Families of many farmers are now engaged in harvesting paddy as most of the farm workers have gone to big cities to do petty jobs for higher wages, and those who are available demand wages that the farmers cannot pay.
Jamir Ali, 55, of Itakhola village in Sadar upazila, said he cultivated Aman paddy on 10 bighas of land, which is now ready for harvesting. He tried to hire workers for harvesting but failed as most of them had temporarily migrated to big cities.
A few farm workers who are still available demand Tk 2,500 to Tk 3,000 for cutting, carrying and threshing paddy from one bigha of land, which the farmers cannot afford, he said.
“Finding no other way, I and my elderly wife, sons, young daughter-in-law and school-going children started harvesting to prevent the ripe paddy kernels from dropping to the ground and getting ruined,” Jamir said.
Visiting Itakhola village on November 23, this correspondent found Jamir, along with his wife, daughter-in-law and two sons, cutting paddy. His school-going daughters Rita and Mita were carrying paddy bundles on their heads to the house yard.
“Overcoming their hesitation, my family members started working in the field. We are happy as we have benefitted by turning from an idle family to active and industrious labourers,” Jamir said.
“Members of many well-to-do farmers' families in my union are harvesting Aman paddy by doing the work of labourers as around 80% of farm workers have migrated temporarily to cities,” said Itakhola Union Parishad Chairman Hafizur Rashid Monju.
Timekeeper of Nilphamari bus terminal Abdul Mannan said labourers carrying agriculture tools come to the bus stand or rail station every day to go to other districts.
Day labourer Delwar Hossain of Nautara village, who was waiting with coworkers at Dimla upazila bus terminal to take a bus, said if they work in big towns for one month, they can earn around Tk 20,000.
“Many well-to-do farmers were idle in the past as they could get paddy and other crops cultivated by hiring day labourers, but now that attitude has changed as they have realised that industry is key to success,” said Nilphamari Department of Agriculture Extension Deputy Director Abul Kashem Azad.