Bangladesh's rice farmers recovering from Cyclone Mohashen, which hit the country last week, will receive free packages of flood-tolerant rice seed that they can plant next season to protect their future crops from flood damage.
This donation was announced during the visit of Bangladeshi Minister of Agriculture Begum Matia Chowdhury to the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) headquarters in the Philippines. Minister Chowdhury came with a party of senior parliamentarians, members of the Standing Committee on Agriculture.
Committee members were Chairman Shawkat Momen Shahjahan, Kh. Abdul Baten, Abul Kalam Azad, Ahmed Nazmin Sultana, and Md. Mazibor Rahman Sarwar.
IRRI, through the Stress-Tolerant Rice for Africa and South Asia (STRASA) project, will provide 10,000 seed minikits (2.5 kilos each) of high-yielding, flood-tolerant rice varieties to farmers in Barisal Division, which was hit by the cyclone. Farmers will be able to plant the seed in the aman (rainy) crop season (August-December) and multiply the seed on their own plots.
"We are hopeful that this small contribution will strengthen the resilience of the many farmers in Bangladesh who remain vulnerable to storm damage and flooding," said Dr. Bruce Tolentino, IRRI's deputy director general for communication and partnerships.
Fortunately, the region's boro (winter) harvest was not damaged so much by Cyclone Mohashen, as the crop had just been harvested. Mostly, the aus (summer) crop in both the nursery and fields was damaged. However, floodwater entered houses and damaged stored seeds for use in the next season. Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to floods because of its many rivers and frequent cyclones. Its geographic area is prone to flooding that causes heavy losses to rice crops, 26–68% depending upon the severity.
Under the STRASA project, two flood-tolerant rice varieties, BRRI dhan51 (Swarna-Sub1) and BRRI dhan52 (BR11-Sub1), were released in Bangladesh for commercial cultivation in 2010. Since then, more than 600,000 farmers have benefited from the excellent performance of these two varieties.
Moreover, 60,000 seed minikits of these varieties were distributed in 20 southern districts of Bangladesh in 2012 under a seed project supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
"Rice contributes more than 80% to the country's total food supply," Minister Chowdhury said. "During the past four decades, significant progress in rice research has taken place, where IRRI played a great role not only in supporting the development of new varieties but also by advancing knowledge."
Two more submergence-tolerant rice varieties with medium duration and good grain quality, BINA dhan 11 and BINA dhan 12, are expected to be released in Bangladesh by June 2013.
During the Minister's visit, IRRI senior staff and scientists also briefed her, along with members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Agriculture, on the STRASA project and other IRRI activities in Bangladesh.