Abdullah's medicinal garden blessing for the poor
Understanding the medicinal properties of plants is a world of wisdom, a bank of knowledge which has often been handed down through centuries. The subject has fascinated septuagenarian SM Abdullah from Kathaltoli village in Nilphamari's Domar upazila since his boyhood. For many years he wanted to establish a medicinal garden for villagers to rely on to treat symptoms and minor illnesses. In 1998 he did just that.
“Looking for herbal plants in the wild was always my hobby,” says Abdullah, “but it was after I graduated as a mechanical engineer in the 1960s and went to work in Thailand and China that I became convinced that a garden really would be a good idea. In those countries both the governments and people are quite committed to such remedies.”
Indian gooseberry, black myrobalan, felwort and devil's cotton: after 28 years abroad Abdullah set to work, scouring roadsides, bamboo clumps and scrubland, anywhere he thought he might find specimens. Native asparagus, prostrate spurge, ironweed and tulsi: the garden he established on sixty bighas of land has around fifty species.
“Village women often arrive bearing sick children,” he says. “They seek help for common ailments like fever, pain and diarrhoea. I advise them as to which leaves, roots or fruit might be useful.” Residents from around eight villages visit the garden. Remedies are provided for free.
“Alo vera is used to keep the brain cool and for making cosmetics,” says Abdullah's assistant Ranju Mia, by way of example. “Madagascar periwinkle can help control diabetes and blood pressure. The arjun tree can assist in preventing heart disease.”
Varieties of fruit are also grown, with fruit sales used to subsidise the cost of tending the herbal plants.
“The garden is a blessing for the poor,” says Domar upazila council's chairman, A. Razzak Basunia. “Our forefathers taught us these treatments; the government hospital is quite a distance away.”
“Abdullah's is the largest medicinal garden in the upazila,” says the local agriculture officer Jafar Iqbal. “We try to help with technical support.”
With his herbal garden a success, Abdullah has a new dream. “I want to expand the garden and make it profitable, so that even people abroad will know how blessed we are with rare herbs and a long heritage of traditional remedies.” He hopes for a bank loan to help fulfil his future plans.