On 12th September 2023, stakeholders gathered at Bishwo Shahitto Kendro in Dhaka for a roundtable discussion titled "Char in the Economic Policy Landscape of Bangladesh," organised under the M4C project by Swisscontact Bangladesh. The spotlight was cast on the pivotal role the Char region could play in shaping the nation's economic future. This post-budget roundtable, which convened key stakeholders, including government agencies and development partners, scrutinised provisions in the budget for FY 2023-24 aimed at enhancing the lives and livelihoods of the Char people of Bangladesh.
The event, chaired by Mosammat Hamida Begum, Secretary of the Rural Development & Co-operative Division, brought together stakeholders from various sectors, including government, and non-governmental organisations, to deliberate on the development potential of the Char region. Chief Guest Swapan Bhattacharjee, MP, Hon'ble State Minister for Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives, was joined by Md. Khurshid Iqbal Rezvi, Director General (Additional Secretary) of the Rural Development Academy (RDA) in Bogura, Dr. Atiur Rahman, Chairperson of the National Char Alliance (NCA) and Unnayan Shamannay, and Mujibul Cezanne Hasan, Country Director of Swisscontact Bangladesh, among others.
The event commenced with a welcome speech from Md. Khurshid Iqbal Rezvi, Director General (Additional Secretary), Rural Development Academy (RDA), Bogura. Following this, Md. Abdul Majid (PhD), Project Director of M4C at the Rural Development Academy, Bogura, presented the M4C project, providing insights into its objectives and achievements.
Dr. Atiur Rahman, Chairperson of the National Char Alliance (NCA) and Unnayan Shamannay, delivered a keynote presentation highlighting the Char region's significance in Bangladesh's economic policy landscape. His insights underscored the transformative potential of portable solar systems as a renewable energy source, already making significant inroads in reshaping agricultural practices in the Char region.
Chief Guest Swapan Bhattacharjee, MP, Hon'ble State Minister for Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives, emphasised the pivotal role the holistic development of the Char region could play in bolstering the nation's overall economic prosperity. He highlighted Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's unwavering commitment to addressing the challenges faced by the people of the Char region and the enduring influence of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's visionary approach to agricultural development in ensuring food security and self-sufficiency.
He also stressed that approximately 32,000 hectares of land in the Char region, if properly managed and skilfully utilised, could become a driving force in shaping Bangladesh's economy. He further noted that the Char region offered a unique opportunity with lower production costs and exceptional product quality, aligning economic policies with its potential to achieve a prosperous and self-reliant Bangladesh.
During the discussion, Mujibul Cezanne Hasan, Country Director of Swisscontact Bangladesh, reaffirmed the organisation's unwavering commitment to fostering sustainable, long-term change. He emphasised Swisscontact's dedication to facilitating self-reliance and empowerment rather than creating dependency. He expressed gratitude to the Embassy of Switzerland in Bangladesh and the Rural Development and Co-operative Division (RDCD) for their steadfast support in successfully implementing the M4C project, which has been dedicated to advancing market system development in the Char region since 2012.
Chair of the event, Mosammat Hamida Begum, Secretary, Rural Development & Co-operative Division, concluded the event with her speech. She emphasised the need to align developmental efforts with the natural flow of rivers to ensure the sustainable growth of the Char region. She also highlighted the immense potential for rural tourism, presenting various compelling aspects that could drive progress in the region.
The roundtable discussion concluded with a sense of optimism and shared purpose. The collective efforts of government agencies, development partners, and organisations like Swisscontact are poised to unlock the untapped potential of the Char region, leading to a more prosperous and self-reliant Bangladesh.