Bangladesh, rice is life!
Although, quantitatively Bangladesh is the fourth largest rice producer in the world (behind India, China and Indonesia),’ itsconnections and involvement with, rice is more than in any other major nation i . n I the world. Consider these facts: about 77% of Bangladesh’s agricultural land grows rice; about 70% of the population are engaged in rice production; nearly one half of all employments in Bangladesh is generated by the (ice sector; about 75% of the total calorie and 55% of total protein intake of an average Bangladeshi are obtained from rice. Undoubtedly, rice has a profound impact on rural Bangladeshi’s life style, art and culture, and tradition and heritage. This should appear hardly surprising when one would reflect on the fact that the floodplains of this country are one of the oldest cradles of human civilization where the rice plant was domesticated around the 5th millennium B.C.
Why was establishment of BRF necessary? .
It is beyond any question that the rice sector exerts an overwhelming influence on the national economy and its people ‘in Bangladesh. Yet, investments on research and development (R&D) on rice in Bangladesh have been very low, lower than almost any other major rice producing nation in the region. Only about 0.25% of agricultural GDP is spent on supporting R&D in agriculture as a whole. Clearly, the agriculture sector, in general, and the rice sector, in particular, deserved better. However,
it is still relevant to ask: why BRF was considered necessary to be established while there are already a number of public institutions such as Bangladesh Rice Research Institute, agricultural universities, and the Department of Agricultural Extension to address the various R&D issues concerning rice? The answer rests in the fact that, with its unique mission and programmatic emphasis on improving policies related to rice, the BRIF fills a critically important gap that existed in the research and development milieu in Bangladesh. BRF’s programs complement those of other R&D organizations. The Foundation maintains links with institutions and professionals of relevant international and regional organizations that share its mission, and with similar organizations in several major rice producing countries (e.g., rice foundations of Indonesia, Philippines, and Thailand). A close working relationship with the Asia Rice Foundation that is based in Bangkok facilitates these linkages and enables the local professionals to learn more about the priorities and programs of other countries.
In the pursuit of its objectives, BRF un ertakes specific research and development programs and activities for one to two years within the framework of a perspective plan that covers a longer period, say five years. This process started in January 2003 when BRF organized a workshop on the theme “Next Step in Rice” in which the various challenges facing the rice sector in Bangladesh were deliberated on by eminent professionals.
Presently, BRF is engaged in conducting two research projects one o ‘ n the potential of exporting aromatic and fine rice from Bangladesh, and the other on the impact of trade liberalization on the rice sector of Bangladesh. Both of these projects would be completed by the end of 2004. A high priority project that is expected to be initiated in late 2004 concerns formulation of a comprehensive national rice policy. Another proposal that is being developed concerns the establishment of a rice database at the
Foundation, which will serve as a depository of rice related information for use by interested individuals or groups such as researchers, educationists, students, development partners, and entrepreneurs.
Mission, objectives and work culture
The mission of Bangladesh Rice Foundation is to enhance and sustain the wellbeing of all people concerned with rice producers, processors, traders, workers, and consumers , with a special emphasis on the poor.
The Foundation pursues its mission through appropriate policy oriented research and development, information exchange, promotion, communication and advocacy roles so that
* rice production systems become ecologically and economically sustainable, and the nation enjoys an enhanced food security status;
* greater benefits accrue to all groups of people involved in the rice production processing marketing consumption chain, especially the poor; and
* more awareness and appreciation of the rich rice centric traditions, art and culture are created in the society and the priceless heritage is promoted and better preserved.
The Board of Trustees, which is elected by the Members of the Foundation, is empowered to direct and guide the Foundation in all of its programs and activities. The 15 member Board is composed of professionals from various disciplines and backgrounds. The Chairman, Vice Chairman and Treasurer are elected by the Trustees. The Board calls on outside specialists as and when needed for specific issues to be discussed. It functions in a consultative mode such that Board meetings, which are held once in about every two months, provide a forum for constructive discussion and deliberations on issues that require a decision. The Articles of Association of the Foundation provides for an effective mechanism for enlisting new Members as Trustees on a regular basis.
The Program Committee, which was appointed by the Board, is headed by the Vice Chairman and it has eight other Trustees as members. This body has been entrusted with the responsibility of planning programs and activities and recommending them to the Board. The Program Committee also utilizes outside specialists’ support on specific tasks when needed.
In developing its programs and activities, the Foundation is guided by the following principles:
* Identify and engage in addressing those problems of the rice sector that are of critical importance to the nation.
* Avoid committing resources to issues that are being adequately addressed by other organizations.
* Build partnership with concerned others in order to strengthen the intellectual and
Operative resource base of the Foundation.
The Members and Trustees contribute their time and energy for the Foundation on honorary basis. They do this because they believe in the mission that the Foundation stands for. Bangladesh Rice Foundation is a very young organization. It needs the support of dedicated professionals and the patronage of concerned individuals, institutions and the Government for its proper growth and success in its mission.
Other programs and activities
The inaugural ceremony of BRF
An inaugural ceremony of the Foundation was organized on 29th January 2003 at the auditorium of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council. The program was chaired by Mr. M. Syeduzzaman, Chirman of BRF. Honorable Minister for Finance & Planning Mr. Saifur Rahman, M.P. was the Chief Guest on the occasion. The event was attended by a large number of distinguished individuals from the Govt., the private sector, universities, research institutions, non government organizations, the media, and foreign missions. Mr, Irshadul Haq, Vice Chairman of BRF, presented the key note paper entitled ” Bangladesh Rice Is Production Growth Sustainable?” On this occasion, BRF awarded a special plaque of appreciation to Dr. Shah M. Hasanuzzaman, former Director General of BRRI and Member of the Planning Commission, in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the advancement of scientific methods of increasing rice production in Bangladesh.
Workshop on “Next Step in Rice”
Following the inaugural ceremony described above, a workshop on the theme “Next Step in Rice” was held at the BARC Conference Room. It was attended by selected professionals from the research and development sectors as well as the private sector. The main purpose of the workshop was to elicit discussion on, and response to, the 10 research papers that were presented in the workshop. The papers covered a wide range of rice related issues, including rice production sustainability, rice export, value addition, farmers’ income and employment, rice trade, and the role of rice in local culture and tradition. The workshop provided a useful forum for the participants to suggest issues and problems that BRF should address in its future p rograms. The inputs received from the participants were later discussed in BRF’s Program Committee and Board of Trustees meetings and these were considered in formulating the future programs and activities of the Foundation.
Publication of special journal Next Step in Rice
A special journal entitled Next Step in Rice, which included 11 papers that were presented at the workshop and the keynote paper of the inaugural ceremony described above, was published in January 2003, This journal was distributed to the participants of the inaugural ceremony and the workshop, and thus it served as a substantive introductory background of the Foundation to the participants of the two events.
Interim workshop on “Potential of exporting aromatic and fine rice from Bangladesh”
This workshop was organized on 10th of December 2003 to present the preliminary findings of the research project on this theme (see progress report on the project in this volume) and to obtain reactions, criticisms, and suggestions on these from the participants. It was participated by selected stakeholders from two Govt. agencies (MoA and MoF), the private sector, NGOs, producers, traders, and researchers. The workshop was chaired by Mr. M. Syeduzzaman, Chairman of BRF. The Hon’ble State Minister for Agriculture Mr. Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was the Chief Guest. Following a comprehensive presentation of interim findings by the Principal Investigator of the project, in depth discussions took place on important issues such as reliable sources of data, whether present cultural practices of farmers are detrimental to preserving the aroma of Kataribhog rice, characteristics of foreign competitor varieties of local aromatic/fine rice, farmers’ suffering from lack of rice price stability, and milling quality problems. Highly constructive and specific suggestions emerged from the interactions of the participants. One of the recommendations advanced was that the project should include two case studies: one on the production of local Basmati rice, and the other on contract rice growing models for ensuring adequate, high quality harvest.
Participation in international Rice Conference, 2003 in China
RF was invited by the Asia Rice Foundation (ARF) to participate in the display of various rice related cultural
artifacts from Asian countries in a special fair organized at the Conference site in October 2002. BRF participated by contributing the following materials for display: (a) a number of ornately designed rice cakes rnakshi pitha”), along with photographs of these spocialty dishes; (b) an article on the tradition and artistry involved in the making of “nakshi pithas”; and (c) a number of rice farmers’ hats of various designs and forms collected from different parts of Bangladesh. The ARF expressed its deep appreciation to BRF for its significant participation. One of the Bangladeshi hats that was displayed was featured in the 2003 desk calendar that ARF produced.
Participation in IRRI’s Communication Fair, 2003
At the invitation of IRRI, BRF participated in the Communication Fair organized by the PETRRA (Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance) project of IRRI. The Fair was held on 10 11 September, 2003 at the Sheraton Hotel, Dhaka. BRF’s stall was decorated with colorful posters especially prepared for this event; these carried messages relevant to BRF’s mission, programs and activities. On both days, a large number of people visited the stall and iearnt about the Foundation, most of them for the first time. The BRF brochure was distributed and the journal “Next Step in Rice” was sold for a nominal price to interested visitors.
Participation in Executive Committee Meeting of ARF
The Chairman of BRF Mr. M. Syeduzzaman was invited by the Asia Rice Foundation (ARF) to attend the meeting of the Executive Committee held in Bangkok on 12th December 2003. At the meeting, Mr. Syeduzzaman presented to the ARF Board an overview of the mission of the Bangladesh Rice Foundation, its organizational structure, and programmatic thrusts. He had the opportunity to interact with his peers from five other countries (India, Indonesia, China, Philippines, and Thailand) and to learn about their missions and programs. The Chairman considered the experience gained at the meeting highly enriching and useful for BRF. An important outcome of the meeting was the agreement on the modalities of observing the International Year of Rice 2004 in each member country.
Observance of the International Year of Rice 2004
The United Nations declared 2004 as the International Year of Rice (IYR 2004). The basic aim of this declaration is to promote sustainable production of rice, the staple for about one half of the world’s population, and to create awareness for socio economic development of the rice producing nations. They adopted the slogan “Rice is Life!” for this event. It will not be an exaggeration to say that this slogan is more relevant for Bangladesh than for any other country in the world.
BRF considered the UN declaration and its objective as most appropriate and complementary to its own mission, and decided to play a significant role in celebrating the event in an appropriate manner. At the recommendation of the Program Committee, the Board of Trustees approved for BRF to perform the following activities for celebrating IYR 2004:
Commemorative stamp. Early in 2004, the Chairman of BRF wrote to the Minister for Agriculture, with a copy to the Secretary of Post & Telecommunications, requesting them to issue a commemorative stamp to celebrate the event and offered BRF’s assistance in its design. They responded positively. BRF helped in the selection of the theme to be depicted in the stamp. The Minister for Agriculture Mr. M.K. Anwar, M.P., inaugurated the stamp on 21st June, 2004. The inaugural activity was participated by the Chairman and few others from the Foundation.
Rice cake fair and competition (“Pitha Mela”). BRF co sponsored with the Chander Haat, a national youth movement that involves the youth in various extra academic cultural activities, in organizing a rice cake fair (“pitha mela”) and competition at Mandarpur village of Brahmanbaria. This event was held in February 2004, in which pithas were displayed in 28 stalls and local youth presented a skit to the audience. A large number of children, men and women participated in the event. Prizes were given for the best preparation and displays. This is the third annual event of this kind held at Mandarpur.
National painting competition for children. BRF has organized, in cooperation with the Shishu Academy, a national painting competition on rice for children. The competition will be held at six provincial centers of the Shishu Academy in September, 2004. Prizes will be awarded for the best paintings and certificates will be given to all participants. About 60 100 participants are expected at each center.
Concluding workshop on the potential of exporting aromatic and fine rice. BRF will hold the concluding workshop on its research project on “The potential of
exporting aromatic and fine rice from Bangladesh” in November 2004 as a part of its celebration of IYR 2004. A progress report on this project has been included in this volume.
National Rice Fair. In a recent letter to the Secretary MoA, the BRF Chairman proposed that, as a part of celebration of IYR 2004 in Bangladesh, a national rice fair should be organized by MoA in November or December of 2004, in which different scientific, socio economic,
cultural, and other thematic materials and information could be displayed for the public. He also indicated that if the fair is organized by MoA, BRF would be able to participate in it with a focus on rice’s influence on the life style, art and culture of the people of Bangladesh. The proposition was accepted by the Secretary MoA as well as the national committee for celebration of IYR 2004, and instructions for holding the fair have already been issued.
Workshop on the research project “Potential of Exporting Aromatic and Fine Quality Rice from Bangladesh”
The concluding workshop on the project “Potential of Exporting Aromatic and Fine Quality Rice from Bangladesh” was held on 11 October 2004 at the conference room of the Director General of DAE. The workshop was organized to have a peer review of the final draft of the research project before its finalization. The workshop was participated by a selected group of specialists and stakeholders from the public and private sectors.
Seminar on “System of Rice Intensification” (SRI)
A seminar on “System of Rice Intensification” (SRI), which was jointly organized by BRF and DAE, was held at the conference room of Director General of DAE on 22 February 2005. The purpose of this seminar was to review the research findings of the different organizations, public and private, which had recently conducted field research on the usefulness of the SRI method of rice production. The participants included, apart from concerned researchers and other professionals, a number of farmers who participated and helped the project team in the field research.
International Seminar on the theme “Food Policy in Bangladesh: Issues and Perspectives”
An International Seminar on the theme “Food Policy in Bangladesh: Issues and Perspectives”, which was jointly sponsored by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), and BRF, was held on 13 March 2005 at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon Hotel, Dhaka. The Seminar was participated by four (4) members of the IFPRI Board of Trustees, 13 IFPRI researchers, three cabinet ministers of Bangladesh (Finance and Planning, Food and Disaster Management, and Agriculture), distinguished local researchers and specialists on food policy in both the public and private sectors, including several Board members of BRF, and representatives of the donor community. This was a very high-profile activity. BRF was responsible for its local organization and management, but all necessary expenses for the seminar were borne by IFPRI. The proceedings of the seminar were subsequently published by IFPRI.
Workshop on “A National Rice Policy for Bangladesh”
A peer review workshop on “A National Rice Policy for Bangladesh” was organized in August 2005 at the conference room of BARC. The purpose of this activity was to allow a selected group of professionals from the public and private sectors and the NGOs to review the final draft of the national rice policy document that was produced by the team of BRF experts having worked on this project for about a year. A number of highly useful comments and suggestions emerged during the workshop, which were carefully considered in preparing the final document on the topic.
Meet the press on rice data bank inauguration, quarterly newsletter publication and Awarding of innovative rice farmer:
Bangladesh Rice Foundation (BRF) organized a Press Conference on 9th April 2007 the conference room of the Agriculture Information Services (AIS), Khamar Bari Dhaka-1215, Bangladesh.
M. Syeduzzaman – Chairman, Bangladesh Rice Foundation (BRF) addressed the press conference. The Executive Director of BRF, members of the Board of Trustee (BOT) of BRF, Director of AIS, Chief Scientific Officer (P&E) of BARC, journalist of different daily paper and TV were in the session.
The press conference addressed three issues i.e. (i) Inauguration of the Rice Data Bank; (ii) First version of the quarterly BRF News Letter Release; and (iii) Recognition of Innovative Rice Farmer
(i)The Rice Data Bank:
The Rice Database has been developed under the auspices of Bangladesh Rice Foundation. The Rice Data Bank is a database composed of data collected from various agencies combined with data in a public domain. The Bangladesh Rice Foundation started this project with a vision to increase the effective use and access to integrated information related to rice in Bangladesh. Rice related information at Global and Bangladesh levels are available from this database. The Main menu contains nine different buttons/ subject matters.
The objective of the Rice Data Bank is to provide updated data and information on rice and other agricultural issues relating on rice of Bangladesh and major rice producing countries outside Bangladesh. The main objective to develop this Rice Data Bank is to provide necessary information on rice to the organizations and the researchers who are engaged in field research, action research and policy research on rice and agricultural issues. The Rice Data Bank has two versions are available. One is CD-based software, which can be installed in most computes with Windows XP operating system. The other version is web-based. This Rice Databank can be accessed through the website of BRF at www.ricefoundation-bd.org.
(ii)Quarterly News Letter: RICE NEWS
First version of the (March 2007) of the Quarterly Newsletter of the Bangladesh Rice Foundation entitled “RICE NEWS” was published by the organization. This newsletter was released through the press conference. It has been distributed to the different organizations according to the mailing list decided in the 36th Program Committee (PC) meeting held on 22nd February 2007.
(iii)Innovative Rice Farmer Award – 2007
Innovative rice farmer, Abdul Basit (Salim) was awarded through press conference by certificate, medal and five thousand taka for his outstanding performance in aromatic rice production of ‘Chinigura’ and ‘Kataribhog’. Mr. Salim born in Kadamtoli, Sadar thana of Sylhet district in 1964. During 1989, he collected seeds of ‘Chinigura’ and ‘Kataribhog’ from Dinajpur to cultivate it in his 4 bighas farm of Kadamtoli in Sylhet. He is now cultivating about more than 100 bighas of land and producing Chinigura/bigha 16.5 mon and Katarighog/bigha 12.5 mon. He has already exported 30 mon rice in 1999 and 40 mon in 2001 respectively from his farm through private initiative. His rice export initiative is already proliferating with the assistance of other farmers.
He is an affiliated farmer of BADC, for Rice Seed production. He was awarded a good performance certificate from BADC, BRF, Rice Research Institute, Agriculture Extension Department of People’s Republic of Bangladesh. His success in rice production has been highlighted in different National Dailies. He has created great business opportunity of these two types of rice by marketing and exporting it to abroad.
Press Conference on a National Rice Policy:
The final report entitled “A National Rice Policy for Bangladesh” was submitted to the Government of Bangladesh in February 2006. A press conference on “National Rice Policy” was organized on 11th March 2006 at the National Press Club, Dhaka, in which the Chairman of BRF introduced the background of this study and the policy recommendations. Many journalists from national dailies and scientists/experts from different GOs and NGOs were present at the press conference. The event was well covered by the national daily newspapers and also by some international media.
Participation in the 2nd International Rice Congress at New Delhi, India held on October 9 – 13, 2006:
As per decision of the BOT in its meeting held on 29 July 2006, Dr. Z. Karim was requested to attend, on behalf of BRF, the 2nd International Rice Congress 2006 to be held on October 9-13, 2006 in New Delhi, India. BRF paid for his return air ticket and he arranged for local costs to be paid by IRRI. A paper entitled “Brief on the Bangladesh Rice Foundation” prepared by Dr. Z. Karim was presented in the Congress. He also carried with him important BRF publications and documents for display and distribution to some of the important participants. Returning from New Delhi, Dr. Karim submitted a report on his participation in the congress and there was discussion on it in the 24th BOT meeting held on 25 November 2006.
Asia Rice Foundation Newsletter Publication : A special issue on the Bangladesh Rice Foundation:
Asia Rice Foundation (ARF) requested BRF to submit a report on its programs and activities for publication in the October 2006 issue of its quarterly newsletter. BRF submitted an 8-page report along with color photos, which was published by ARF with the assistance of BRF in October 2006 as Vol. 2 No. 2, a special issue on the Bangladesh Rice Foundation. BRF has received printed copies of the newsletter from ARF on October 29, 2006 and distributed it to the all members and other concerned stakeholders