The popular winter vegetable brings better profit than the region’s traditional main crop
It is not possible to bring a change alone. But the change is to start from an individual level. And of course, the most difficult part is the start. I have tried to observe very closely the agricultural change in North Bangladesh after liberation. I have seen how the farmers of this country have gradually been associated with new agricultural changes. For the sake of necessity, they themselves have developed many technologies and agricultural techniques. By learning about a new technology or strategy of a different country or area through television, they have been successful in making and using it completely on their own. I have seen many such examples. Agriculture is a spiritual pursuit to a farmer. I believe in the immortal line of Razia Khatun Chowdhurani, “The great saint of all saints is the farmers of my country.”
Recently, I have found another successful farmer. He is Hakim Dewan of Mamashar village under Bojrojogini union of Munshiganj, the person who applied technology and technique by watching agricultural show on television. By doing so, not only has he changed his own fortune, but also the scenario of the whole village.
During the end of November this year, I started for Munshiganj at dawn. The destination is the farm of Hakim Dewan in the village of Mamashar. A light fog appeared after I entered the village. The climate change was quite noticeable as at the end of November, the winter should have been far colder and foggy.
After I reached Hakim Dewan’s farm, the sun started peeping out in the eastern sky. A glimpse of a bright day is noticed due to the golden shine spread by the sun. Hakim’s age would be 40 years to 45 years. It is apparent that he is a very enthusiastic man. He came to me carrying a basket containing 10 to 12 bottle gourds on his head. Putting the basket down, he hugged me. He said, “I cannot believe I am actually meeting you. By the grace of Almighty, watching your show changed my fortune.” Readers, there is no greater joy in my life than knowing my programme has benefited a farmer.
Potato was the main crop of farmers in this area, including Hakim Dewan. This fertile area on the banks of Padma, Meghna, Dhaleshwari and Ichhamati rivers is relatively low. Many lands get submerged due to heavy rainfall. Usually, the water goes away in September-October. After the water moves away, potatoes are planted. One day, Hakim Dewan saw the ancient floating farming method of the southern region on Channel i’s Hridoye Mati O Manush. I have presented this method many times on Hridoye Mati O Manush. In the early nineties, I did a report on floating farming method for the first time in Bangladesh Television’s Mati O Manush programme. After that, the method of floating cultivation has been recognised as the country’s traditional agricultural method by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization. Farmer Hakim Dewan watched this farming technique on television and practiced it first on his low land. The other farmers in the neighborhood thought he had gone crazy. They said, “Barishal’s farming system won’t be applicable in Munshiganj.” Hakim Dewan is not someone to panic. He alone made a heap of water hyacinth and planted bottle gourd seedlings on top of it. Success came in the first try. In a soaked floating bed, he started growing profitable bottle gourd. Many other farmers started following him witnessing his success.
Potato cultivation is like an age old practice of Munshiganj farmers. It is their tradition. But they are gradually changing their habit. It has happened due to nothing but the fact that they have been facing loss in potato cultivation lately. So, the cultivable potato lands of Bojrojogini are being taken over by profitable bottle gourds.
The lands are green with luscious bottle gourds. Fields after fields are filled with bottle gourds. Thousands of bottle gourds are hanging on the machas (bamboo platforms). This amazing scene overwhelms me. This reminds me of the bottle gourd farm of Babul, a young man from Betbari village of Mymensingh’s Bhaluka. A couple of years ago, the young entrepreneur Babul created a stir by cultivating bottle gourd on 20 acres of land. Hakim Dewan is now cultivating bottle gourd on 120 decimals of land. I also talked to other farmers of the area. One of them is Rasel Mohammad. He said that this time he has cultivated bottle gourd on 140 decimals of land. He is getting 100 gourds daily. He will be getting gourd like this for straight three months. They start the season by selling gourds for Tk 40 to Tk 45 each. At the end of the season, the price comes down to Tk 30 to Tk 35 each. The farmers are happy with the price they are getting straight from the fields. Rasel Mohammad’s calculation is very simple in the case of gourd. To cultivate bottle gourd on 140 decimals of land, it costs him a total of Tk 1.50 lakh (approx 1789 USD). And he earns more than Tk 4 lakh (approx 4772 USD) from there. This profit of Tk 2.50 lakh (approx 2982 USD) in four months has changed his life, even the dreams of the future. Another farmer Yasin Arafat has planted gourds in 160 decimals of the land. He said, “There is more profit in bottle gourds than potatoes. Not only the fruit, but also the leaves bring earning.”
Indeed, this Mamashar village of Munshiganj is giving a message of a new wealthy Bangladesh. Farmers are now very aware. Their calculations are well-organised. They are becoming confident. They are choosing their own tools and tactics to change their fortune.
Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officer (SAAO) of the Department of Agriculture Extension Selim Hossain was present in the field. I also talked to him about this new change in cultivation in Munshiganj area. He said that bottle gourd cultivation is happening on 35 hectares of land in Bojrojogini. And from this, farmers are getting about three times more profit than potatoes. Selim Hossain estimates that the cultivation of potatoes from 35 hectares of land brings Tk 1.10 crore (approx 131,241 USD), whereas farmers are getting more than Tk 3 crore (approx 357,930) by cultivating bottle gourds.
Dear readers, diversified changes are happening in the farming sector. The pattern of agriculture is changing every day. The equation of agriculture has changed due to multipurpose research, extension and improved seeds reaching the hands of the farmers. Needless to say, media campaign is tremendously influencing the farmer too. Farmers are becoming rich tactically as well as becoming aware regarding their own rights. They are finding the crops that will bring them more profit. Farmers are confidently investing in farming, understanding the possibilities. Today, they have enough enthusiasm and confidence in applying new methods. Munshiganj’s agricultural diversity is such a successful example. It is necessary to ensure timely extension of services and market facilities to take these brave initiatives of the farmers forward, so that the farmers can contribute to the agricultural economy reaching their desired goals.