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Bangladesh establishes a GIS-based

agricultural and Land Resources
Information System

Bangladesh establishes a GIS-based agricultural and Land Resources Information


From 1980-1987 a national Agro-Ecological Zone (AEZ) database was successfully developed in
Bangladesh. The database contains information on the country's land resources including
physiography, soils, climate, hydrology, cropping systems, and crop suitability. The database is housed
in the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) computer center at Dhaka, Bangladesh, and
has been used to generate readily accessible information on the physical land resources of the country
for use by researchers, extension workers, and decision makers in land and agricultural resources
management as well as agricultural development planning.

The AEZ database constitutes the foundation for a new effort to develop a comprehensive multiscale
GIS-based Land Resources Information System (LRIS). This updated system is designed to better deal
with the intricacies of land resource planning under the complex environmental conditions that prevail
in large parts of Bangladesh. The LRIS includes additional databases and procedures, in particular data
on socioeconomic and demographic factors influencing agricultural production. The system is being
implemented by BARC with financial support from the United Nations Development Programme
(UNDP) and technical support from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).

The technology being used to establish the LRIS includes ArcView GIS; the ArcView Spatial Analyst
and Dialog Designer extensions; and Avenue, ArcView GIS software's programming language; as well
as multicriteria analysis tools.

Conceptual System Design

At the start of the new development efforts in 1997, an overall system design was established to allow
for a dynamic analysis and modeling capability. In the past, natural resources modeling systems were
based on static GIS overlays. Due to the limited capacity of computers at the time, the overlay of
individual maps, such as soil, climatic, and flood zone maps, was cumbersome, and much time was
needed to refine the resulting layer. With the advent of more powerful desktop computer systems and
more powerful software tools, such as ArcView GIS and ArcView Spatial Analyst, it has become
possible to develop more flexible and dynamic modeling tools.

The approach taken in Bangladesh is to create a dynamic multilayered GIS database in which the
component layers are modeled as variables that change over time. Due to the inherent variability of
climatic and hydrologic conditions in Bangladesh, an open-ended system that allows for the modeling
of a wide range of dynamic scenarios, from the historical record as well as predicted future scenarios,
will be of greater use and will yield higher quality results.

The Land Resources Inventory Application

The land resources inventory (LRI) application allows for the classification and mapping of soil
characteristics from the LRI database. The LRI contains several attributes describing physical soil
characteristics. Since LRI attribute data has a many-to-one relationship to soil mapping units, the data
must first be summarized by the mapping unit and the resulting mix of LRI characteristics classified
for mapping purposes.

The LRI summary application was developed using the ArcView Dialog Designer extension. It allows
the user to specify the study area, the data to be classified, and the number of classes to create. The
user is then able to edit the resulting mix of classes based on the percentage area covered by each class.
Classes can be merged and renamed to provide for more effective map output.
Örebro University applied for funding of a project developing an Agricultural Market Information
Systems (AMIS), providing better functioning local agricultural markets and in particular supporting
small farmers in rural Bangladesh. The project will be pursued in cooperation with the Department of
Agricultural Marketing (DAM) under the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture

The project draws on, and extends, already initiated efforts by DAM. DAM has since several years
developed an AMIS. This, however, is yet not functioning as hoped, mainly because of low outreach
following inappropriate technical solutions and deficiencies in local organisation. This project will
address the difficulties encountered earlier. The preconditions for implementing the system here
proposed have been investigated by Örebro university in a survey to 1050 proposed users and
interviews with stakeholders during early 2007, and the solution is designed following the findings
from that study.

Project duration : September 2007 to June 2009

Project deliverables are:
1. Tested methods to provide local actors in the agricultural system with market information
through a combination of sms, mobile phones and local information staff.
2. A tested technical system for providing agricultural market information
3. As the systems extends and improves an existing system used by the Ministry of Agriculture
knowledge about the system and results from test will be directly communicated to Bangladesh
4. The system brings together important local actors, the Ministry of Agriculture and local market
organizers to serve as a platform for full-scale implementation.
Subject description

The Department of Agricultural Marketing (DAM) with support from the Food Agricultural
Organization (FAO) has been working together to make agricultural market information available. In a
recent project funded by FAO 20 computers were set up in 20 districts for paper collection, sending via
data entry through computer terminals by dial up connections. However, due to lack of computer
maintenance at the district levels, data collection remains a hurdle. Data access also remains a hurdle
due to lack of computer literacy and ICT infrastructure. The current cycle of data collection to
publication takes just under seven months.

Compared to 1.5m PCs there are now 16m mobiles in operation. Mobiles are increasingly being used in
rural villages. Grameen’s Village Phone project has helped expand the rural mobile base. There are
presently 122,000 village cell phone women who have the potential to connect poor farmers to a
market price information system. Mobile phones therefore present an alternative for both data
collection and dissemination. The prototype for such a system was designed, built and lab tested at
BRAC University.

The designed system

The designed system used actual agricultural data and took into account both the low literacy levels of
farmers as well as the limitations of the mobile screens and text capacities. The database design uses
simplified codes for the agricultural produce and market operation in Bangladesh. The proposed
commercial system will collect up-to-date market information (via cell phone or computer) fed into a
database managed on a SMS Server, which would then be accessible to clients requesting price
information for agricultural products via text messaging. The text messages would both request and
receive price information.

The prototype was tested both for data collection and dissemination of 50 agricultural items.

Market investigators collect up-to-date agricultural commodities prices information from a grower’s –
level market on market days and send price information using text messaging over cell phones into a
database managed on a SMS Server, which in turn would be accessible to clients requesting price
information for agricultural products through a text message request. Given the low literacy levels of
farmers as well as limitations of cell phone screens and text capacities, the system uses simplified

The system provides full awareness of all parties of prevailing market prices. The proposed
Agricultural Market Price Information Collection & Dissemination through mobiles in a developing
country can have the following impact:
1. The bargaining position of farmers with traders can be improved.
2. Information reduces transaction costs (i.e. the costs of selling the produce) by reducing risks.
Farmers with timely and reliable information and the ability to interpret it can decide which
market they should send their produce to maximize returns or, indeed, whether to send their
produce to market at all.
3. By contributing to more efficient marketing, particularly improved spatial distribution, market
information should be beneficial for consumers as well as farmers and traders. Information on
retail prices may also, under certain circumstances, assist consumers to bargain.

Such a system would not only be of use to farmers but also to the government and help to bring the
agricultural economy to a more equitable level.
Criteria for project evaluation
Relevance: Bangladesh is primarily an agrarian economy, generating export earnings not only in
farming but also by an agricultural manufacturing sector. Rural development has become a function of
agricultural growth. But as there are many small farmers and less than perfect information for
stakeholders in the sector, the market is volatile to manipulation and uninformed actions. Farmers’
participation in market and transport management is so poor that most of the time they are being forced
to sell their products to local middlemen at dumped prices. Under these circumstances, experts opine
that this deprivation on part of the growers may greatly be reduced if they would have been empowered
with information. Timely and unbiased agricultural marketing information will help farmers to bargain
with the middlemen for a fair price and gain profitable decisions in the short term with regard to what
price to produce and what price to expect (Islam, 2006). In addition to farmers this information is also
important to the wholesalers, retailers, consumers, ministry of agriculture, researchers and policy
makers. Like farmers, wholesalers may have the opportunity to locate their profitable market whereas
retailers can buy and sell their products at market prices from the wholesalers and to the customers
respectively. In the light of the above, the Government of Bangladesh has taken a number of steps in
order to disseminate agricultural market information to the concerned stakeholders, specifically
farmers, traders, policy makers and the media. However, progress has been scarce as technology used
has been over the top and as local organisation for information capture and input has been problematic.
Our system will improve that as mobile technology is readily accessible in rural Bangladesh, and as the
Village phone organisation also provides expertise in use. The project draws on close collaboration
among main actors in the field, including the DAM and a telecommunications company.
Originality: While mobile technology is generously available in rural Bangladesh, as in many other
developing countries, innovations in its use for commercial applications have been surprisingly slow to
materialise. Our project is in that sense original; it provides truly innovative use with great potential for
cost reduction, timeliness, and availability for local non-resourceful actors. It will also add to
knowledge about ICT for development, as potentially true rural development will occur in (mainly) the
form of better functioning markets and more empowered farmers. However it draws on established
technology and is not a risk in a technical sense.
Technology transfer: In particular the project will transfer skills to use, and in particular make use of,
new ICT among farmers in rural Bangladesh. It will improve their ICT skills, but in particular their
skills and opportunities to act rational on the agricultural market. At the organisational level, the project
will also transfer to Bangladesh knowledge in how to integrate mobile telephone technology with
traditional Internet technology into electronic government solutions viable in a developing country
Probability of success: We have in early 2007 made empirical studies into the existing system and
prospects for one based on mobile technologies (Islam and Grönlund, 2007). Interviews with
stakeholders and a survey with 1050 respondents among farmers, retailers and wholesalers shows that
mobile technology in combination with local human resources stands a good chance of attracting a
large number of users. There is a great dissatisfaction with prices and market information, in particular
among farmers. 80 % of farmers say the would go to some other market to sell if prices were better
there, and almost 60 % say they would use mobile phones to get such information. There is also
awareness in the DAM that the current system is not sufficient to serve local actors. There is interest in
a mobile solution, and so the pilots proposed here will be considered for full-scale implementation. The
project serves to improve an ongoing but largely failed government system and is therefore a way of
ensuring already made investments come to use.
Geographic Information System in Agriculture
of Bangladesh
– October 30, 2010Posted in: Study
Agriculture is the life force of Bangladesh economy (the longest deltaic land in the world). Its
contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is around 37% and is the employer of 68.5% of the
civilian labour force. As Bangladesh is one of the densely populated country in the world, per capita
agricultural land is not enough for the vast population and is declining for the fast growing
(2.01%/year) population and its non-agricultural demand. In next 20 years, it is quite impossible to
provide foods for the increasing population without proper management and planning for existing
resources. The system must be updated and enlarged by the technology Geographic Information
System (GIS).
GIS, the computer based system, describes, stores, manipulates and analyze information spatially and
produces outputs in map and tabular form. It can integrate common database operations such as query
and statistical analysis of data and model results, with the unique visualization and geographic analysis
benefits offered by maps.
In Agriculture the necessity of GIS was first felt by Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council
(BARC), the main stream of GIS technology in Bangladesh. In Bangladesh GIS was started in early
1990s. The utilization of GIS is for the management of agricultural resource and development and
development planning. BARC initiated a GIS project in 1996 to establish a GIS based computerized
land information system; utilize the AEZ (Agricultural Zones)/GIS for technology generation and
transfer on crop production, crop diversification and disaster preparedness programme planning.
The activities of GIS at BARC are different and very important for the development of the country. The
activities which were done by GIS are- Digitizing the soil maps and this digitized map was linked to
the Land Resource Inventory (LRI) database,digitizing soil and land use maps of 326 Thanas and
another 14 Thana maps under processing, development of a comprehensive database on the present
agricultural landuse, the estimation of the crop damage of the standing Transplant Aman rice and land
inundation (during devastating flood in 1998), extrapolated the potential suitability of 15 different
Farming System technology generated at different places of the country for the whole country. Human
Resources Development programme was taken by the GIS project of BARC to trained up the NARS
subject matter specialists and the user groups.
Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI) established a GIS unit in 1994 to make the Thana
Nirdeshika preparation easy, accurate and more applicable. 326 Thana Nirdeshika has been published
in collaboration with BARC. SRDI produced 44 different maps by using GIS technology. Recently,
Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Extension, and Surface Water Modeling Center are
using GIS for different purposes. Different National Planning ministers and organizations have been
using AEZ/GIS system for macro and micro planning purpose. The potential areas where AEZ/GIS
system can be applied are- the localized production planning, creation of scenarios and providing
options to the decision makers on with or without situation, diagnostic analysis of a situation,
identification of problems and thus prioritization of researchable areas, ground truthing of space and
remote sensing outputs, systematizing soil productivity, surveys and transfer of modern agro-
technologies.Further the AEZ/GIS database can be useful in the risk management modeling and
initiating risk loss assessment and aversion, crop growth modeling, land resource conversion for
sustained production, forestry, inland fisheries and potential lands for commercial production of other
commodities, addressing climate change scenarios of crop production resulting from global warming,
through green house gas emissions and rise in sea level, developing agro-meteorological services,
agricultural rehabilitation programmes and water budgeting, decision Support Systems for agricultural
programme planning and technology transfer, categorization of farmers system and community
development programmes within AEZ regions and sub-regions.
As a developing country Bangladesh has some limitations of using GIS. All of the GIS laboratories in
Bangladesh are donor supported and maintained and operated by foreign experts with limited local
experts, most of the organizations don’t posses sufficient database, lack of sufficient temporal remotely
sensed, digital data coverage, coordination among the Government organizations, research bodies,
academic organizations, awareness about GIS application and its potentiality, the role of government is
very poor and only training/certificates courses on GIS are offered from the University of Dhaka and
the Jahangirnagar University and no GIS laboratory at any Agricultural University in Bangladesh are
the main limitations of using GIS in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh is a poor country, but she has vast natural resources. If we utilize these vast resources in
proper way we will be a developed country in future. Though there are some problems of using GIS in
our country, if we avoid these problems and use GIS technology properly, we will achieve our goal to
develop our country.