Wednesday , 15 August 2018

Greener pastures gone

Desk Report: The incremental loss of open, grazing land to new homes and burgeoning shrimp farms in parts of Bagerhat is proving a hazard to the area’s cattle breeders, who could once rely on an abundance of local pasture to feed their livestock, reports Daily Star.
“I have three cows,” says Tandra Shikder from Mohishcharani village in Morrelganj uapzila. “I have no choice but to sell them since it’s difficult to find food for them. Even three years ago there were fields aplenty where the cows could graze. Most of those areas are gone now. They have become shrimp enclosures.”
“In more recent years we were at least able to collect some grass from the shrimp farm dykes, though it was hardly sufficient,” she continues. “Now we can’t even do that. The shrimp farmers cultivate vegetables on the dykes; and many shrimp farmers have fenced off their enclosures.”
“I had eight cows but now I only have two,” says another farmer, Dibakor Battachariya from Joygachi village in Bagerhat Sadar upazila. “I had to sell some due to fodder shortages. It’s very costly to rear cows only on straw, and straw isn’t always available.”
“I used to have ten cows. I earned quite a lot from selling their milk,” says neighbour Mujibur Rahman. “But now, as there aren’t any fields left for their feed, the cost of rearing the cows is higher than the profit from milk sales. I had to sell them.”
The demise of cattle-rearing is having an effect on the broader community too. “It’s hard to buy milk for my child,” says Keya Chowdhury from Sangdia village. “Nobody wants to rear cows anymore. Most farmers have already sold their livestock.”
According to district livestock officer Dr Saifuzzaman Khan, there are still 3.12 lakh cows in the district. But he is aware of the issue. “Farmers here tend to favour shrimp cultivation rather than paddy,” he says. “The production of grass and straw continues to fall. One solution could be for cattle farmers to grow Napier grass and maize on open land, to meet their need for fodder.”
“We have lost a lot of arable land,” notes the agriculture department’s Additional Deputy Director in Bagerhat, Birendra Nath Majumder. “Three years ago the district total of nearly 1.5 lakh thousand hectares of agricultural land was 1,038 hectares higher than what we have now. We are trying our best to prevent farmland loss.”

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