Our farmers must be protected
Although our farmers are among the section of people who have been worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic and the longest flood in decades, they are also the ones who have shown extreme resilience in the face of such adversities. It is for their hard work and sacrifice that the country still has a good supply of food grains to feed its population. Needless to say, protecting them from the negative impact of the pandemic should be a priority for the government.
At an international webinar organised jointly by Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) and The Daily Star, experts and researchers from six Asian countries called for implementing agrarian and social security reforms to protect farmers from the adverse impacts of Covid-19. What they have found is that many small farmers had to sell off their homes and farmland because of increased indebtedness. Moreover, agricultural workers are not being paid properly and pastoralist communities and indigenous people have been impacted as countries have closed their borders because of the pandemic.
Despite bumper production of rice this year, our farmers faced problems in marketing their produce in time during the lockdown at the beginning of the pandemic. Our vegetable farmers have also counted huge losses due to the pandemic. Incidents of land grabbing of minorities and indigenous people have also been reported. Although our government took some initiatives to help the farmers face the fallout of the pandemic—it provided financial assistance to small and medium farmers, declared incentives to provide seed and fertiliser to them to encourage cultivation during the Aus season, also reduced the irrigation charge—many marginalised farmers did not receive any such support and remained unaware of it. Since the pandemic will not go away any time soon, it will be fatal for our small and marginalised farmers who don't have enough savings to sustain for a long time. Under the circumstances, the government should bring these extremely vulnerable people under its social safety net programmes. We also need to have laws to ensure farmers' rights and for the protection of agricultural land.