottlenecks in crop productivity and increased livelihood vulnerability are likely to result.
During the inaugural session of the workshop, Muhammad Jalal Uddin, Executive Chairman of BARC said that the country’s agricultural institutions are committed to ending hunger and poverty. He added that with the adoption of improved agricultural practices, Bangladesh has become self-sufficient in rice, and that further work is needed to attain overall nutrition sufficiency. Jalal Uddin also discussed Bangladesh’s vision for 2030 and its strategy to realize the vision. Referring to the loss of life and property the ongoing flooding has caused, Jala Uddin emphasized on the need to adopt new technologies, including remote sensing applications, to improve the predictability of climate hazards, including floods and droughts. He also thanked the leadership at the Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) for their efforts in establishing the necessary climate services.
Shams Uddin Ahmed, Director of BMD, extended his full support to establishing agricultural climate services to benefit farmers in Bangladesh. He noted that recurrent droughts in parts of Bangladesh have caused severe groundwater depletion. Citing the case of the High Barind Tract, where groundwater accessibility is a growing concern due to continued drought, he shared that the government has posed restrictions on deep well extraction—allowing the practice only for drinking water extraction—to conserve crucial groundwater resources. He added that access to good quality drought monitoring and early warning information could help develop climate services that can be used to help farmers adapt to these challenges. As such, institutions involved in agro-meteorological prediction bear the responsibility of helping facilitate improved information flow and climate advisories to farmers across Bangladesh.
Timothy J Krupnik, Systems Agronomist with CIMMYT and Project Leader for CSRD in South Asia and Bangladesh, briefed the participants on the CSRD programme. He said that as an international public-private partnership dedicated to promoting and enabling climate services that increase farmers’ resilience to the impacts of climate variability and climate change, the programme can positively change behaviour and affect policy in developing countries.
Birendra Bajracharya, Regional Programme Manager, Mountain Environment Regional Information System (MENRIS) at ICIMOD, highlighted the opportunities earth observation data products present for addressing societal challenges. He emphasized that the user-centric “services” approach of the SERVIR-HKH initiative at ICIMOD is guided by the overarching goal of increasing the sustainable use of earth observation information and geospatial technologies for environmental management and improved resilience to climate change in the region.
Through CSRD and SERVIR-HKH, efforts are underway to strengthen existing or establish new drought monitoring and early warning systems by incorporating suitable earth observation datasets and linking them to information on local cropping systems in South Asia. The collaborators are working together to establish information communication technology (ICT)-based platforms for the provisioning of user oriented, easily accessible, timely, and decision-relevant scientific information in the form of climate services. Under this partnership, BARC is working to strengthen the capacities of national research and agricultural extension institutes in terms of using geographic information systems (GIS) and remote sensing approaches for drought risk management.
ICIMOD hosts the SERVIR-HKH hub and is part of a larger SERVIR network—a joint development initiative of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). CSRD brings together public and private organizations and agencies committed to realizing the potential of enhancing climate resilience and climate-smart policies and practices throughout the world, particularly in developing countries. As a public-private partnership, CSRD is supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), UK AID, the UK Met Office, the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), ESRI, Google, the American Red Cross, and the Skoll Global Threats Fund.