This thesis provides an integrated view of the changing agricultural productivity in the Bangladesh economy by relating growth and variability of crop production, rural poverty from the gender perspective, off-farm employment and the environment.
With the liberalisation in the agricultural input market and in particular chemical fertilizers and irrigation in the 1980s, the application of these inputs have been increased over time. In Bangladesh, the new technology of seed-fertilizer-irrigation is identified as the main source of recent agricultural growth. The impact of their increasing use is expected to reflect on the growth rate of total factor productivity (TFP). Growth accounting implies that recent growth originated mainly from advanced technological improvements. At the initial stages of using modern technological inputs the growth in TFP showed an increasing trend. Since the 1980s TFP growth has tended to decelerate.
Although input use has been doubled since liberalisation, this trend growth rate in TFP is usually not expected. Lack of infrastructure and environmental spillovers may contribute to a slowing down in total factor productivity growth. The statistical results, on the other hand, indicated that in addition to conventional inputs TFP is highly influenced by research, extension, and other infrastructural development. These factors are highly significant contributors in the determination of TFP. Increased investment on these sectors can significantly increase TFP.
It has been found that with changing production technology a significant decline has occurred in the relative variability in TFP, yield and production. Irrigation appears as a very important factor in influencing the relative variability in TFP. The findings of the study reveal that besides irrigation, investment on agricultural research and extension are important determinants of the variability in
total factor productivity (TFP).
The impact of agricultural technological changes on poverty has been analysed from the gender perspective. For the first time the study attempts to provide a comprehensive analysis of the relevant issues such as rural women's participation rates, rural male and female wage differentials, decomposable measure of poverty and shares of the burden of poverty. Earning differentials between male and female have serious implications for gender-specific poverty. The study finds that discrimination between the male and female wage accounts for about 53 per cent of the logarithmic daily wages in the agricultural labour sector. Because of the inadequate attention paid to the role of women, despite higher agricultural growth, poverty and hunger are more pronounced among the women. In all cases the estimated poverty rate is found to be higher among the women. Empirical evidence suggests that with the adoption of advance agricultural
technology (resulting in the use for the last 20 years of more fertilizers, irrigation and high yielding variety seeds) the incidence of poverty has tended to decline.
Agricultural growth distinguishes itself as one of the pivotal factors in alleviating poverty in the country. Findings of this study reveal that higher agricultural output causes higher investment both in farm and non-farm sectors. Applying the illustration of Grameen Bank (a special financial institution lending to the landless households, specially women), it has been perceived that areas characterised by high agricultural growth have a higher likelilhood of receiving financial loan's from Grameen Bank. This in turn creates greater opportunities for more employment and income and helps to reduce the burden of poverty among the rural poor.
In most cases productivity increases have been achieved by greater application of fertilizer
and water. The insufficient income, starvation and poverty thrust for uncontrollable groundwater extraction and inefficient and unbalanced use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides attempt to push the production system possibly beyond the carrying capacity of the natural system. These types of practices enhance the use of nitrate, which could turn out to be fatal to groundwater as well as to fish and other biological species. Due to the shrinking opportunity to expand arable land further, the country needs to emphasise the rate of growth of production and its environmental effects. The rate of growth of TFP already raises questions about the sustainability of productivity growth in Bangladesh agriculture.
The effectiveness of environmental regulation in Bangladesh cannot be taken out of the context of the social, economical and political conditions of the country. The degradation of the ecosystem and of both the quality and the quantity of natural resources
constitute a very high direct cost of development programmes in the country. For sustainable agricultural development, an analytical framework for allocating water and fertilizer, restricting pesticide use and levying water charges is needed. In order to create such a situation, public awareness, political will and additionally international assistance are critical pre-requisites.
Given the present state of rural poverty and the rate of agricultural growth, the country has no alternative but to continue the agricultural intensification programme. But the exacting task is to choose and achieve the path of sustainable growth strategy with more equitable employment and income generating activities.