The reformation of agriculture must begin with creating an agricultural system in which smallholding farmers will easily survive beside big farm holders, agriculturists and economists said at a webinar on Saturday.

Warning that technological efficiency of smallholding farmers was decreasing in Bangladesh, they said that the disappearance of these farmers may not help build a decent society.

‘The combined contribution of smallholding farmers is still greater than big farm holders in Bangladesh but their dominance is diminishing,’ said Madan M Dey, who teaches agricultural sciences at Texas State University.

Bangladesh Economic Association hosted the webinar titled Land and Agriculture: Towards a Decent Society as part of a 13-part lecture series to discuss a book written by economist Abul Barkat.

Madan Dey said that technological innovations available in Bangladesh did not suit the need of smallholding farmers in Bangladesh as they held small plots of land or a small pond or both.

Lauding Abul Barkat for his strong position on land reform, Madan said that agricultural reform must bring agricultural growth keeping smallholding farmers alive.

In the United States, over three fourth of the agriculture budget is spent for food subsidy for ensuring nutrition of farmers while another 10 per cent is used for insuring farmers’ crop, he said.

Association for Land Reform and Development executive director Shamsul Huda said that the country’s agriculture made progress over the years but not the standard of lives of those farmers who made the progress possible.

‘Their living standard is degrading with no access to decent education and medical care,’ said Shamsul.

Abul Barkat in his book proposes to end rural poverty by up to 70 per cent in two to four years by distributing khas land, surplus land and land accreted in chars, he said.

Bangladesh Agricultural University’s former vice-chancellor MA Sattar Mandal and Chakma

circle chief Raja Devasish Roy also attended the webinar.

‘Decent agriculture is essential for a decent society. Decent technology is required for decent agriculture,’ said Sattar Mandal.

The book written by Abul Barkat is titled On the Larger Canvas of Society-Economy-State: In Search of a Transition from the Virus-driven Great Disaster to a Decent Bangladesh.

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