Integrated Farming System (IFS) Practice in Bangladesh: Challenges and Opportunities -Nadira Islam


In the past few years, Bangladesh has been going through a digital revolution. Its economy is growing at 7%, and soon we’ll be citizens of a middle-income country. However, as old industries like readymade garments and fisheries grow, and new industries like ICT emerge, one big concern remains: how do we balance high economic and technological growth with environmental sustainability. It is often argued that the future development of Bangladesh depends particularly on the agriculture sector which is the mainstay of the economy and also considered as the prominent source of employment for the incremental labour force. However, farmers’ are engaged in producing field crops and homestead farming like vegetables and fruit production, fish culture, livestock and poultry rearing along with some other non-farm activities. These activities are interlinked and together they constitute integrated farming.
Integrated farming is a concept and principle of two or more farm enterprises in a farm having strong cohesive and interactive relationship for production and consumption activities and in sharing and utilizing resources (Hossain et al., 2002). To increase farm income, the adoption of integrated farming is being encouraged in Bangladesh under various development programmes.Integrated farming system approach recorded 26.3 and 32.3 per cent higher productivity and profitability, respectively over conventional rice-rice system. Among the components evaluated, the highest net returns was obtained from crop (63.8 %), followed by goat (30.9 %), fish (4.0 %) and poultry (1.3 %), respectively. (Bangladesh Journal Online)

Components of Integrated Farming System
1. Crops, livestock, birds and trees are the major components of any IFS.
2. Crop may have subsystem like monocrop, mixed/intercrop, multi-tier crops of cereals, legumes (pulses), oilseeds, forage etc.
3. Livestock components may be milch cow, goat, sheep, poultry, bees.
4. Tree components may include timber, fuel, fodder and fruit trees.

Prospects in Bangladesh
Agriculture in Bangladesh is dominated by rice-rice mono cropping system. Rice covers about 77% of the total cultivated area in Bangladesh (BBS, 2008). The farmers are mainly marginal and small, who have already exploited 80 per cent of the potential of rice and further scope for enhancing yield is limited. The natural resource is exhausted. The need for diversification of farming practice is thereby needed as the income of farmers who depend solely on the produce of their traditional mono crop of rice pattern is decreasing due to narrow margin of profitability and changed food consumption habits.
Over the last two decades dietary pattern has been changed due to higher income generation, change in food habit, population explosion has also changed the supply and demand profiles of food. Integrated farming systems (IFS) seems to be the possible solution to meet the continuous increase in demand for food, stability of income and diverse requirements of food grains, vegetables, milk, egg, meat etc., thereby improving the nutrition of the small-scale farmers with limited resources. Integration of different agriculturally related enterprises with crops provides ways to recycle products and by-products of one component as input of another linked component which reduce the cost of production and thus raises the total income of the farm.

Opportunities of Integrated Farming
1. Productivity:-Integration of crop and allied enterprises helps to increase economic yield per unit area per unit time. Intensification of cropping and allied enterprises in space and time dimension found to increase the productivity.
2. Profitability:-Produce/waste material of ne enterprise can be used for other enterprise at least for crop, thus reducing the cost of production and increasing profitability per rupee investment.
3. Sustainability:-Huge quantity of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides are required to meet the food requirement of increasing population 2.2 % every year. Abundent use of such material causessoil degradation and pollution.IFS provides an opportunity to sustain production through organic supplementation and effective utilization of byproduct of linked components.
4. Balanced food:-IFS link varied nature of enterprises to provide nutrious food viz., vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fat, minerals etc. from the same area. This solves the malnutrition problem of poor peoples.
5. Environmental Safety:-Abundant use of inorganic fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides make the soil, water and environment polluted. Similarly, residues of some crops, waste material also pollute the environment after decomposition. However in IFS waste material, byproducts of one composite are effectively recycled using for other component and by-product of that component as organic manure to enrich the soil. Use of bioagent or crop protection also minimizes the pesticides.
6. Recycling of waste:-By-product of the crop husbandary can be effectively recycled for preparation of compost. Some of the by-product can be used as feed. This reduces the cost of production of one enterprise at the cost of other. Thus net income of farm is increased.
7. Saving energy:-Energy crises can be served to same extent by utilizing organic waste to generate biogas which can be used for cooking, lighting etc.
8. Adoption of new technology:-Big farmers are fully aware with the new technologies because of using improved varieties, package of practices. But small and marginal farmers are not able to adopt for want of money. In IFS linking of cropping with dairy, mushroom, sericulture, floriculture there is a flow of money throughout the year.
9. Money round the year:-In conventional farming income is expected once at the end of cropping season. However, IFS provides flow of money round the year by way of disposing eggs, milk, edible mushroom, honey, cocoons of silkworm etc.
10. Availability of fodder, fuel and timber:-IFS utilizes every part of land. Growing of fodder trees on border will not only provide fodder but also enrich the soil by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. In multistroyed cropping includes of fodder component like cowpea as second or third tier also meet the fodder crises. The current production of fuel wood is about 20 million ton which needs to be increased to eighteen folds.
11. Employment round the year:-Crop-livestock integration increase labour requirement through the year, other activities like mushroom cultivation, sericulture, apiculture also needs labor. Hence IFS provides employment to family members as well as outside labour throughout the year.
12. Agro-industries:-Linking of various components in IFS, the production definitely increased to commercial level. Surplus production leads to development of agro based side industry.
13. Increase input efficiency:-IFS provides better scope to use available inputs more efficiently. This leads to increase benefit: cost ratio.
14. Standard of living:-IFS leads to produce milk, eggs, fruits, honey, edible mushroom and generate bioenergy for farmers family and commercial purpose. There is regular flow of money at frequent interval through out the year.
15. Avoid degradation of forest:-There is a vast gap between demand and production of fuel wood and timber. Users encroaches/destroy the forest area to bridge the gap. Forest lands get degraded and eroded due to denudation of forest.

Challenges of Integrated Farming
There are some common mistakes practiced by the farmers:
l spreading the livestock wastes on land to let them rot away and hope that the small amount of residual nutrients left after losses of volatile ammonia and nitrite, if they are not washed away by rain or irrigation water, can improve the soil fertility
l composting the livestock wastes with household garbage to get a low-quality fertilizer, againbecause of the ammonia and nitrite losses, instead of digesting the livestock wastes into higher-quality fertilizer, and using the garbage to produce high-protein feeds such as earthworms and having their castings and garbage residues as better soil conditioner; and
l treating the livestock wastes ineffectively as well as inefficiently in outdated septic tanks for not much financial or other benefits, while the badly treated effluent is just as dangerous as the waste itself.
Digestion of the livestock waste under closed anaerobic condition is followed by oxidation in open shallow basins with natural algae providing the free oxygen through photosynthesis, before letting the treated waste effluent flow into the fish pond. This can convert almost 100% of the organics into inorganics, which will not consume any oxygen to deprive the fish of this important life-sustaining item.

There are also many factors affecting an integrated farming:
l Soil and climatic conditions of the selected area
l Availability of the resources, land and labor
l Present level of utilization of resources
l Economics of proposed integrated farming system
l Management skill of farmer.

Integrated Farming System for Various Agro-Climatic Zones
Integrated farming system models will vary widely in each agro-climatic zones with very high location specific natural resource availability like rainfall, and other climatic factors, soil types and market demand. Based on the agro-ecological condition and successful cropping systems adopted in each zone specific faming system models should be developed through field research and could be recommended with slight modification for each agro-climatic zone of Bangladesh.Aiming to reduce pesticide use, protect the environment, achieve sustainability and farm stability, every day more and more farmers converse their farms into an integrated farming system. It seems to be the answer to the problems of increasing food production, for increasing income and for improving the nutrition of the small-scale farmers with limited resources without any adverse effect on the environment and agro- eco-system.
Agriculture is still the major sector providing employment in Bangladesh. However, the small and marginal farmer families and agricultural labourers have to face employment and under employment due to seasonal work in crop production and also due to the natural calamities occurring at one or the other seasons of the year. The soil and water can be conserved through the integrated system and can provide livelihood security to the farmers. As integrated farming is economically and environmentally sound, the motivation for integration would appear to be the national policy of diversification of production in Bangladesh.

Nadira Islam is an Associate Editor (The Environment Review), Department of Environmental Science and Engineering JatiyaKabiKaziNazrul Islam University Trishal, Mymensingh