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Alumnus furthering environmental sustainability through organic agriculture and food system research

Posted: 17 October 2021

Bangladesh, Alumni, Impact,

Australia Awards alumnus and agriculturist Dr Md. Khurshid Alam from Bangladesh is advancing organic agriculture research to reduce the adverse impacts of agriculture on the environment and help develop a sustainable food system.

Khurshid is a Principal Scientific Officer at the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI). He is leading the advancement of organic farming technologies and disseminating these among entrepreneurs, farmers and NGOs, across Bangladesh through training and advocacy work. Khurshid is also actively involved in creating awareness of sustainable agriculture and is implementing Bangladesh’s National Organic Agriculture Policy to ensure safe and eco-friendly food production.

Khurshid received an Australian Development Scholarship to complete a Master of Science and Technology in Environmental Science at the University of New South Wales in 2003. He then received an Endeavour Research Fellowship to undertake Postdoctoral research on organic agriculture at the University of New England (UNE) in 2016.

Studying in Australia was both a turning point in his career and when he first started to embrace the idea of sustainable agriculture. His research at UNE further strengthened his appreciation of organic agriculture and has influenced his current work on organic production, standards, and certification procedures. He was awarded the Australian Alumni Excellence Award for Innovation and Research in 2015 by the Austrade and the Australian High Commission Bangladesh.

“My Australian degree and experience opened my eyes to global sustainable agriculture. I am researching and implementing integrated organic farming systems to minimise the consequences of harmful agrochemicals on the environment,” says Khurshid. “Studying and researching in Australia boosted my confidence and allowed me to plan, design and implement major activities and research on sustainable and organic agriculture in BARI,” he adds.

Since returning to Bangladesh, Khurshid has played a vital role in the sustainable agriculture sector. He was involved in formulating the Bangladesh National Organic Agricultural Policy, adopted in 2016, and the Organic Standards and Certification.

The technology developed by Khurshid to produce organic tomatoes and organic potatoes is now widely used by farmers and NGOs  – under the supervision of ‘Taranga’ (an NGO and National Agriculture award winner) located at Bandarban. This technology has also been adopted in ‘Shuddo krishi’ (a suburb of Dhaka) by farmer groups and entrepreneurs.

Khurshid (2nd from left) attending the 4th Asian Local Governments for Organic Agriculture Summit held in South Korea in 2018

Khurshid is also recognised as a global expert on organic and sustainable agriculture. He is part of the International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movement and provides Bangladesh data for the annual publication of the ‘The World of Organic Agriculture – Statistics and Emerging Trends’.

He received the ‘Best Humanity Award – 2021’  from the United Movement for Human Rights to recognise his contribution to research and social service. In 2021, Khurshid also accepted an ‘Integrity Award’ from BARI for his scientific research work.

Khurshid thinks that while Bangladesh’s current and conventional agricultural systems have resulted in food grain self-sufficiency, they have also negatively affected the environment and society.

“My area of research work is ‘Organic Agriculture – a holistic production management system without harmful agrochemicals that strives for sustainable, safe food production. Such type of agriculture enhances biodiversity, reduces many of the environmental impacts present in conventional agricultural systems, and it can help achieve long-term food security and environmental sustainability,” he says.

Khurshid also believes that organic agriculture can increase the income of small farmers in developing countries like Bangladesh as it reduces reliance on costly external supplements and guarantees price premiums for organic products. Organic farming is a more climate-adaptive farming system and is more resilient to extreme weather events.

“It is our prime responsibility to ensure a healthy environment for future generations by adopting an eco-friendly farming methodology. Organic agriculture improves soil health, and healthy soils are the basis of biodiversity, food security and ecological balance. I strive to continue my research work and promote organic farming advocacy at a national and international level to convince policy-makers to endorse organic agriculture,” he concludes.