Research to aid food security, conservation in Bangladesh


CDU student Ronju Ahammad is travelling to Bangladesh next week to research livelihoods and forest conservation issues

CDU student Ronju Ahammad is travelling to Bangladesh next week to research livelihoods and forest conservation issues

A Charles Darwin University student is travelling to Bangladesh next week to research the livelihoods and forest conservation issues of one of the most populated and poverty-stricken regions of the country.

Research Institute for Environment and Livelihoods PhD candidate Ronju Ahammad will spend one year in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region to investigate the social, economic and environmental aspects of forests, trees and land uses in the region.

“Forests have been important for food, medicine, cultural purposes and income generation of local people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region for centuries,” Ronju said. “About three-quarters of the households of the region are still living below the poverty-line and depend on forest resources directly or indirectly for household consumption or subsistence income.”

Ronju said that with increasing population, coupled with limited access to productive land, current forest-based resource use may not be sustainable.

“Over the past couple of decades, the government has gradually expanded protection over the forests to 60 per cent,” he said. “With increasing population growth there is now increased pressure on land availability and the use of centuries-old shifting cultivation methods may not be effective to secure food in the future.

“Many years ago the use of shifting cultivation meant that land may only be re-used 10 to 15 years later. Now with rising demand, the land may be used every four to five years, and in some areas every year.”

While in the region Ronju will visit rural families utilising the forests for various land use activities.

“More than 70 per cent of the people in the region rely on the land for agricultural purposes by ploughing and shifting cultivation to secure their food needs in some way.” 

He said that over the past 30 years, governments had tried to assist people to implement alternative agriculture and agro-forestry/horticulture practices to improve outcomes for the growing population that were also sustainable for the environment.

“Despite this, food security remains a challenge in the region,” Ronju said. “We don’t yet know the benefits of forest/tree resource management to the people or the effects of various agriculture land uses on food production or valuable ecosystem services.

“I will be surveying the people about how they utilise the forests in their areas, the land use practices and the effectiveness of government-introduced practices for them in relation to food security and conservation.”

His research is supported by the South Asian Network for Development and Environmental Economics, the Asian Centre for Development and the Centre for International Forestry Research.

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