Elderly couple Mazeda Khatun and Shamsul Islam were in deep water when their only son, who provided for the family by driving a human haulier, became jobless after damaging an arm in a road crash.
Before the accident in 2010, day labourer Shamsul spent his lifesavings to buy the vehicle for his son so he could stand on his feet and take over responsibilities of the family.
With the disappearance of the cash flow, the couple had to find something to support not only themselves, but also their son's family -- his wife and three under aged children.
Things started to take shape slowoly when the couple, residents of Balarampur village in Kaliganj upazila of Jhenidah, learned how to make vermicompost and organic pesticides (also known as balainashak).
Vermicompost is nutrient-rich organic fertiliser and soil conditioner made through the process of decomposing vegetable or food waste by using various species of earthworms. Organic pesticides are non-toxic pesticides, used mostly in organic farming, made from bark of different trees.
After they received training from Hunger Free World, a voluntary organisation, they found motivation in the work as aside from providing them with a source of income, the production of the organic farming helps save the environment.
Patience and hard work of Mazeda and Shamsul -- now aged between 60 and 65 -- started to pay off and a steady flow of income started to pour in from the sales of the organic farming materials.
Landless Shamsul said he leased 25 decimals of land in the area for the purpose. For additional income, they also grow mint and different vegetables following organic farming methods.
With around Tk 24 to 25 thousand earnings each month now, they have been able to pull the family together.
Reminiscing on how it all started, Mazeda said for making vermicompost, they first bought 250 grams of earthworms from a farmer. And ten years later, they now sell earthworms to other organic farmers, at Tk 1,000 for each kilogram.
Their main income comes from vermicompost, which they produce 1,200 to 1,600 kgs per month and sell for Tk 10 each kg.
They earn around Tk 3,000 each month from sales of mint and another Tk 1,000 from that of organic pesticides, she also said.
Shamsul said while overuse of chemical fertilisers at farms have been causing health hazards to humans, the same chemicals used in farmlands are also causing damage to the soil and eventually, to the environment.
He also said that it gives him great satisfaction when he realises that his line of work, in some way, is helping minimise the risks chemicals pose to human health as well as the environment.
Low-cost ingredients such as cow manure, rotten banana trees and leaves of various other trees are mainly required for making vermicompost. After collecting those from local sources, they mix those with earthworms and put the mix in earthen pots.
He uses about 12 decimals of his farm to set up about 300 such earthen pots. The remainder of the land is used for making organic pesticides and growing mint and other organic produce.
From the profit of the farm, they recently leased two bighas of land where the couple plans to grow rice and various other crops.