IFAD supports smallholder farmers with nutritious homestead vegetable gardening kits

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) have started distributing homestead vegetable gardening (HVG) kits among 26,000 smallholder farmers in coastal Bangladesh to combat the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Agriculture Secretary Mesbahul Islam formally inaugurated the seed distribution virtually on Thursday. IFAD’s South Asia Hub Head Rasha Omar joined the event.

Under its Rural Poor Stimulus Facility (RPSF), IFAD’s global response to the COVID-19 crisis, fund was provided to the government of Bangladesh for the HVG kits.

Secretary Islam said this initiative will support coastal farmers to produce more vegetable round the year and the overall vegetable production will increase and nutritious vegetable will be available in markets.

“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, MoA and Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) is working to facilitate support for the farmers to carry out agricultural activities,” he said.

The Agriculture Secretary said the government has already started supporting 32 gardens in every Union, and planned to increase the homestead gardens to 100 in every Union.

Speaking as special guest, Rasha Omar 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 induced health crisis becoming a food crisis, and secondly the Prime Minister vision to ensure that no land remains unproductive, she said.

“Women are the keepers of good variety seeds for households and keepers while ensuring nutrition for the family,” said Omar praising the project’s approach of ensuring woman farmers’ participation in the in the distribution of HVG kits.

She also said this will contribute a long way to the improved nutrition of the households and will lay down the foundation for agricultural intensification and promotion of high value crops in line with the orientation of the Ministry of Agriculture.

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.”

“We hope that the production of nutritious food in home gardens will continue beyond this project’s intervention. The capacity building support for targeted households will generate local knowledge, especially on nutrition, and this will encourage adoption by other households that are not directly supported. The vegetable garden will increase households income, which in the long run will enable the smallholder farmers to invest in procuring inputs for future cultivation,” Tabassum added.

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.

Md Asadullah, Director General, DAE said the recipient farmers will also be trained and advised on utilising the inputs and will to produce at least 40 kilos of vegetable from each homestead gardens at the end of the season.

“This will contribute to the total production of vegetable in the country and intake of vegetables in daily meal.”

The HVG kits will ensure enhanced nutrition through dietary diversity, increased incomes of poor and vulnerable households, and availability of nutritious produce in local markets.

Md Hasanuzzaman Kallol, Additional Secretary, Extension Wing, MoA said that IFAD contribution to distribution nutritious HVG kits is remarkable.

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to threaten the lives and livelihoods of the world’s most vulnerable people, the IFAD-financed Smallholder Agricultural Competitiveness Project (SACP) received these additional funds from RPSF in September 2020, making Bangladesh the first country to roll out the RPSF initiative in the Asia and the Pacific Region.

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 6-litre watering can.

The quantities of these inputs is sufficient for cultivating an average of 12.50 decimals of an acre, according to IFAD.

Source: United News of Bangladesh