A chartered accountant of Dulali village in Bhelabari union under Aditmari upazila is encouraging farmers to cultivate tea instead of tobacco on their fields in the plainland by cultivating tea himself and earning good profit.
“At first, the farmers did not believe that it is possible to cultivate tea on the plainland, but they have become very interested in growing tea after seeing my success in tea farming,” said Jamal Uddin Sarker, 38, manager (Audit and Tax) of ARK Group in Dhaka.
“Tobacco is harmful for the soil, environment and our health, but local farmers were interested in farming tobacco as it is a profitable crop. They did not know that tea cultivation is more profitable than tobacco cultivation. I have taken it as a challenge to convince farmers to grow tea instead of tobacco,” he added.
To arouse farmers' interest in tea farming, Jamal started growing tea on 2.83 acres of leased land at the village in November, 2016, and leased 2.30 acres more in November 2017.
He harvested 9,000 kg of tea in the last one year from the first plot. He sold the tea at Tk 28 to Tk 30 per kg to the tea leaf processing factory in Panchagarh.
Labourers in Jamal's 3M Tea Estate are happy as they get Tk 40 per hour as wages.
“Many local farmers visited my tea garden and said they will start tea farming instead of tobacco on their lands, and hope to start their new journey during the current year,” Jamal said, adding that he comes to his tea estate from Dhaka during the weekly holiday.
Abdul Hamid, 20, a labourer in the village, said he and the other labourers are happy working in the tea garden as they are paid satisfactory wage for the work.
Sohor Uddin, 48, said he has decided to start farming tea instead of tobacco on his six bighas of land during this current year, adding that Jamal assured him that he will supply tea saplings for a minimum price.
Project Director Arif Khan of Bangladesh Tea Board in Hatibandha said the soil of the district, especially the highlands where there is no waterlogging, is perfect for tea farming. “We are providing technical support and tea saplings to interested farmers,” he said, adding that Jamal has achieved success in tea farming in a short time.
District Department of Agriculture Extension Deputy Director Bidhubhushon Roy said it is a good sign that farmers are being encouraged to grow tea instead of tobacco. “If the farmers can earn expected profit, they will not go back to farming tobacco,” he added.
Jamal said he will increase the scale of tea farming by next year and work hard until he reaches the target.