Volume 6 | Issue 03| February 11, 2012|


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Tale of a Frontiersman

Bangladesh has seen diversified agriculture for the last four decades and the credit should go to the entrepreneurs who have done it successfully. To be more specific, agricultural entrepreneurs have been the spine of the Bangladesh economy; yet they remained neglected. Farming sector has developed since our liberation, but individual farmers have not. I have been to many regions of the country and found people rising from nothing, building for themselves while contributing to the society and the state. In their struggle for survival, they have come up with innovative ideas and efforts.

Shykh Seraj

Ansar Ali on his vegetable field

Vegetables hold a significant place amongst food items. Almost everywhere around the world, vegetables are produced. Few countries depend on imported vegetables. Bangladesh, India and South Asian countries have developed the export market all around the world. Due to climate change, the snow-covered regions of Europe have turned warmer and at those warm regions, vegetables are cultivated in an extended method. In Europe, USA, Middle-East and many other places, the expatriate Bangladeshis have converted fallow lands into fertile and cultivable. They're successfully producing diverse vegetables. You wouldn't believe it unless or until you see it with your own eyes. Successful Bangladeshi entrepreneurs like Noor Mohammad in Oman, Md. Farid in Qatar, Nazrul Islam in USA- their successful produce are spreading across the world.

Today I will tell you the story of Ansar Ali, a unique farmer who lives in a remote village called Bozruk Shukra in Bogra's Shivganj upazila. He comes from a marginal farming family. Since his birth, his life has been rooted in agriculture. This unique farmer moved into farming foreign vegetables- that's an exceptional story to tell!

Thirty one years ago, Ansar Ali bought a land of 94 decimals and thought of producing vegetables. He started off with balsam apple. It didn't work. Then he started cauliflower and the first year went in vain. Later, he went to Mahasthangarh and learnt how to use the right technology to get the produce in plenty. Afterwards, he personally trained hundreds of farmers who later became hugely successful. His wife said, “You're telling everyone the secret but how will you succeed? “Allah will certainly take care of us”, he replied. He started producing capsicum and sold it at Bogra markets as a hawker. Consumers were very surprised with the capsicum, this strange new vegetable in rural Bangladesh, which was very new to them. A wholesaler from Jaypurhat saw him selling capsicum and took those to Dhaka. From then on, Ansar Ali never had to look back.

Let's give you another example - Asparagus. Most of our Bangladeshi famers don't know about it. But, Ansar Ali has been producing it for quite a long time and popularizing it. He's also producing baby corn, sweet corn, lettuce, broccoli, cherry tomato, beetroot, red lettuce and thai basil. He's not only farming but has gained notable commercial success. He's not only concentrating on his own profit but inspiring other farmers to cultivate new products. He is also helping them find a suitable market without the help of intermediaries.

Ansar Ali weighing his vegetables

In the past, Ansar used to live a very poor life like other farmers do in the village. It was barely a livable life. He still remembers the tough days of his life. When I asked him about his past life he became emotional about the early days and said, “I had a small clay hut. Raindrops used to fall inside our room from the rooftop. My wife said she'll help me build a more protected house. I told her to be patient as one day Allah will give us a better house. Later on, I built my own house. And today, I have got 13 bighas of land.” It's amazing how self-belief keeps our farmers going and thus they have become so resilient.

New crops and commercial farming opportunities really made Ansar Ali a progressive farmer. He passes most of his time over his arable land with foreign vegetables. After the harvest, he manages the distribution himself. He doesn't face any loss at all. Demand of his vegetables increase every day. Every year his earnings grow.

Ansar's wife and son-in-law, Tofizar Rahman cooperates Ansar in all his agricultural creativities. With the touch of the foreign vegetables, their lives have changed, too. With hard labour and dedication, Ansar moves onward. Agro-business credit from non-governmental organization TMSS have helped Ansar Ali develop his agro initiative. Ansar Ali dreams about producing more. Dhaka's one-stop-malls now-a-days buy Ansar's vegetables. At the posh restaurants, people are eating his fresh vegetables.

And for his relentless works, he has been awarded Best Agro Entrepreneur of the year at the Citi Micro Entrepreneurship Award 2010. On 17th of September, 2011, he received this prestigious accolade from Finance Minister A. M. A. Muhith and the Governor of Bangladesh Bank, Dr. Atiur Rahman. “What I'm doing will benefit others and nothing can harm us. If everyone believes in their own abilities then we shouldn't have to worry much about development”, said Ansar Ali after receiving the award.

Through the programmes of Hridoye Mati O Manush (Soil & Men in Heart), I have tried to tell people that farmers have shown the way to development. Following the path of those who have successfully improved their lives, many others move towards development. When we concentrate on the issue of food security, innovative farmers like Ansar Ali catch our attention as a symbol of hope. These farmers tell us of rapid developments and also amazes us at what can be produced from the golden soil of Bangladesh.


Shykh Seraj is an Agriculture Development and Media Activist. He is Director and the Head of News at Channel i and also the Director, Planner and Presenter of the popular Agro-Documentary “Hridoye Mati O Manush”.

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