Volume 2 Issue 30 | March 29 , 2008 |


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From Jhenidah

Organic Alternatives

Azibor Rahman

Helal Uddin is a man over 60 who has made a tremendous contribution to agriculture. He comes from a very poor family that has gone through some really tough times. First there was the suicide of his brother's wife due to the lack of having something to eat, and then it was the tragic death of his two brothers Delbor Uddin and Khelafat Uddin due to lack of treatment for their ailments. Helal Uddin felt absolutely hopeless for a while. He had to go through the difficult state of grieving following these tragedies and at the same time having to provide for his family. Nevertheless, he dreamt of better days and continued working at a steady pace. He started farming on the one and a half bighas of land his father left him. He believed his industriousness and sincerity would eventually pull him through. He learnt how to produce a highly effective compost as an organic fertilizer. This was an alternative to the chemical fertilizers that were being used. He got help and training from Dr. Gul Hossain, an agriculture specialist and Naimuzzaman Mukta, a coordinator of the UNDP, Omar Ali and Ayub Hossain

He kept working. His fertilizer was put to use and it became very successful. He gained recognition among farmers all over and in recognition for his work; he was awarded the Anwarul Kadir foundation crest along with a prize of Tk one lakh this year.

I went to Moheshshar Chanda, a remote village under Kaligonj upazila to meet up with Helal Uddin. While talking to The Daily Star, Helal Uddin narrated the bitter experiences he had in his farming life. He said that after his father's death their family faced extreme poverty. His brother's wife could no longer bear the poverty and committed suicide and his two brothers died for want of treatment. He supported his family by collecting paddy from inside rats' holes in the field. He also started lending his labor in other people's land. He never wasted time, he always wanted to do something productive. He kept himself busy inside his own household too. He then started tilling the small piece of land left by his father. Days passed by, and he began to produce Bharmi (a particular type of compost, produced with worms) compost fertilizer. Fortune started to smile upon him. Gradually, stories of the effectiveness of Bharmi compost spread far and wide and farmers crowded up to him. He started to produce a good quantity of fertilizer. He started getting a bumper production in his own fields. He was doing much better in comparison to the other farmers of the village who use chemical fertilizer. This Bharmi compost fertilizer has been tested at the Jessore soil test office. It has been shown to be very effective and its effects last longer while chemical T.S.P fertilizers act quick but do not last very long. Chemical fertilizers harm the quality of soil while organic fertilizers increase the productive power of soil.

Helal now earns a lot of money selling them in different markets- they go for about Tk 10 per kg. He has already made a good number of plants across the country including Bhola district, Panchagor, Magura, Noakhali and Kushtia. Besides, he has made more plants in his surrounding villages including Gholpara, Mathurapara, Balakandol, Neamotpur and Balarampur. Farmers of the surrounding ten villages are getting bumper productions using this organic fertilizer. As his name and fame spread far and near, Josefer Martin, an American agriculturist visited him and was very happy to see what he had accomplished.

Moslem Uddin, a member of Moheshshar Chanda village said, he has brought about a major change in the region with Bharmi compost fertilizer. Now this fertilizer is largely used there instead of chemical fertilizers the production of crops is up.

Helal Uddin said he now owns 15-16 bighas of land. He uses his special compost on all his land. He has planted fifteen hundred trees that give fruit and timber. Besides, he has planted 120 types of medicinal trees. He has also made a nursery on one and half a bighas of land. When he is not busy with his agricultural projects, he stays occupied with other things. He sweeps mosque premises, the local bazaar compound and other public places. He has also helped found two junior high schools named Gosh Nagar and Kacha Tala under Kaligonj upazila, Jhenidah.

Asked about his future plans, he expressed that he is very happy with his four daughters and three sons. He will dedicate the remainder of his life to public works. He said, he has gained a reputation as a successful farmer and at last he has gotten a national award from the Anwarul Kadir Foundation in Dhaka.

Kaligonj Upazila Agriculture Officer (U.A.O) Imdad Hossain Sheikh said, chemical fertilizers harmed the fertility of soil over a longer term, and that organic fertilizers were the way to go.

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