Indians cultivated tea on no-man's land along border areas of Bawra Union in Lalmonirhat while Bangladesh side (marked in red) of the border remains barren. PHOTO: STAR
The same land, the same weather and the same level of fertility – but the output is strangely the opposite. Bawra, Islampur, Kuchlibari and Burimar villages of Patgram upazila in the district Lalmonirhat lie on the Indo-Bangladesh border. The India side of the no-man's land is used for tea farming, where the no-mans land in Bangladesh side is abandoned for years, thanks to the lack of proper initiative, patronization and support.
The officials of Tea Board at Hatibandha upazila said that about one thousand acres of India's no-mans land along Bawra, Islampur, Kuchlibari and Burimari borders of Patgram upazila are being used for cultivating Tea farming for the last 5 to 7 years, whereas the same quantity of land on Bangladesh's side has remained unused. Abdul Mazid, a farmer at Nabinagar village of Bawra union at Patgram upazila informed that he has one acre land in the Bangladesh side of the no-mans land in the border but he keeps the land abandoned as it is high and dry land that is not proper for farming other crops. "I would think of farming tea on this land but I don't have the sufficient capital," he said. Another farmer Sufiar Rahman at same village said, "I could use land for tea farming if the government provided support," he said, adding he has already received training on tea farming from the Tea Board six months ago. Farmer
Nazrul Islam at Kuchlibari village of Patgram upazila, said "I know an Indian farmer by the name of Subodh Chandra Das – he earns good profits from Tea farming from his land, which is adjoining my land.”
Talking to Indian farmers Sartendra Nath Paul, Gatu Chandra Sen of Dakuyatari and Abul Hossain, Mazibar Rahman, Manik Chandra Barmon of Ketkibari village in Indian Mekhliganj thana, it was clear that tea cultivation was profitable. They have been earning Indian Rupees 4000 to 5000 farming Tea on one bigha of land per month. "Many farmers lease their lands in the no-mans land to Indian companies for farming tea, and they also earn good profit," they said adding they get interest free loan and other support from the Indian govt. "Over one thousand acres of land close to the Indian border are being used for tea farming, creating livelihood for over two thousand Indian farmers," said Indian farmer Rustom Ali of Bramottor village in Mekhliganj thana.
Agriculture officer at Patgram upazila Mosharof Hossain said that he exchanged views with the bordering farmers and all the farmers are highly interested in farming tea, they are also ready to lease their lands to the govt or company for farming tea, he added. "Tea farming on these lands is highly feasible, as these are high and dry," said Iqbal Hossain, another agriculture officer of Patgram upazila Iqbal Hossain.
Ferdous Alam, a tea farmer at Bichhondoi village of Hatibandha upazila who owns Soma Tea Estate said that tea farming only requires a one-time investment but gives output for at least 30 years. At least 700 Bangladeshi farmers at border areas at Hatiband and Patgram upazila have been trained on tea farming
but they are not utilizing their training due to the lack of sufficient capital. Hatibandha Tea Board officials informed that Tk 80 to 85 thousand is needed to farm tea on one acre of land and after two or three years this land will yield tk 50 to 80 thousand every year in profits.
Mizanur Rahman, the Senior Field Assistant, also the in-charge of Hatibandha Tea Board thinks that it is possible to farm the best quality tea in Lalmonirhat's border areas. Tea board officials completed feasibility test three years ago and submitted the report to the government but did not receive any response till now. According to the Bangladesh Tea Association the import of tea in recent times is on the rise as the import of tea totalled 10.62 million kgs in 2013 which was only 1.92 million kgs due to imposition of 20 percent supplementary duty on imports in 2012. Before that tea import totalled 4.98 million kgs in 2011 while 4.13 million kgs in 2010. The annual domestic tea output of Bangladesh remains has remained stagnant for the last 10 years -- between 53 and 56 million kgs.