It is the women who invented agriculture first nearby their habitats instead of moving from one place to the other. Prior to that, they have to help their male counterpartsin gathering fruits and hunting animals.
But those were not so easy jobs particularly for a woman due to some reasonable limitations. That could be good reason to find an easy option for the survival. The woman as an active mother had to exercise her mental strength to maintain the family life. Thus it is likely that the preliminary thought of agriculture came out of her inherent consciousness. It does not mean that man did not have any involvement in the family business or in agriculture. In fact, the man used to do all the odd jobs while the critical ones done by the woman. So agriculture is a family business performed both by woman and man through their mutual understandings to satisfy the family needs. Anyway, the invention of agriculture was a technological breakthrough for the human being in those early days. In fact, the civilization emerged out of that invention.
Now we are habituated with a kind of so called progressive agriculture around us. The progress so far we have achieved till today is not an easy task. Since its journey from the Mesopotamian valley some 10,000 years back to the present day the Gangetic delta, the agriculture had to experience a lot of metamorphosis via the Indus valley civilization. The changes are the same as we encounter today like climatic, social, and political. All these changes have helped the agriculture in its present form. But still, the agriculture farming has remained mostly as a family concern. Out of 570 million agricultural farms across the world, 50 million farms belong to family control, i.e. family farm. In near past the practice of agriculture was in the subsistence level. Now, a huge transformation from subsistence level to commercial upgrading is in progress, not only in Bangladesh but throughout the developing nations. So, nobody prefers to consider agriculture nowadays just for the existence but for the improvement of livelihood also. But the reality is: most of the family farms belong to the developing nations are not much organised. But it is surprising to know that 56 per cent of the consumers’ daily requirements are coming from the family farm. Now the world has a population of more than seven billion and still, the trend is significantly upward. To satisfy their appetite, we need a huge amount of food too. Of course, agriculture has to encounter a lot of challenges on its course. Though every country has its own and unique problem. But some of the problems are universal. The per capita arable land is decreasing due to increased use of agricultural land for non-agricultural purposes. The yields of many of the principal crops of the world have been stagnated. The soil is getting weaker day by day. The high input based present day agriculture requires more investment which is no more a profitable enterprise. It is quite difficult to maintain the value chain. Due to industrialization, there is a shortage of agricultural labour. The members of the young generation are reluctant to stay back in the rural area. Most of them prefer the white colour job. Therefore, the family farming though practiced in the rural area is now in a considerable shortage of experienced labour with traditional knowledge. So hiring a professional agricultural labour is a costly deal. Thus maintenance of a family farm is getting difficult.
The elite people of the country like us love to talk about agriculture and its development. But they are shy to play the direct role for the development of agriculture. Besides, they have limited access to the idea of family farming also. In contrast, the encyclopedic personalities of the world have a different view. They think that the world food security will be in danger in near future without the systematic intervention of family farming. Because, family holds the traditional knowledge of sustainable agriculture. The biodiversity could only be maintained under the family supervision. The successful family farming invigorates the economic growth at the grass root level. Accordingly, FAO realised the importance of family farming and declared 2014 as the year of family farming with the objectives to support the development of policies favourable to family farming, to increase knowledge, communication public awareness; and to attain the better understanding of family farming to ensure technological supports towards sustainable food security (http://www.fao.org/family-farming-2014/home/objectives-lines-of-action/en/).
The challenges of present day agricultural for most of the developing nations or middle income countries like us are more or less similar. The significant challenges are: raise the productivity and profitability of agricultural commodities, increase resource use efficiency, promote diversity among the agricultural commodities, maintenance of biodiversity, minimize yield gap, develop farmers friendly and climate-smart agricultural technologies, develop and extension of appropriate mechanization, reduce postharvest loss, increase water use efficiency, strengthen rural agricultural marketing system, extension of good agricultural practices, educate the farmer with sound nutrition system, etc.
We have still a congenial family bondage in Bangladesh, maybe in the South Asia too. So the sentiment of family farming would be enhanced if they are taken care of systematically. The family in our culture is run under the guidance of father who is still active, or elder brother in absence of him. But mother is still behind them to take any of the serious decisions. Most of the cases, father is assisted by his son(s) in a family farming enterprise. The cause of scarcity of labour I have mentioned already. So farming with family members is a must to run a family farm smoothly. Even the members going to school or working elsewhere have to help the family in some critical stages. Unfortunately, the land size is getting smaller in Bangladesh due to heritage law. The present per capita land is only around 12 decimals- a very minimum holding not enough to run a farm smoothly.
However, there are some advantages of this kind of small land holdings when the family farming is in operation. The small piece of land could be utilised efficiently. So the productivity could be several fold more than the larger farm. In a small family farm, both men and women could enjoy working together in a familiar environment. Everybody enjoys the work as their own. The women members of a family may have some extra facilities. They could have their own initiatives like homestead gardening, taking care of small livestock, goat, or poultry farm. Even they might maintain their own small business. Thus they could be self-reliant and able to stand on their own feet. Thus also family farming could help in women empowerment. Above all, family farming makes its member efficient in farm-practices through the traditional practices.
Practicing agriculture is a laborious job. The farmers have to work in the field ignoring the scorching sun, incessant rain, and lowland field for hours. But no one can ignore the importance of intellectual capability in agriculture. The educated members of a family should have the mental strength to consider agriculture as a noble profession. They have to work both physically as well as mentally with other family members who do not have enough schooling background or intellectually lagging behind. All of them have to enjoy the work as a family tradition.
BRRI realised the importance of family farming in Bangladesh with those of the others. There was a programme ÔÔও বাজান, চল, যাই চল মােঠ লাঙল বাইেত“
at BRRI a few years back to motivate the school and college students so that they could help their respective family farms. They had to work with the senior BRRI as well as ministry officials in the paddy field for an hour or so, so that they could realise the dignity of agriculture. That was a short-lived programme. But the BRRI authorities observed a lot of enthusiasm among the students and their guardians. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) should initiate a programme like this as their network is extended all over the country. Then the family farming can play an effective role in its new format.
All I can say in conclusion that we have to get rid of the hunger to establish a sustainable food security system. Professor Amartya Sen pointed out in his McDougall Memorial lecture in Rome, Italy on 15 June 2013 that hunger and undernourishment are not uniform in a country, community, family or even among individuals within the same family (www.fao.org/news/story/en/item/178014/icode/). Based on this very statement I could say, the family farming is a better approach to address the hunger and the associated problems.
The writer intends to introduce him as a Hawker of Agricultural Science