Title : Introducing GIS in Bangladesh Agriculture

Main Author :

Md. Bilal Hossain Lecturer (Agriculture) School of Agriculture and Rural Development Bangladesh Open University Gazipur-1705 Phone: 88-02-9800810 Fax: 88-02-9800822 E-mail: bilal@bou.bangla.net



Anwar Sadat Lecturer (Computer Science) School of Science and Technology Bangladesh Open University Gazipur-1705 Phone: 88-02-9800811 Fax: 88-02-9800822 E-mail: asadat@bangla.net

Abstract Bangladesh is an agriculture based country living 120 million people and about 80% of them are villagers. Major portion of the GDP comes from agricultural sector. Agriculture shares 37% of the country’ GDP. Still now this contribution comes through traditional system s which takes a long time. Now it is an era of information. Information Technology is playing a vital role for the development of a person and to a nation. Once which took many weeks to prepare and send research results to other researchers, and to extension workers, it now takes few minutes. These all are now possible by information technology. GIS is a pioneer system, introduced in Bangladesh for agricultural development through Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC). BARC initiated a GIS project in 1996, as leaders in the database, know as the Agroecological Zone (AEZ) database system of Bangladesh which has been developed using reconnaissance soil resource information generated by the Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI), flooding and hydrological information of Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB), weather related data of Bangladesh Meteorological Department (BMD) and crop related data of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) institutions, to agricultural information and are involved with application of new technology to dissemination of research findings and to the extension process. To achieve self-sufficiency in food grains both production technologies and information technologies have to be developed. As Bangladesh have successfully developed production technologies, now it is time to develop information technologies. The natural calamities such as draught, cyclone, flood, are a regular phenomenon in Bangladesh which are the main drawbacks to reach the ultimate production goal. Moreover, nutrient dynamics, crop modeling, proper management practice are also essential for better productivity. Using GIS system Bangladesh is going to mitigate the problems and to develop appropriate production system. Bangladesh Open University recently established a GIS laboratory to extend the research facilities for the national researchers. Many GOs and NGOs are working with GIS. This paper will utilization of this system using the existing resources. Keywords : GIS, Agriculture, AEZ database, BARC, SRDI focus the potentiality of the information technology in Bangladesh agricultural system and effective

Bangladesh is the longest deltaic plain in the world with a total area of 154439 km2 of which 8892 km2 are occupied by major rivers and estuaries. Bangladesh lies between 20034/ and 26038/ north latitude and between 8801/ and 92040/ east longitude. She is overwhelmingly an agricultural but one of the densely populated country occupying worlds eight and Asia’fifth s position with 120 million people. The population density is around 800 person per km2 with one of the lowest per-capita arable land (0.08 hectare in 1995). Agriculture is the life force of her economy as it has the potential to produce multiplier effects on the growth of other sectors of the economy. Its contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is around 37 per cent (Huq and Rahman, 1994) and is the employer of 68.5 per cent of the civilian labour force (Ahmed 1988). The fluctuations in agricultural productivity influence the food security and potential stability of the country. However, for centuries the land of Bangladesh provided enough food for people but with a limited cultivated lands of about 9.15 million hectare (BBS, 1997). There are many constraints like low nutrient status, salinity problem, natural hazards etc. for higher productivity from limited agriculture land. In true sense, productive agricultural land is one of the most important national resources. In Bangladesh, per capita agricultural land is declining due to tremendous pressure on this resource by a fast growing (2.01% per annum) population and its non agricultural demand. The deteriorating land-man ratio, however, failed to keep pace with population growth in recent years (Hossain 1991). At present, planning is carried out without adequate knowledge and information of area specific physical and socio-economic condition. Research strategies are developed without consideration of social, agro ecological production potential and constraints. Thus, so far Bangladesh provided foods for her people. But in next 20 years, when the population of Bangladesh will be likely to double, it is quite impossible to provide foods for increasing population form decreasing agricultural land without proper management and planning for existing resources. In order to improve the ability and accuracy in dealing with the intricacies of resource planning under the complex Bangladesh environmental conditions the system must be updated. and enlarged with available data including socio-economic factors of agricultural production. The technology which can accomplish this task is a Geographic

Information System (GIS)

which is playing active role, in spatial problems, like global and

regional change (Jelinski 1994). The general aim of this paper is to persue the issues which surround the appropriateness of GIS in a practical policy making environment for agricultural development in Bangladesh. In this paper an attempt has been made to show the current status of GIS installation at different agricultural organizations and its application in Bangladesh agriculture. The specific objectives are:    to highlight the current status of GIS use in Bangladesh agriculture. to show the potential use of GIS in agriculture to identify the gaps and limitations in GIS application for meeting development planning.

Rationale for Using GIS GIS is a computer based technology that describes, stores, manipulates and analyze information spatially and produces outputs in map and tabular form. GIS provides facilities to use geographic information to help with decision making and problem solving. A GIS, however, is not automated decision making system but a tool to query, analyze and produce map in support of the decision making process(Aronoff,1993; Burrough,1993). Estes (1992) indicated that GIS can :      facilitate access to information; facilitate the creation, updating and modification of maps; improve the ability to develop scientific models and operational resource management tasks; enhance graphic display of complex phenomena; and provide tools for enhancing decision making.

From the above points we can summarize the benefit of GIS over other information system as describes, GIS technology 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. These abilities distinguish GIS from other information system and make it valuable to a wide range of public and private enterprises including agricultural

organizations for explaining events, predicting outcomes and planning strategies. These are the points that indicate the broad issues in favour of possible adoptions Bangladesh for agricultural development. GIS in Agriculture The application of GIS as a computer assisted spatial information system in Bangladesh started only a few years back in early 1990s. By 1991, there were only five operational GIS used by various organization in Bangladesh (Rashid and Ali, 1997). There are about 30 GIS installation in the country so far but GIS installations in different organizations work with their specific mandates. Most of the developed facilities do not cater to the needs, relevant to agricultural resource management and planning. This necessitates institutionalization of GIS facilities in agriculture. It was thus felt that Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council (BARC) as the apex body of the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) and maintaining and utilizing the Agroecological Zones (AEZ) database systems should develop a GIS facility. Though in agricultural sector GIS system started in 1992 at Bangladesh Rice Research Institute(BRRI) but that was stopped dead due to lack of continuos funding as well as resource persons. At present BARC is the main stream of GIS technology use for agricultural resource management and development and development planning. BARC initiated a GIS project in 1996 with the aim of establishing a GIS based computerized land information system; utilization of the AEZ/GIS database for technology generation and transfer on crop production, crop diversification and disaster preparedness programme planning with the incorporation of socioeconomic data; involving sensitize people in planning, decision-making process, and developing manpower on GIS use. GIS Activities at BARC Since the introduction of GIS at BARC, the following activities are done using GIS technology AEZ database system. The AEZ database system is the core information base for use by the decision markers and implementers for land evaluation, land use planning, agricultural research, crop production planning and post disaster rehabilitation programme development. The activities are mentioned below: of GIS in

 

Soil maps, produced by Soil Resources Development Institute (SRDI) were digitized using GIS technology. The Land Resource Inventory (LRI) of AEZ database system was not geographically referenced. The digitized soil map was linked to the LRI database to produce following national map outputs : suitability of major crops, inundation land type, economically depressed thanas, agroecologically constrained region, climatic variability, soil reaction soil moisture zones, drought area delineation and nutrient deficiencies etc.

Soil and land use maps of 326 Thanas digitization.

(sub-district) were digitized in collaboration with

SRDI for local level planing . Another 114 Thana maps are now under process of 

A comprehensive database has been developed on the present agricultural landuse by agroecological subregion and land type which can be used for present and potential landuse and crop production planning.

 

During the devastating flood of the country in 1998 crop damage estimation of the standing Transplant Aman rice and land inundation were done using AEZ/GIS data base. Using GIS technology, BRAC also prepared outputs to reflect the effect of incessant rainfall during November 1998 caused by depression in the southern belt of Bangladesh. This output was to assist in taking up crop-rehabilitation and post flood mitigation activities.

The potential suitability of 15 different Farming System technology generated at different places of the country has been extrapolated for the whole country using the AEZ/GIS database.

In addition to this human resources development (HRD) programme was taken by the GIS project of BARC to trained up the NARS subject matter specialists and user groups consisting of researchers at the planning level and personnel of planning /implanting cell of the network (shown in Fig 1) on GIS application as HRD is vital for the sustainability and continued development of GIS activities. So far 185 scientists, extension personnel, academicians and NGO workers have been trained in different duration. GIS at SRDI

Soil Resources Development Institute is the main organization that holds all kinds of soil resource information. The reconnaissance soil resource information was generated by SRDI. Thana1 Nirdeshika (Tahana Guidelines) preparation is the main function of SRDI. The Thana Nirdeshika contains all types of soil, land and crop related information such as general information of soil; land type; mapunit with soil chemical characteristics, present landuse constraints and development possibilities; soil series; soil texture and consistency characteristics; soil and fertilizer management; fertilizer recommendation, crops suitability; probable cropping pattern etc for a particular places of a particular thana. To make it easy, accurate, more applicable and to analyze the data spatially as well as to take quick decision SRDI established a GIS unit in 1994 but production from GIS unit starts from 1996. So far 326 Thana Nirdeshika has been published in collaboration with BARC. Out of 460 Thana of Bangladesh 440 Thanas are surveyed. Of them, 114 surveyed thanas are now under process of publication. Besides these by now, SRDI produced 44 different maps relating nutrient status, fertility, salinity, landuse, land suitability and crop production using GIS technology. Recently, Ministry of Agriculture, Department of Agricultural Extension, Surface Water Modeling Center are using GIS technology for expansion of minor irrigation, effective implementation of Integrated Pest Management(IPM) and river flow measurement respectively. These are small scale activities on GIS. Moreover, Bangladesh Open University is going to use GIS technology for developing disaster management and resource management programme which will also help the policy makers. Potentials of AEZ/GIS in Agriculture

Different National Planning ministries and organizations have been using AEZ/GIS system for macro and micro planning purpose. Interrelation of the AEZ/GIS outputs for land soil suitability ratings, crops and geographical needs have been worked out and distribution of agro-inputs and commodities have been made. The potential areas where AEZ/GIS system can be applied are:


sub district

AEZ/GIS system through updating can effectively be used for localized production planning purposes. The database can take care of the local realities, farmers desire, input requirements and supply situations.

  

Creation of scenarios and providing options to the decision makers on 'with' and '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 data base; quantitatively framed in a computer programme have vast potentials and can be useful in the planning processes of the following areas:       Risk management modeling and initiating risk loss assessment and aversion, crop growth modeling, land resource conservation for sustained production. Planning in 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. Limitations of using GIS Technology in Bangladesh Though the developed world has already successfully used GIS for planning and development programmes of natural, physical and human resource management, but as a developing country Bangladesh has several limitations. The main limitations are stated below:  Almost all of the GIS laboratories at different organizations of Bangladesh are donor supported and maintained and operated by foreign experts with limited local experts.

The local experts of different organization have short training experience in GIS. This is not sufficient for conducting any jobs and they are facing many problems while using GIS.

     

Most of the organizations don't possess sufficient base data to take up new plan. Lack of sufficient temporal remotely sensed and digital data coverage. Lack of coordination among the Government organizations, research bodies and academic organizations in terms of data updating, data gathering and data exchange. Lack of awareness about GIS application and its potentiality. The role of government is very poor regarding the sustainability of GIS technology both in technical and in academic point of view. Only training /certificates courses on GIS are offered from the University of Dhaka and the Jahangirnagar University. Unfortunately, there is no GIS laboratory at any Agricultural University in Bangladesh to serve the agricultural purposes (shown in table 1).

Conclusion In Bangladesh, traditional agricultural system is being followed over the centuries in all the phases of crop production. A few developments have been occurred in terms of production technology. Natural calamities is a common phenomenon in Bangladesh. In this situation, plans for agricultural development in the future should be taken into account of the basic conditions, some of which may be modified by the application of modern technology. GIS application in the identification of new agricultural demand areas may help for future agricultural development. Though there are a lot of problems for installation of GIS system in Bangladesh, this system can be used successfully to mitigate the hazardous agricultural environment and to take the proper technical decision in time. It is interesting that a number of people now talk in GIS language. Moreover, an awareness can be increased by developing the academic curriculum with incorporation of remote sensing and GIS based development planning and spatial problem related studies in the higher level of studies. Now a days, it is very easy to disseminate the technology. Once which took many weeks to prepare and send research result to other researchers and to extension workers, it now takes a few minutes.

However, in case of Bangladesh, it is a fact

that GIS is essential and the decision makers at

the national/regional levels are giving attention to adopt the technology. Reference Ahmed, M.1988. Bangladesh Agriculture: Towards Self Sufficiency, Ministry of Information, Govt. of Bangladesh. Dhaka. Aronoff, S., 1993. Geographic Information System: a Management Perspective. WDL publications, Ottawa, Canada. BBS, 1997. Statistical Year Book of Bangladesh. Dhaka: Government of Bangladesh. Burrough, P.A. !993. Principle of Geographic Information System of Land Resources Assessment Monograph on Soil and Resources Survey, No. 12, Oxford Science Publications, Oxford University Press Inc. New York. Estes, J. E., 1992. Remote sensing and GIS integration: research needs, status and trends, ITC journal(Special Issue) : 3D GIS, 2-9. Hossain, M. 1991. Agriculture in Bangladesh: Performance Problems and Prospects. University Press Limited, Dhaka. Huq, S. and A.A. Rahman. 1994. An Environmental Policy of Bangladesh; in: Rahman, A. A.; S. Huq, R. Haider, and E. G. Jansen, Environment and Development in Bangladesh, vol. I. University Press Limited, Dhaka. Jelinski, D. E. 1994. Multiple roles for GIS in global change research agenda; in: Michener, W. K. et al., (eds.). Environmental Management and Analysis: Ecosystem to Global Scale, London: Taylors & Francis. Rashid, M.S. and M. M. Ali. 1997. Status of Gis in Bangladesh : A Review. Oriental Geographer, 41(1) : 64-77. Table 1: GIS applications and activities in different Universities in Bangladesh Universities Jahangirnagar University University of Dhaka Rajshahi Activities of GIS System Education, Training and Certificate Course, Research Education, Training, Certificate Course, Research and Service Education and Research No activities Limited research with personal interest Activities of GIS system in Agriculture Limited research with personal interest

University Khulna University Bangladesh Agricultural University Bangobondhu Agricultural University No GIS setup No activities No GIS setup No activities Research and Training Limited research with personal interest





Fig. 1: AEZ / GIS Network
BBS = Bangaladesh Bureau of Statistics BMD = Bangladesh Meterological Department BWDB = Bangladesh Water Development Board LGED = Local Government & Engineering Department SPARRSO = Space Research & Remote Sensing Organization WARPO = Water Resources Planning Organization

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