On 9th August 2017, the Access to Information (a2i) Programme and the Ministry of Agriculture, represented by the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation and the Barind Multipurpose Development Authority (BMDA), jointly organized a launching ceremony for the “Challenge Fund on Use of Surface Water for Irrigation”. The occasion was graced by the presence of the Additional Secretary for Agriculture Ministry B.M. Enamul Haque, the Chairman of BADC Md. Nasiruzzaman and the Superintendent Engineer of BMDA Md. Shamsul Huda and the Director (Innovation) of a2i programme as special guests. The event was chaired by the Director General (Admin) of Prime Minister’s Office and the Project Director of the a2i Programme Kabir Bin Anwar.

In Bangladesh, groundwater level on average drops by more than 5 metres every year as we rely more and more on the 5 million tube wells as our source for water. Irrigation alone uses up more than 87% of the total extracted water. Meanwhile, crop productivity has increased for different important crops by 2-10 times over the last 4 decades despite 1% decline in cropping area every year. To improve our food and nutrition security status, we not only need to improve crop yield rate in the continuously declining cropping areas, but also bring more than 0.2 million cultivable but fallow land under cultivation.

We are looking for innovative solutions to surface water-based irrigation which are applicable to the distinct soil and geographic conditions in Bangladesh. Individuals and organizations from all across Bangladesh are encouraged to come up with sustainable, implementable, and affordable solutions to surface water-based irrigation which can then be applied to either of the following different types of locations drought prone areas, char areas, hilly areas, saline prone areas, and haor locations. But a necessary prerequisite is that the solution does not reduce the crop yield rate.

From the Prime Minister’s Office, a2i’s Challenge Fund will provide financial and technical assistance to implement the solution. From the Ministry of Agriculture, the BADC and the BMDA will provide necessary technical assistance to the funded projects and then assist the most successful solutions to be transformed into finished products for use by farmers in the designated locations. In total, 12.5 million taka will be awarded to implement 5 innovative pilots in 5 different types of locations. Interested applicants can visit Challenge Fund website (http://www.challenge.gov.bd/irrigation) to know more about the competition and to submit their innovative proposals online within 30 September 2017.

Among others, the program was attended by officials from Ministry of Agriculture, BADC, BMDA, different agriculture related public bodies, agriculture universities, technical institutes, and officers from the a2i Programme of the Prime Minister’s Office, and representatives from print and electronic media.