Bangladesh: Growing the Economy through Advances in Agriculture

October 9, 2016


Challenges – Climate change, limited diversity and opportunity

Bangladesh’s rural economy, and specifically agriculture, have been powerful drivers of poverty reduction in Bangladesh since 2000.  Indeed, agriculture accounted for 90 percent of the reduction in poverty between 2005 and 2010.

More than 70 percent of Bangladesh’s population and 77 percent of its workforce lives in rural areas. Nearly half of all of Bangladesh’s workers and two-thirds in rural areas are directly employed by agriculture, and about 87 percent of rural households rely on agriculture for at least part of their income.

Bangladesh has made commendable progress over the past 40 years in achieving food security, despite frequent natural disasters and population growth (food grain production, for example, tripled between 1972 and 2014, from 9.8 to 34.4 million tons). With one of the fastest rates of productivity growth in the world since 1995 (averaging 2.7 percent per year, second only to China), Bangladesh’s agricultural sector has benefited from a sound and consistent policy framework backed up by substantial public investments in technology, rural infrastructure and human capital.

But Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, which poses a long-term threat to the country’s agricultural sector, particularly in areas affected by flooding, saline intrusion, and drought.

Faster and more inclusive rural growth with job creation will require greater agricultural diversification together with more robust rural non-farm enterprise development.  A shift in production from rice to higher-value crops will significantly reduce malnutrition, trigger more rapid growth in incomes, and create more and better on-farm and non-farm jobs, especially for women and youth. Livestock and fisheries also offer tremendous potential for reducing malnutrition and increasing incomes and jobs in a severely land constrained economy, but struggle because of inadequate government support.

Investment in and expansion of the rural non-farm enterprises (or RNFEs) is a parallel priority for Bangladesh. RFNE’s can help households become more resilient to climate shocks through income and livelihood diversification. And they can be a potentially powerful source of job generation, especially for youth and women, through more efficient and competitive value chains.


Solutions – Stronger resilience, livelihood support and diversification

The World Bank has addressed Bangladesh’s agriculture needs through:

The Integrated Agriculture Productivity Project (IAPP) is designed to improve resilience of agriculture production particularly in northern and southern affected by flash floods, drought and saline intrusion from tidal surges. IAPP also supports adaptation and mitigation programs that introduce heat-tolerant, drought-tolerant and saline-tolerant crops, improved soil health management, and diversification out of rice production.

The Modern Food Storage Facilities Project (MFSFP), initiated in 2007 when Bangladesh faced a potential food security crisis because it was unable to procure rice on the international markets, expands and improves grain storage infrastructure and strengthens the management of grain stocks. It will enable Bangladesh to better withstand frequent threats to food security, especially for its poorest and most vulnerable citizens, from natural disasters and external shocks.

The Social Investment Program Project (SIPP-III), known as the Nuton Jibon Livelihood Improvement Project (NJLIP), builds and strengthens community institutions that mobilize the poor and extreme poor, and provides them with funding for small infrastructure and livelihood support, nutrition awareness, and agricultural production knowledge. NJLIP also increases economic opportunities through producer groups, cooperatives and societies that promote access to markets.  

The National Agriculture Technology Program (NATP-II) helps the Government of Bangladesh increase productivity and food security, encourage climate change adaptation, and enhance nutrition through safer and more diversified foods. It focuses on better technology and farm production practices, and it targets small holders and women’s participation in agriculture.


By 2020:

Eight modern steel grain storage silos will be constructed with a capacity of about 535,500 tons of rice and wheat.

500,000 households will have household storage silos in the disaster-prone areas including
the coastal zone.

NATP II. By 2021:

More than one million farmers (35 percent female) will benefit from the
project activities

There will be 14 to 100 percent average annual yield increases in certain agricultural

More than 21,000 tons of agricultural commodities will be sold annually through new structures