Bean boon for farmers
Indiscriminate pesticide use continues in Meherpur, ignoring health risk
A few days back I went to Kathalpota of Meherpur district. I found the vast areas, 1200 bighas of land, covered with bean plants. For the past 10-15 years, livelihood of farmers has developed by farming high-value crops in Meherpur and across the country. Beans used to be cultivated on vast lands of Ishwardi in the past. Those examples spread out to different districts of Bangladesh in course of time.
With the assistance from the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE), farmers now cultivate diversified crops. Bean is one of them. Vegetables of winter have just started coming to the market. You all know that at the beginning of a season, the price of a seasonal crop is very high. At Dhaka, the price of bean now is Tk 80 to 100 per kg. In Meherpur, farmers are selling beans for Tk 70 to 80 per kg, right now. It is apparent that number of middleman is going down.
In Meherpur, specially, cultivation and harvesting during early winter has brought a certain profit opportunity for farmers. As there are lesser chances of natural disasters in this season, farmers cultivate crops without any worry. From the end of monsoon to the beginning of winter, in the sweet weather of Sharat-Hemanta (autumn), farmers prefer to cultivate mostly vegetables. All over Meherpur district, Kathalpota village is specially noted for bean cultivation. According to DAE in Meherpur, bean cultivation area at Kathalpota is more than 1200 bighas. In Meherpur Sadar it is 240 hectares. This year bean was cultivated on 460 hectares of land in the whole district while it was 440 hectares last year.
At the bean field I talked with some farmers who looked pretty much happy with their success.
“How much is your cultivation cost this year?”
“Approximately, 8000 taka per bigha.”
“How many bighas of land have you cultivated on?”
“Six bighas. I’m hopeful to get 70,000-80,000 taka from each bigha of land.”
“So, you spent 48,000 taka on six bighas of land and hope to earn a total of Tk 4,80,000?”
“I hope so.”
Another farmer was standing very near. I also talked with him.
“How much have you spent, brother?” I asked.
“8,000 taka for each bigha.”
“How much bighas of land have you cultivated on?”
“Two bighas. I spent Tk 16,000 in total.”
“How much do you hope to earn?
“Over Tk 1.50 lakh.”
Small farmers are investing small amounts and also getting profits to their best satisfaction. Some are also growing cucumbers and eggplants besides beans. The livelihood changes are quite evident. Education percentage has increased. There are changes in the houses, new buildings can be easily traced in a village. Farmers have developed on their own and bean has been a key role player behind this.
Farmer Ramiz has done quite a superb job by cultivating beans. He has a different story to tell me.
“I inherited seven kathas of land from my father. Then, years of cultivating, I, then, bought two bighas.”
“I also raised cattle, cultivated fish, took lease of lands and worked there as well.”
“I built a concrete house.”
“That’s great to know. How much did this cost you?”
“About 4 lakh taka.”
“That’s truly very inspiring.”
Dear readers, let’s now focus on to another related story of bean cultivation, which is happening not only in Meherpur but all over Bangladesh. All the positive success stories become hazy as I see massive practice of using pesticide on bean fields. Not even the slightest caution is maintained in spraying pesticide. Farmers know that too much use of pesticide leaves harmful effects, but they don’t care.
Even the field officers of agriculture department see these and do nothing. That seemed really surprising though. Before applying any kind of pesticide, one must wear a mask on his face or at least cover it with a towel.
“In front of you, farmers apply pesticide without any protection. Is this the right thing to do? Can he do that?” I asked one field officer.
“This is not right at all. This causes health risk for everyone concerned. Moreover, it pollutes the air, affecting other people as well,” replied the agriculture officer.
Let me give you an example from Germany about using pesticides on a strawberry field. The amount of pesticide that farmers are supposed to apply for each size of land is written on cards given from the agriculture department. No farmers are able to buy pesticide without that card and allowed to spray a single extra drop of pesticide.
While I was talking with farmers I found a farmer with a backpack of pesticide who just came from the land after spraying pesticide without any protection.
“Did you just spray pesticide?
“I see, you’re not wearing any masks!”
“No one has told us to do so.”
“When will you sell the beans?
“After 3-4 days.”
Dear readers, beside growing abundant food we need to focus on organic farming and food safety as these are very significant matters which need more serious attention. We have already achieved food security but it will truly be fulfilled when we’ll ensure food safety. There should be proper rules and regulations from the government regarding the amounts of pesticide use for different crops. Along with it, we also need to look at other issues so that farmers can grow healthy crops for us and earn well.