13, May 2021 |
Authors:Ali S.S. Ahmad M.R. Shoaib J.U.M.Sheik M.A.Hoshain M.I.Hall R.L.Macintosh K.A.Williams P.N.
The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent protectionary lockdowns have had a dramatic impact on agricultural production globally. Barishal division is the ‘grain-basket’ of Bangladesh and a main rice cultivation centre within the country. This study captures perspectives on the environmental socioeconomic stressors impacting primary production in the coastal region of Barishal, and the impact of the first wave of the global pandemic. In our methodology, a cross-sectional survey is carried out amongst agriculture officers and farmers focusing on land management practices, environmental stressors, and the consequences of the pandemic on winter crop harvests and wet season production. A total number of 234 people participated, of which 31 were agriculture officers and 203 were farmers. Government officers completed an online questionnaire, while farmer responses were collected through Focus Group Discussion. The results show that despite the lockdown, 76% of responders claimed that they had harvested more than 80% of the cultivated winter rice. Other crops, such as fruits and vegetables, were less successfully returned. Despite food production pressures, land capacity was not fully utilised, with a significant/notable proportion of fields left fallow, principally due to periodic flooding events that sufferer concurrently from soil organic matter depletion. Upazila, not severely waterlogged, had salinity problems to contend with. While transportation restrictions and labour shortages were key constraints arising from the impact of COVID-19 on both agricultural production and post harvesting (processing, distribution, and utilisation). Current storage facilities for perishable produce, such as fruit, were found to be lacking, which further compounded access to such food items. The COVID-19 pandemic shocked agricultural productivity and food supply within the Barishal division. However, despite managing to return a successful rice harvest during the lockdown, it was found that the pre-existing environmental stressors arising from cyclones and flooding continued to be the primary threat to agriculture, even during a global pandemic. Our findings have been used to inform management options to increase resilience in the region.
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