A good project going to waste

Do the authorities not care about promoting safer food?

A pheromone trap being used in the cultivation of tomato at Darikamari village in Panchagarh sadar upazila of Panchagarh district. There has been a lack of proper marketing for safe crop production, which is discouraging farmers from cultivating safe foods, according to a survey. Photo: Star/file

A Tk 58.5 crore project called the “Safe Crop Production through Integrated Pest Management” had created enormous interest among farmers to grow foods by using bio-pesticides instead of chemical pesticides. However, according to a survey report by the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the planning ministry, farmers are again returning to using chemical pesticides, mainly because of higher prices of environment-friendly pesticides and inadequate marketing facilities for safe foods.

The IMED said the project strengthened safe food production by encouraging farmers to use bio-pesticides and fertiliser through setting up 6,700 farmers’ field schools, 6,700 integrated pest management (IPM) clubs and providing training to farmers. But many farmers who had been brought under the scheme are now returning to their old ways. Meanwhile, about 20 percent of the IPM clubs have already become inactive due to a lack of effective monitoring and the registration system for the club membership being extra complicated.

According to the IMED survey, 12.7 percent of new farmers and 10.4 percent of land had been included in the IPM system every year since the scheme was implemented. Also due to the scheme, pesticide use had decreased by 14.26 percent, and costs of paddy, vegetable and fruit cultivation decreased by 11.30 percent, 23.39 percent and 14.09 percent per hectare, respectively. These are all huge benefits. But then why are the authorities allowing the scheme to lose steam so pitifully? Food safety has always been a major concern in Bangladesh. When you have a scheme that is so successful, why allow it to die because of such trivial reasons, particularly when they can be easily addressed?

This is a perfect example of how different projects that cost taxpayer’s massive amounts of money are allowed to simply wither away, even when they are hugely beneficial, due to mismanagement and apathy of the authorities. If the authorities are so disinclined to continue promoting safer food production methods, then why did they initiate the project in the first place?

We call on the government to look into this matter immediately. This is the type of project that should have the government’s full backing and that deserves to be promoted. In order to make the success of this project sustainable, the authorities should better monitor it, make the processes involved less complicated and ensure that these food produces are better marketed—as there is already a great deal of interest from consumers for safer food.

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