Farming changes their lot

Daily Star, Dhaka
February 05, 2004

By EAM Asaduzzaman, Nilphamari


Graduating from a local college, Zakir Hossain started hybrid tomato cultivation. He is now a proud and rich farmer and dreams of creating jobs for others in agro-based small industries.

He earned Tk 1.5 lakh from seven bighas and expects to earn Tk 3 lakh to Tk 3.5 lakh more in the rest two months of the current rabi season.

He says small processing plants could be set up in remote and poverty-stricken Domar upazila to produce jam, jelly pickles and other exportable food items, which will show the road to prosperity to many in the area.

"The government can help us in setting up a specialised cold storage to preserve tomato and other vegetables", he told this correspondent at Nij Vogdabari village during a recent visit to three unions in the upazila.

Tomato farming has changed the fate of many in nine villages in the three unions. Marginal farmers and even landless share-croppers are now well off with hefty profits from their small holdings.

It was a different scene at Nij Vogdaburi, Gosaigang and Chilahati villages in Vogdaburi union; Mirzaganj, Jorabari and Bagdogra in Jorabari union and three other villages in Teprigang union. Jubilant farmers were working in tomato fields covering over 300 acres.

Raju Basunia, another educated youth, said he has already sold about 400 maunds for Tk 60,000 and expects to earn another two lakh from four bighas of land.

"The production cost is higher this year due to high prices of fertiliser and insecticide", he said.

Atar Ali, a small farmer of Bagdogra village, has earned Tk 10,000 from half a bigah of land (15 decimal) and hopes to get more Tk 25,00 in the rest of the season till the Bangla month of Baishakh. He got Tk 30,000 from the same land last year.

Share-cropper Horihor Barman cultivated tomato on 20 decimal land at Gosaigang village. He has to pay Tk 8,000 to the landowner. Still he is happy as he has already earned Tk 20,000 and expects to get Tk 30,000 more after meeting the production cost.

Maginal farmers like Nazrul of Teprigany village, Azizul of Nijvogdaburi village, Sukur Mia of Chilahati and Ketai Barman of Jorabari are also happy as tomato farming has changed their lot.

Zakir says 350 to 450 maunds can be produced on a bigha and the crop can be cultivated from the Bangla months of Kartik' (mid-October) to Baishakh (April).

But all of them said the marketing system is very difficult. Middlemen buy at low prices and supply truckloads of tomato to Dhaka and other cities.

Block Supervisors of agricultural department said the soil of the region is very good for vegetable cultivation and they are assisting farmers by teaching them improved methods of cultivation.

Commercial cultivation of hybrid tomato started in the area six years ago when Abu Musa earned about Tk one lakh from the crop at Nij Vogdaburi village in 1998.

Seeing his success, Zakir cultivated tomato on his father's three bigha land in the following year and earned Tk 1.5 lakh for the first time.

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