The first day of the 2017 SRSC South Asia was loaded with activities as the participants, including farmer leaders, farmer organizations, MTCP2 NIAs and representatives from the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture, visited a community seed bank and met with dry fish producers and members of Bangladesh Fish Workers Alliance. This year’s SRSC SA was held in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh on 22-25 August 2017.
Community Seed Bank
The Khurushkul Seeds Bank in Cox’s Bazar was established by Khurushkul Farmers Association with the support of COAST Trust and MTCP2 Bangladesh.
Asian Farmers’ Association Secretary General Esther Penunia commended the efforts of the farmers in preserving and reproducing local seeds and assured them that they are not alone in their endeavor and that they share the goals of many farmers in Asia. According to Penunia, all the countries in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific implementing the MTCP2 program have initiatives on community seed banks.
“There might come a time when farmers will no longer need the seeds of multi-national corporations. Farmers will be able to have quality seeds right at their doorsteps, in their community, free or with very minimum price”, says Penunia during the short meeting with the farmers.
Because private companies control the seeds in the market, MTCP2 Bangladesh is regaining the control of seeds for the farmers by forming groups of farmers and providing them training on quality seed production and preservation, supporting them to establish a community seed bank, supporting them in their campaign and helping them in marketing their products locally. The seed bank helps the group members and the community be self-reliant in seeds and it is also a source of additional income for the farmers. Through MTCP2, 14 seed-producing groups have been formed so far.
Dry Fish Production
Cox’s Bazar is the biggest dry fish producer in Bangladesh. Majority of the population in this area rely on the production of dried fish for their livelihood.
However, there in a rampant use of hazardous pesticides in preserving seawater fishes. Thus, consumers are getting chemical-coated dried fish, which poses health risks.
COAST and Bangladesh Fish Workers Alliance, with the support of MTCP2, have been working to motivate dry fish producers to stop the use of chemicals in dry fish production. COAST provides simple technology of organic dry fish production to small fisher folks and at the same time, they create demand for pesticide-free dry fish in the market.
MTCP2 Bangladesh gave training on different eco-friendly methods of dry fish production such as using nets, using turmeric water, fish dryer, etc. to groups of dry fish producers. So far, there have been 6 groups developed who are producing dry fish without the use of pesticides.
According to Fatima Begum, dry fish producer, pesticide-free dry fish sells higher in the market. She also added that when they were producing fish with the use of pesticides, it attracts a lot of insects, but when they started using alternative techniques, insects no longer flock to the fish drying area.
To wrap up the field visit, the delegates briefly met with the members of Bangladesh Fish Workers Alliance.
The Medium Term Cooperation Programme with Farmers’ Organisations in Asia and the Pacific, Phase II (MTCP2) aims to strengthen the capacities of farmers organizations in Asia and the Pacific to deliver better, improved and inclusive services to their members and to engage in effective dialogues with governments, thereby making FOs more viable, responsive and accountable to their members, more respected by their partners and have more participation in policy-making and program implementation processes of governments and IFAD country operations.