The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Ministry of Agriculture have begun distributing homestead vegetable gardening (HVG) kits among 26,000 smallholder farmers in coastal Bangladesh to combat the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Mesbahul Islam, secretary of the agriculture ministry, formally inaugurated seed distribution on Thursday via a virtual platform. IFAD's South Asia Hub Head Rasha Omar also joined the event.
IFAD provided Tk7.76 crore to the government of Bangladesh for the HVG kits under its global response to the Covid-19 crisis programme Rural Poor Stimulus Facility.
"This initiative will support coastal farmers to produce more vegetables year-round. The overall vegetable production will increase and nutritious vegetables will be available in markets," said Mesbahul Islam while inaugurating the seed distribution event.
"Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged everyone not to leave even an inch of land uncultivated. In that spirit, to attain food security for every person in the country, the Ministry of Agriculture and Department of Agricultural Extension are working to facilitate support for farmers to carry out agricultural activities," he added.
Rasha Omar, head of IFAD's South Asia Hub, said, "Bangladesh was among the first countries to apply to the RPSF, to get the funding and it is the first country to implement it."
"This initiative directly contributes to two objectives of the government of Bangladesh, which are, firstly, to avoid the Covid-19 induced health crisis becoming a food crisis, and secondly, the Prime Minister's vision to ensure that no land remains unproductive," Rasha Omar added.
The RPSF was launched in April 2020 to support farmers and rural communities to continue growing and selling food, and the HVG kits are being distributed to the smallholders to ensure timely access to: inputs, information, markets, and liquidity.
IFAD's Country Programme Officer for Bangladesh Sherina Tabassum said, "The Bangladesh country programme is one of IFAD's most agile programmes. The quick action from the Ministry of Agriculture starting from making the immediate request for funding from RPSF to distributing the seeds on time to the farmers is highly commendable."
Smallholder farmers of Patuakhali, Barguna and adjoining districts will receive seeds, fertilisers, and tools, along with capacity building support, for high-value and nutrient-rich homestead vegetable gardening.
Each micro-gardening kit contains 12 kinds of high-quality vegetable seeds, including: spinach, red amaranth, carrot, radish, cauliflower, bitter gourd, and beans; a set of seven recommended fertilisers; nets for fencing; and a six-litre watering can.
The quantity of these inputs is sufficient for cultivating an average of 12.50 decimals of an acre.
Among others, Md Asadullah, director general of DAE and Md Hasanuzzaman Kallol, additional secretary, Extension Wing of the Ministry of Agriculture, also joined the event.