An Asian visionary of agri development
While attending the Gusi Peace Prize awarding ceremony in Manila, Shykh Seraj, the icon of agricultural development in Bangladesh, shared his views on the need to reinforce focus on agriculture as the key to promoting inclusive growth. The strategic importance of agriculture rests on the strong potential it offers in transforming the rural economy, especially in developing countries.
For the past four decades Shykh Seraj has been guiding and implementing innovative and community-based programs to enhance efficiency of agriculture in Bangladesh. He interacts with farmers in remote areas of his country and conducts in-depth assessments to identify key issues and challenges of farm productivity, which include inadequate policy focus, lack of institutional response, insufficient access to credit, role of middlemen, insufficient credit and weak marketing.
According to development observers, Shykh Seraj has achieved more than what would have been accomplished by farmers’ cooperatives. Through long years of professional commitment, he was able to demonstrate a strong and structured media-driven approach to highlight and promote agricultural development.
He has added value to the process of achieving efficiency in agriculture by collating the views of all engaged in farming and documenting and researching available outputs for use and reference by the government while it prepares the national budget. This is a highly significant and innovative aspect in development journalism that blends well with dissemination of knowledge and information relating to skills and competencies to promote quality and sustainable farming.
The Shykh Seraj Model, as popularly known, has enabled incorporating grassroots farmers’ views and aspirations in the formulation of national policy and the budget through substantive and output-oriented dialogue. This allows policymakers to acquire direct and credible information with supportive analysis on how to improve farming and enable the agriculture sector to contribute effectively to GDP growth.
Shykh Seraj conducts prebudget discussions in remote areas with farmers, local representatives and key policymakers. Academics as well as members of the government, NGOs, and think-tanks join the stakeholders every year to add value to the discussions on priorities for the agricultural sector. Farmers highlight core issues based on their individual and collective experiences, and recommend solutions to critical constraints that impede the progress of the sector. This exercise stimulates research and propels a results-based approach that enables authorities to address deficiencies and prescribe tools and mechanisms for efficient farming in Bangladesh.
Based on these discussions, Shykh Seraj puts out an annual publication, “Agriculture Development—Budget for the Farmers,” which has become a landmark document that incorporates farmers’ views in mitigating the risks and challenges involving their sector. The discussions also cover farmers’ welfare and wellbeing, allowing for understanding of and mobilization of support for their role in and contribution to economic growth, to supplement the national perspective of lifting them from poverty and improving the quality of their lives.
Shykh Seraj has also undertaken programs directed at members of civil society and students, to provide opportunities for direct exposure to and hands-on experience in developing agriculture. These programs have generated extensive interest nationwide. He has also taken into account credible means to support the environment and resilience to climate change with regard to agriculture.
The impact of his work has transcended national boundaries and drawn extensive interest in other countries and regions. He is firming up plans to work closely with his friends in the Philippines.
Mohammed Parvez Imdad, PhD, is a senior policy analyst and economist based in Manila.
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