There is great potential for improving the livelihoods of poor farmers in the High Barind Tract (HBT) area of Bangladesh by growing chickpea on residual soil moisture after the harvest of rainfed rainy season (aman) rice. The area, covering about 2,200 km2, was traditionally left fallow after the single crop of aman rice, mainly because of the lack of irrigation potential and the hard-setting nature of the soils. Technology to permit crop establishment after rice and growth on residual soil moisture and winter rain was developed in the 1980s and implemented over the subsequent decade. Chickpea has proved to be a particularly suitable crop in this system and its area in the region has increased ten-fold from a base of around 1,000 ha in the 1980s. However, constraints to wider adoption of chickpea are: low yields due to use of inappropriate varieties; an inefficient seed supply system; insufficient knowledge by farmers of chickpea production and storage techniques; poor nodulation and nutrient deficiencies of soils in some areas; difficulties in obtaining good crop establishment as top soil dries rapidly at the end of the rice season. On-farm trials during 1998/99 demonstrated that priming chickpea seed overnight with water before sowing improved crop establishment and plant vigour, gave a 47% increase in grain yield and reduced the risk of crop failure by half. This simple, low-cost, low-risk 'key' 2 technology makes chickpea a much more attractive crop for farmers to grow. This project was aimed to address the purpose, pathways for the potential equitable uptake of technologies from PSP outputs 2-6 identified, piloted and promoted. The project has evaluated seed priming i.e. overnight soaking of seed in water prior to sowing, as a means of increasing grain yields and as a vehicle for expanding chickpea area. Multilocation, farmer-managed evaluation of priming response was conducted at many locations across the HBT over four years (1998-2002). Mean response to priming in grain yield ranged from 22 to 48% with responses inversely proportional to winter rainfall. Priming also reduced seedling disease incidence and increased plant population, early growth vigor, plant biomass and nodulation by native rhizobia. Farmers readily adopted the simple priming technology to the extent that at least one quarter of the chickpea sown in 2001 was primed. Along with priming technology, improved varieties of chickpea such as Barichola 2 or 5, and appropriate fertilizer practice e.g. phosphorus fertilizer, were introduced. There was clearly ready adoption by farmers of the improved technology. The major constraint to further adoption was availability of seed and lack of knowledge of the improved technology outside of project areas. Seed of improved chickpea varieties particularly suitable for the HBT, such as Barichola 2 and Barichola 5, were widely disseminated as a result of project activities. The Pulses Research Centre (PRC) of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI) and Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) voluntarily participated in seed production, demonstration and extension activities. Techniques of seed preservation and storage at village level were successfully tested, to encourage village-level entrepreneurship in chickpea seed production and supply, and farmers trained accordingly. An adoption and impact analysis of the project assessed the effects of project intervention on livelihoods of the rural community in the HBT. The high and annually increasing prices of chickpea grain suggest that increased cultivation of this crop would significantly improve livelihoods in the region; reasonable yields (> 1 t ha-1) are currently more remunerable than irrigated boro (winter) rice or wheat (these irrigated cereals have high yields but inevitable high input costs).
Kumar, J. Promotion of Chickpea following rainfed rice in theBarind area of Bangladesh. Final Technical Report. (2002)