ENGAGE4Sundarbans hosts session on Agro-Ecology at the CSD conference

The Bengal River delta, with a population of 250 million, relies predominantly on agriculture. In Bangladesh, agriculture accounts for 13 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs 40 percent of the total labour force. Despite efforts, agricultural production systems remain mostly traditional and subsistence-based. The progress towards a sustainable and diversified agriculture is crucial for the overall development of the country. However, coastal areas of Bangladesh and India are increasingly exposed to climate variabilities, such as frequent flooding, erratic rainfall, droughts, and salinity intrusion and affects the agriculture sector. Climate change, coupled with unsustainable agricultural practices, like shrimp farming, threatens future agricultural production, natural resource sustainability, and the integrity and quality of ecosystems.

In coastal Bangladesh, where land is only a few centimetres above sea level, large swathes of agricultural land are becoming degraded, and crop yields are shrinking due to increased salinity. This is impacting the livelihoods of millions. Therefore, Ecosystem-based Adaptation is the ultimate solution, as it uses biodiversity and ecosystem services to help people adapt to climate change, restores ecosystems while improving food production, and ensuring sustainable livelihoods for millions.

Ecosystem-based agriculture/agroecology (EBA) not only has the potential to provide sustainable livelihoods for millions but also to protect ecosystems, prevent land degradation, restore degraded lands, and support biodiversity.

The aforementioned points were discussed at a discussion session titled ‘Harvesting sustainability: Agro-ecology as climate resilient adaptation practices’ hosted by SAJIDA Foundation and organised at the CSD Conference on October 30, 2023.

The session focused on critical review of current ecosystem-based agriculture practices, considering their impact on livelihoods, ecosystem rejuvenation, and biodiversity conservation.

The welcome addresses were delivered by Rene Veron from the University of Lausanne and Dr. Samiya Selim from ULAB. Dharitri Kumar Sarker, Deputy Secretary, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC) was the Chief Guest at the event.

Individual presentations were shared at the session by three different practitioners Mohon Kumar Das, Executive Director of LEADERS; Julfiqar Haider, Programme Development Officer from SAJIDA Foundation, and Debojit Mondal and Shreashi Bhattacharya from Sundarban Jana Sramajibi Manch (SJSM) and IIT, Kharagpur.

A panel discussion was organised soon after, that explored the opportunities, and challenges Agro-ecology has to offer and the ways forward considering climate change and current policy landscape.

The panellists included Md. Shahariar jaman, Associate professor, Department of Agroforestry and Environmental Science, Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University; Dr. A H M Shafiullah Habib, Professor, Department of Zoology, Jagannath university and Shreyashi Bhattacharya, PhD scholar, Rekhi Centre of Excellence for the Science of Happiness, IIT Kharagpur.

SAJIDA Foundation co-hosted this session with ULAB as part of ENGAGE4Sundarbans project at the CSD Conference 2023 held at the ULAB premises.