Cotton is one of the most important cash crops in Bangladesh and the main raw material of its textile industry, contributing significantly to the country’s exports. However, local cotton production is far from meeting the annual requirements of the textile industry, which is around one million tons. Therefore, 97% of cotton is imported from abroad and only 3% is locally produced.
The Government of Bangladesh is keen to increase cotton production without affecting the already limited agricultural land used to grow food crops. Therefore, its policy is to utilize less productive agricultural land for cotton production, necessitating the development of new cotton varieties.
The Cotton Development Board (CDB), under the Ministry of Agriculture of Bangladesh, is mandated to lead the effort in increasing cotton production. The CDB has relatively good physical infrastructure and sufficient technical staff. However, its major challenge is the limited knowledge of advanced cotton research to generate new cotton varieties appropriate for Bangladesh’s agroecological conditions.
Towards a Solution
Turkey’s Cotton Research Institute (CRI) is a specialized institute on cotton research under the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock of Turkey. It is mandated to conduct studies on producing new cotton varieties appropriate for agroecological conditions in Turkey, leading to increasing cotton productivity and yield. Since 1934, the CRI’s achievements have contributed to Turkey ranking among the top countries in the world for lint cotton yield.
The CRI conducts training and advanced research in cotton breeding, cotton agronomy, genetics, biotechnology, plant health, and seed, as well as cotton fiber quality. Throughout its history, the CRI has developed and released 37 cotton varieties provided to the farmers in Turkey. These varieties have important characteristics such as early maturity and high yield.
The CRI’s research and training activities benefit from adequate facilities, including two laboratories for biotechnology and fiber quality, 22 warehouses, and 114 hectares of land area. The total number of CRI staff is 76, including 30 technical experts.
Taking into consideration the needs of Bangladesh and capacities in Turkey, the IsDB connected the CDB and CRI, which are mandated to improve cotton varieties in Bangladesh and Turkey, respectively. IsDB then coordinated and funded a peer-to-peer consultation process to undertake a detailed diagnosis of the current capacities of CDB. This resulted in formulating a Reverse Linkage project to transfer relevant Turkish’s expertise to Bangladesh.
The project aims to enhance the capacity of Bangladesh’s CDB in cotton varieties development for increasing cotton production on less productive agricultural land. The project’s main activities are as follows:
- Providing long-term training on cotton research for 10 Bangladeshi researchers, covering 9 topics, in Turkish universities.
- Organizing short-term training on 13 cotton production practices for 65 CDB staff in CRI and the Izmir Institute of Technology.
- Providing 10 previously developed and patented cotton varieties by CRI to the CDB, free of charge.
- Conducting adaptation trials of the CRI’s varieties at 5 research centers of CDB under different agroecological zones of Bangladesh.
- Producing new desired varieties by crossing 10 CRI’s varieties with 4 local varieties.
- Conducting 12 training courses for 25 CDB staff through ‘Joint Cotton Varieties Development’ in Bangladesh.
- Enhancing the research and Information Technology environment within CDB, including procuring raised bed planter machines and desktop computers.
Two project coordinators from Bangladesh and Turkey are handling handle the day-to-day work of the project. A joint coordination committee, composed of representatives from all the project’s partners is established. It will meet every eight months throughout the project period to review and compare progress against the expected results and propose corrective actions if needed.
In Bangladesh, the project will trigger a chain of positive changes. The project will help CDB to address its major challenge; the enhancement of staff capacity on advanced cotton research. This will lead to applying well-established research methodologies to develop improved cotton varieties. Increasing local cotton production, and hence reducing cotton imports, will enable the country to save foreign exchange reserves and increase farmers’ incomes.
In addition, the project will showcase Turkish technical achievements in the cotton sector. The CRI will increase its international presence and strengthen its ties with Bangladesh’s institutions, which will help in opening new business opportunities.
The IsDB 10-year Strategic Framework aims to develop the capacity of member countries and enhance cooperation between them. The project will effectively contribute to achieving these two objectives. Furthermore, the project has the potential to become a model that can be replicated in other IsDB member countries where cotton is a primary agricultural crop.