How it started
Bangladesh was not independent as yet when teenager Mohammad Ali used to sell lychee saplings for 2 anas (12 paisas). At the time saplings of amra (hog-plums), bay leaves and guava used to come to Jhikargacha from Barishal by boat. Mohammad Ali learned the technique of growing saplings in between selling.
After that, he started selling saplings at the Basudebpur bazaar. Later, many people learned the technique of growing saplings from Mohammad Ali. Gradually the business expanded.
The Basudebpur village is 12 kilometres south of Jashore city and located in the Manirampur upazila. Some 500 families live in the village and there are nurseries in 400 houses.
A recent visit to the village revealed that jute and paddy fields are rare in the village. Small business establishments have sprung up in the fields to sell saplings instead of jute and paddy.
Traders from different areas buy saplings from these fields. Although the Basudebpur market is small, it has 200 shops. More than half of them are sapling shops.
Local representatives say at least 500 families live in the village. The income source of 80 per cent of the people of the village is sapling business. Seeing the revolution of sapling business in this village, at least 50 people from the nearby Chandrapur, Palashi and Bagdob villages got encouraged to grow saplings for commercial purposes.
Now an entrepreneur
Enamul Haque has a one-storey building at the entrance of Basudebpur market. He also has a nursery on one acre of land adjacent to his house. He was seen selling coconut and betel nut saplings from home.
Enamul Haque completed his graduation from the accounting department of Rajshahi University. He had a job in Dhaka with a good salary. He left the job in wake of the coronavirus pandemic in the country and returned home. He got involved in the nursery business a year ago.
Enamul said, “I grow saplings myself. Sometimes I also collect saplings from others and sell them at retail. I am getting a good response. I have decided that I won’t join a job anymore.”
Md Mosharraf Gazi used to work on other people's land 37 years ago. At one point he took the initiative to grow saplings and leased a five decimal-land. Seeing good profit in the sapling business, he started producing saplings on one bigha of land from the next year.
After that he did not have to look back. Now he is growing saplings on his 18 bighas of land. He has built a two-storied mosque and madrasah in Basudebpur market with the profit from his business. He has a large sapling centre in front of the mosque adjacent to the road. Apart from local fruit seedlings, exotic persimmon, durian, rambutan, kiwi, white sandalwood, red sandalwood, apple and other types of fruit and medicinal plants are available there.
Mosharraf Gazi said, “Once I had nothing. I used to work in fields owned by others. I have all this property from the sapling business. I have spent a lot of money to build a madrasah and mosque on six decimals of land. Each month, I have to spend Tk 30,000 to 35,000 there. I have married off my three daughters with pomp. I am also bearing the educational expenses of my son.”
Like Mosharraf Gazi, another four sapling traders have become millionaires through the sapling business. They are – Ruhul Amin of Bhai Bhai Nursery, Riyaz Tarafdar of Tarafdar Nursery, Swapan Kumar Biswas of Biswas Nursery and Kudrat Ali Gazi of Bismillah Nursery.
The original entrepreneur
Mohammad Ali was found in the “Puratan Nursery” (old nursery) of the market when this correspondent was looking for him. This is his own sapling shop. He is known as the old entrepreneur in the village. For this reason, he named his nursery as “Puratan”.
There was a huge rush of customers at his shop midday. Mohammad Ali was keeping an account of the sales in a notebook. Amid this hustle and bustle, he spoke to Prothom Alo.
He was talking about the early days of sapling business in the village. He said his father started the sapling business. He died some 35 years ago.
Mohammad Ali said, “We produce quality saplings in our village. The price here also is lower than other areas. For this reason, agricultural entrepreneurs and traders from all over the country, including Dinajpur, Rangpur, Khulna, Barishal, Sylhet, come to our village to buy saplings.”
Badal Chandra Biswas, director of department of agricultural extension, said necessary steps will be taken to allocate loans to small entrepreneurs of Basudebpur village by making a list of them through the deputy assistant agriculture officer if they need.