Mobarak Ali shows the way
Few days back I went to Panchagarh district's Devidoba village in Deviganj upazila, and was happy to come across a very progressive farmer called, Mobarak Ali. He has been extremely successful by producing crops using organic methods. The farmer is so progressive and farm-friendly; he has revolutionized his fate in just a few years. His father gave him 12 bighas of land to which he added an additional seventy-five bighas with the earning from his farm over the past the past two decades. He also leased around three hundred bighas of land to grow vegetables and diversified crops. Mobarak cultivates different varieties of vegetables and crops including ginger, turmeric, onions, garlic, chilies, potatoes, egg-plants, cauliflower etc.
Mainly, ginger has really helped him revolutionize his fate. You may be aware about Hridoye Mati O Manush's 'Grow Green initiative', which is about convincing farmers to produce crops using organic methods, without pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Mobarak Ali is an ideal farmer in this regard.
Farmers' cultivating their lands is quite natural. However considering the present context, he has to be a scientist, a prudent trader, sound accountant, a manager, a friend to his soil and environment, sometimes an extension worker and sometimes a guide for others. This package of skills will lead a farmer to the pinnacle of success. To hold this success, farmer needs to be perseverant, honest and good organizers. All these qualities are inside one farmer – Mobarak Ali. He has created a revolution over twenty years of farming. It was a great experience talking to this legendary farmer.
“When you started farming twenty years back, how much land did you have?”
“Only twelve bighas from my father, after which I expanded it by seventy-five bighas from my profits.”
“So, you're doing pretty well, I see.”
“Yes, both my sons have completed their post-graduation studies and I have built three houses.”
Mobarak has realized deeply that if you don't concentrate on soil health, the soil won't respond equally to farmers. He also wants to ensure people get hundred percent pure food. Food safety is what he thought to deliver. That's why he stopped using pesticides long ago and reduced the use of chemical fertilizers.
“You don't need any pesticides?”
“Not at all, sex pheromone traps (organic technology to prevent pest attack) save a lot of costs.”
“Where do send your agricultural goods?”
“To Karwan Bazaar and Islampur in Dhaka. I also send some to Konabari.”
Mobarak was supported by bank loans to expand his farming. At first he wasn't really capable. But now, he's a big farmer of the region.
“I received bank loans at a 4% interest.”
“This helps you a lot, right?”
“Very much so! I could develop more and it was fast.”
However, Mobarak is a bit frustrated on current market trends of agricultural goods and import policies.
“I sold ginger at Tk. 130 per kilogram. Recently, when LC from Kerala came into the market, it took the price down to Tk. 80”, said Mobarak.
At Mobarak's farm, on a daily basis at least 60 male and female farm-laborers' work regularly. The women who work at his farm didn't have any jobs in this region in the past. They were mostly engaged in household work. When Mobarak's huge agro-farm started its journey, the women were employed.
Although the women are paid Tk. 150, which is a hundred taka less than what the men get, they have no complaints over this issue as they had no financial resource few days back. Now, they're financially stable with this job. The most optimistic thing is, whoever produces fresh food, makes them happier than anything.
I also spoke with another farmer who was convinced to grow crops organically. Almost all farmers in the village and in the surrounding regions are inspired by Mobarak Ali.
“As we use natural fertilizers that we make ourselves, we get healthy crops and they look really good.”
“Do your crops get attacked by pests?”
“No, not much…the organic vegetables we produce here have more demand in the market.”
“Do you get a higher price for the organic ones?”
It seems the soil talks to Mobarak Ali every day. Crops tell him what's good and what's not. If you look at his agricultural plots – you would be amazed to see green and freshness over the fields. There is not a single unhealthy plant on his lands. This is what the prime success of a farmer is all about. All this was possible through the use of integrated organic methods Mobarak used on his farmlands.
Dear readers, the key policy organizations of the world and also UN's FAO have decided that in order to ensure food security, family farming is becoming more and more indispensable. Mobarak Ali is certainly a success regarding this. When most land-owners are giving away their farmlands to sharecroppers and settling in cities, Mobarak is truly an exception, as he sticks to his roots firmly. Every year, he is expanding lands with the profits he makes. He educated and appointed his sons as farmers. I was lucky to meet his sons, Hamidul Islam and Hamidar Rahman.
“I have completed MBA from a private university. I didn't look for any job and now am a full-time farmer, working with my dad”, said Hamidul.
“Why do you think organic farming is important for Bangladesh?”
“We aim at producing healthy food for the people of Bangladesh. That's why we use organic fertilizers. We don't use chemical fertilizers or pesticides.”
The arable lands of Mobarak are like a learning centre for other farmers. Your eyes will be comforted looking at the fresh crops. You would definitely love to know how he made these crops look so fresh and healthy. Many farmers gather around Mobarak's plots'. He is a great analyzer. He believes if farmers are brought back to organic farming people will stay healthy, we'll be healthy. Most importantly farmers would be able to save a lot of money.
SAAO (Sub-Assistant Agriculture Officer) Abdul Majid is also doing a great job in assisting farmers in the region and enlightens them about organic farming. I feel if any region in the country has one ideal farmer and a dedicated SAAO, the entire region will develop in farming sector for sure.
Dear readers, almost all across Bangladesh, issues like saving soil health, growing organic food and cutting down production are inevitable. It is time to 'Grow Green' and we must revive the soil quality fast or else in near future, with excessive use of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, the quality will be gone – that is one of the biggest threats that we face.