THE COMILLA APPROACH TO RURAL DEVELOPMENT,
“Comilla Kotwali Thana is one of the most economically
depressed areas of the world." This statement, made by
one of the staff members of the Comilla Project, probably
indicates better than any long description the context of
the project and the task of the project personnel.
Comilla Kotwali Thana is one of the 413 Thanas of Bangladesh
and has many characteristics which are common to former East
Pakistan. with 220,000 inhabitants in an area of 107 sq m,
the Population density exceeds 2.000 inhabitants per sq a.
Most of the Thana is an alluvial plain situated only about
25 ft above sea level. During the monsoon, a river carries
huge quantities of water and frequently causes heavy flood
The district town of Comilla has a population of less than
60,000 and is a centre of commerce, education and Administration.
More than 160,000 of the Thana's Population live in the rural
area in one of the villages, the number of which is about
300. These villages are rather small clusters of dwellings
and often have 300 to 500 inhabitants only. It is not unusual
that inhabitants of a village Are divided into factions, and
important social relations are organized in networks reaching
beyond the single village. Rice farming constitutes the basis
of livelihood. About two thirds of the rural population live
an subsistence farms, often of no more then two acres, and
people have to look for part time jobs to make both ends meet.
Five per cent of the population live an the so called surplus
farms, which indicates that production exceeds the needs of
home consumption. while these farmers too do not usually own
much more than five to ten acres, they are economically much
better off in comparison with their fellow villagers. This
enables them to engage in moneylendinq which, an account of
the constant need for credit among the subsistence farmers
and the prevailing high rates of interest of 50 to 100 per
cent pa proves a good investment.
Another approximately 30 per cent of the population is landless
and has to look for paid labour which, under the prevailing
conditions, is rather difficult to find. They often find temporary
work only and, consequently, their level of living is very
Agriculture is heavily influenced by the monsoon and consists
primarily of rice cultivation this crop covering 80 per cent
of the cultivated area. Cultivation is divided into three
crop seasons: the "Aus" crop is grown on 50 per
cent of the cultivated area from April to August. As this
is the monsoon period, the climatic conditions are very good
for rice, but constant floods often destroy the harvest so
that farmers are reluctant to cultivate lowlands. As floods
are less frequent during the Amon season (August to September),
80 per cent of the cultivated area are under rice. In the
BURO season, there is no danger of flood at all, but the land
is dry and only five per cent of the low lying areas can be
irrigated and cultivated.
Cultivation is of low intensity. Half of the farmers own
bullocks for the cultivation of their land and that of others
on hire. The traditional methods of rice cultivation lead
to a yield of about 1,500 lb/acre of Amon paddy. This is only
about one third of the average yield in Japan.