Rural farmers producing organic fertilizers right at home. Photo: Hridoye Mati O Manush
Mymensingh's Harirampur village, situated in Muktagachha upazila's Dulla union has become a hub of vermicompost plants with the help from Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) and local associations and farm entrepreneurs, specially women. If we really want to revive soil fertility, we need to use a lot of organic fertilizers.
Production and extension of vermicompost is moving onward pretty fast. The rural women are benefitted in two ways. They can earn extra money while setting up vermicompost plants, and also by producing organic food using this technology. I have talked with homemaker Ruma and others from Chandpur village in Dulla union.
“How many times can the earthworms be reproduced?”
“Don't the earthworms lose their strength?”
I also spoke to another female farmer.
“Do you use cow dung?”
“Did any of you used vermicompost on your crop land”, I asked.
“I have used it on my paddy land”, replied Sima along with other women in the village.
“What differences did you find?"
“The paddies look stronger and greener”.
Twenty two women are commercially producing vermicompost through their association. This association is doing a very good job in the village and across the union.
“I don't have to buy fertilizer from market. Rather, I can produce it from household waste”, said a female member of the association. These women are contributing to revive the soil quality in a meaningful way.
“What's the cost difference between using urea and vermicompost?”
“Vermicompost saved a lot of cost for me. It's a very handy technology.”
Mohammad Ali and his wife Fulesa Begum have built their own plant of vermicompost at home.
“This fertilizer is very much necessary. If you apply it on soil, it gets more fertile. It works better than the chemical fertilizers.”
Another farmer from this village, Anwar Hossain Kamal. He's using vermicompost on his eggplant plot.
“Before using vermicompost my eggplants looked reddish.”
“How much have you used here on this land?”
“What's the price of it?”
“Tk. 200 only.”
I talked with Jalil, a young and educated farmer who had the same experience.
“I used to spend around Tk. 1000 before on chemical fertilizer, and now I only spend 200 taka”.
Ruhul Amin is the Chairman of a local youth association based on voluntary labour, known as 'Jubo Krishi Shomaj Unnayan Shongstha'. This association is also helped and guided by DAE and is contributing to promote vermicompost.
“We have three major targets. Using agricultural inputs in an integrated way, revival of soil quality and better farming”, said Ruhul. The organization tries to raise awareness amongst farmers through field level training. They tell them that chemical fertilizers are not the food for soil but only for crops.
The organic fertilizer is just the opposite of chemicals. Mostly they have to deal with illiterate farmers. Ruhul has formed this organization to make them aware about the benefits of organic farming.
Amin says it would have been impossible to spread the organic farming across the region without the help of farmer-friendly SAAO, Selim Reza.
It's a great news that farmers are becoming aware of producing fresh agricultural products while maintaining soil fertility. Hridoye Mati O Manush's Grow Green initiative has also helped them in this awakening process.
Meanwhile, in different regions of the country, farmers as well unemployed youth and people from different walks of life are building their own vermicompost plants. This is very profitable and environment friendly agricultural initiative for sure.
Bangladeshi arable lands have gradually lost 85% of fertility. According to SRDI, soil lacks both organic matters and nutrients. Out of 8.3 million hectares of arable land in the country, nutrients have decreased alarmingly in 3.3 million hectares of lands. Plants absorb 14 organic chemical compounds from among the total 17 from the soil. All over Bangladesh, these chemical compounds are missing from the soil. The main reason behind this is the organic matter from the soil is decreasing.
For a higher yield, using the organic fertilizer is the only way. In the past, with government initiative, for producing quality organic fertilizer, entrepreneurs were provided with loans. Around 30 organizations received loans from government but only four of them actually built plants. One of these four is the Agro Organic Food Complex, situated in Faridpur's Komorpur area. But, the organization is closed now. The concerned authority says until the market of organic fertilizer is not settled, the producers can never run their organization. The closed factory has ten thousand tons of organic fertilizer. These fertilizers could have played a great role in the revival of the soil fertility.
This factory had once all the facilities for producing quality organic fertilizer. As they didn't get any market, the entrepreneurs had to shut it down. Agro-entrepreneur Syed Abu Siddiqui was explaining why organic fertilizer couldn't get the market.
“Farmers are not fully aware of this new technology and that's why they weren't interested to use vermicompost. If government takes the initiative to promote the benefits of this technology among farmers of Bangladesh, definitely farmers will show up for using organic fertilizers”, said Syed Abu Siddiqui.
When saving the soil fertility and producing crops without pesticides are the most important issues, we need an integrated venture to spread the organic fertilizer across the country. Public and private initiatives are key to restart facilities like this huge organic fertilizer producing factories.