Gazi Rafiq's name might not be familiar to many of us. He likes to introduce himself as a poet, but it is not his only identity. A scientist and nutritionist, Rafiq has done extensive research from November 2010 to March 2012, on the amount of rice wasted in the process of cooking. Being a graduate in Islamic History and Culture and with no prior experience in scientific experimentation, he has conducted this research on his own initiative without the help of any institution. He embraced this challenge only because he believed that his research could contribute in the economic development and national prosperity of our country.
According to his findings, as much as 13-15 percent rice gets wasted when cooked rice is drained. His research shows that if we as a nation could get rid of this practice of draining away the water of cooked rice, we could save 42-51 lakh metric tons of rice every year. He believes that this could play a significant role in today's poverty alleviation and food security issues. He calls the rice which is not drained of its water “pushtibhaat” (nutritious rice)
When the poet becomes a scientist
During his university days, Gazi Rafiq was bored of eating the same food over and over again in the college canteen. “Like many other university students, I discovered that my diet lacked variety,” Rafiq recalls. “So to get rid of that monotony I decided to cook myself in my hostel room.”
Cooking did not seem a tough job to him, however draining the water out of the rice while cooking posed a real challenge before our scientist. That was the first time it came to his mind, “Why do we need to go through this unnecessary step while cooking rice? If we drain a certain amount of water out of it, then why don't we put optimum water in the beginning?” he questions.
Since then, he started to rethink about our rice cooking methods. In our country we cook rice mainly following two processes, one is by draining away the gruel cooked by adding extra water and another process is by preparing sticky rice by drying up the water in the cooking pot.
The first system is much practiced among us. Most Bangladeshis follow this method out of habit and as a part of our cooking culture, without knowing the consequences of draining out the liquid. But this process, says Rafiq, results in a loss of 18 types of nutrient particles, including vitamins and a significant portion of carbohydrate. Cooking rice in this way we do not only lose nutrition, but a portion of the rice grains also gets lost with the gruel. This Rafiq terms as the 'third stage wastage of rice'.
“While I was thinking of how to measure and control this economic loss I contacted a few places like FPMU (Food Planning & Monitoring Unit) and INFS (Institution of Nutrition and Food Science) back in 2011. I was interested to know the quantity loss of edible rice during cooking. But unfortunately I did not find any scientific study available in this area.”
Then Rafiq decided to run a few tests on his own in order to gain some statistical and mathematical evidence of his theory.
“As for the first attempt I took two separate samples of parboiled milled rice weighing 500 gms and boiled them separately draining away gruel from one and drying out the gruel from the other. Now weighing the boiled rice I could get an estimate of how much rice was wasted from the sample we drained away the gruel.
With different types of rice the result can vary from 80 to 100 gm. Repeating the test with variable and different types of rice the third stage wastage of rice was found actually to be 13-15 percent, which translates to an estimated 293 crore 25 lakh US dollars annually.
Rafiq presented his scientific keynote paper in a seminar held on March 18, 2012 at the National Press Club Dhaka on his research. It was attended by Dr AAMS Arefin Siddique, Vice Chancellor of University of Dhaka, Dr Khursheed Jahan , a renowned nutritionist and faculty in DU and also economist Dr MM Akash. He has also acquired a copyright from the copyright office government of the People 's Republic of Bangladesh as the author of his research “Difference of Mass in applying alternative Method of cooking Rice.”
In the attempt of making this practice popular among the general people, Bangladesh television is airing a 3minute promo. He has also written a song advocating sticky rice:
Ma bhai-boner achhejana
Mar phele bhaat khete mana
Boshabhaat a sholoana
Shustho thaka jai
“The population has grown more than twice from 7.5 crore since our independence and food production is also accelerating with the growing population,” Gazi Rafiq says. “Therefore, we need to plan wisely and stop waste of food to strengthen our food security.”
This self-effacing, soft spoken man is not interested in becoming famous from his research. “All I want is to change this wasteful practice so that we as a nation can become self-sufficient in food production,” he says optimistically.