Bangladesh’s capacities to innovate and improve agriculture productivity.
The enthusiasm was impressive. Almost one hundred people from many different backgrounds came together in Dhaka, Bangladesh, to give their input to a major new initiative called ‘Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems’, or CDAIS.
This inception workshop, 5-6 December, organized by the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council and the Bangladesh office of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), marked the launch of CDAIS in Bangladesh. But it also offered a rare opportunity for farmers, researchers, extension professionals, NGOs, government officials and business people to come together. “NGOs often have no contact with the government or the private sector for that matter,” says Rokeya Begum Shafali, executive director of Aid-Comilla, an NGO that works directly with farmers and trains them to implement new research. “Working together with people here was in itself a great success,” Shafali adds. She values the common collaboration and discussions, and believes that it now will be easier to engage with officials.
Capacity is needed to develop innovation
Such recognition of the gains from collaboration were encouraging signs for the organizers of this meeting, which aimed to agree a shared vision for capacity development for agricultural innovation systems in Bangladesh.
“People and their organizations need the capacity to collaborate, network, and to understand each other in order to be able to engage in agricultural innovation”, says Karin Nichterlein, Officer in Charge of the Research and Extension Unit at FAO. CDAIS is a global partnership between AGRINATURA-EEIG, a grouping of European universities and research organizations, and FAO currently active in eight pilot countries.
Climate change makes cooperation urgent
Bangladesh is one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change, as rising sea levels rapidly inundate major parts of the low lying fertile delta area, or renders these areas saline. Bangladesh remains a poor country and has by far the highest population density in the world for a country of its size.
Coming from all over the country, people at the workshop have the huge task of ensuring sufficient food for an increasingly urban, and displaced, population. Many of them are involved in innovative projects that could help the country advance, but they often realize that they need different skills, knowledge and attitudes to broker the necessary linkages and ensure that the needs of farmers, entrepreneurs and consumers are adequately addressed.
Great ideas need to be spread
Another participant who is hopeful about CDAIS is Mohammad Ali Hazari, leader of United People’s Trust, an organization that advocates consumer rights. The struggle for the right to safe and healthy food is central for Hazari. He hopes that CDAIS can be a factor supporting capacity development among consumers so they better can advocate politicians and business people.
Aim is to bridge capacity gap
Groups of participants mapped out the strengths of the links they already have with other stakeholders, identified areas where capacity development are needed, and produced pictures of their vision for a well-functioning, innovative agricultural sector.
“It was really encouraging to see how engaged the participants were“ said Claire Coote, AGRINATURA-EEIG focal person for Bangladesh at the end of the workshop.
Coote and her Bangladeshi partners will now carry on a needs assessment and plan for concrete interventions. She explains that “Our aim is to help Bangladesh bridge the capacity gap, and pave the way for the development and diffusion of agricultural innovations that are better equipped to meet the demands of its principal users, such as farmers, agri-business and consumers.”
Text and photos: Bertil Videt