Shakil Ahmed, a BSc graduate of the Agriculture Department at Noakhali Science and Technology University, successfully cultivated squash, a foreign variety of a winter vegetable, in Delduar upazila of Tangail.
He was having a tough time finding a job in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. He returned to his village in Tangail, after his university was declared closed in March last year. "I spent my time applying for jobs online. Although I was interviewed at a few organisations, I did not get a job. I could not sit idle anymore, and I started farming on my father's land," Shakil said.
"While studying at my university, I did some research on vegetable cultivation. So, I decided to look into cultivating squash."
The best time to grow squash is usually from October to November. Shakil spent BDT 32,000 for the cultivation and sold squash at BDT 92,000 at local markets--BDT 12 per kilogram at the beginning of the season and BDT 8 towards the end.
He also wanted the local farmers to move away from traditional farming practices, and try advanced techniques.
In order to reduce costs, Shakil cultivated squashes using a mulching film, so that moisture remains on the soil and no extra irrigation and labour is required for taking care of the land.
After Shakil applied the method on his squash field, local farmers started criticising him. They said that the whole land is being covered with polythene, and they had doubts about Shakil. Eventually, local farmers showed interest in cultivating with a mulching film, after seeing his success.
Jahidur Rahman Jahid, who returned to the village from Malaysia in the wake of the pandemic, was also sitting idle for a while. Inspired by Shakil, he cultivated squash on his land.
"Shakil advised me to cultivate wheat on our land, where we previously grew paddy. He also showed me that wheat cultivation is more profitable than paddy cultivation," added Jahid.
Shakil is also assisting the Department of Agriculture Extension in their projects to garner the interest of farmers in environmentally-friendly perching methods.
He also cultivated cucumbers, watermelons and muskmelons on his land, after experimenting with squashes. He further plans to study Soil Science at Bangladesh Agriculture University.
"So much labour goes into growing crops, and yet, more often than not, our farmers do not get the right prices for their products. As a result, they lose the interest and motivation to try modern technologies, and ask agricultural experts for support," he said.
Shakil hopes to build a career in agriculture, and contribute to its development in Bangladesh.