Mayarani, a source of inspiration

The name written on the gate of the house is ‘Mayarani Baul’. She doesn’t sing though. She farms and raises cows and that’s not just for show. She started with just a single calf and now there are more than fifty cows in her farm. And she is also cultivating 30 bighas of land.

Mayarani said, 'I am not an artiste. Baul (mystic singer) is only our family surname, I am a farmer actually.” This woman farmer from Dhaka's Nawabganj won the 'Bangabandhu National Agriculture Award' in the best farmer category twice- bronze in 2017 and gold in 2021.

Following in her footsteps, about five hundred women of the village have engaged in farming while, many are rearing cattle at home. People now call it the village of women farmers. Mayarani is their source of inspiration. In the words of upazila livestock officer Farzana Jahan, Mayarani’s own merit brought her the national gold medal.

Mayarani Baul is from Kandamatra village under Bahra union of Nawabganj upazila. About three kilometers east of Nawabganj Sadar, a brick road parted the main road to the south through the mango, jackfruit and bamboo groves. The entire path has many bricks missing. Following this very route, Mayarani Baul's house was found on a recent afternoon.

Like other old-fashioned houses of Nawabganj, Mayarani’s house is a tin-roofed one too. The living quarters are to one side, while there’s a row of seven two-storey tin-sheds on the opposite. These sheds have carpeted floors and they are surrounded by chest-high brick walls on all sides. And, this is where Mayarani's keeps her cows.

Including calves, there are now 50 cows there. She sold eight on last Eid-ul-Azha and that earned her about Tk 1.4 million. Currently, there is a production of more than a 100 litres of milk a day a litre of milk sells at Tk 70. But it costs about Tk 6,000 to provide food for the cows a day. Plus, five people are employed to take care of the cows and Tk 60 thousand is spent on their monthly salary. So, the cow farm doesn’t profit much from selling milk.

Mayarani said, the price of cow feed -- grain -- is increasing while the price of grass is also on the rise. So, basically the calves that are born every year and the bulls that are fattened for selling purpose on the occasion of Eid-ul-Azha are now the profit sources of the cow farm. Once, the number of cows in her farm had crossed the bar of hundred but she brought it down as the expenditure went up.

Began with agriculture, then cow farm

Mayarani's story is quite fascinating. Her husband Jagadish Chandra Baul by profession is a village doctor and he has a dispensary at Nawabganj Bazar. He had inherited about 20 bighas of land but he had no interest in agriculture. So, he arranged for the land to be cultivated by others in the old-fashioned ‘barga’ farming system.

However, Mayarani had always been passionate about farming. Early on, she began growing vegetables on the yard, around the house and got a very good yield out of that. She got encouraged from that.

Plus, their crop lands are also on the border of their house, so she started farming different vegetables on them. She again got an excellent yield, which increased her interest even further. Gradually, she started growing various vegetables and crops on all of their land at her own initiative. Mayarani's income continued to rise in turn.

Meanwhile, there was an incident in 2009. Waliullah, deputy assistant agricultural officer of Nawabganj upazila, visited their village on some official business that year. While visiting Mayarani's house he was impressed seeing her farming activities.

He told Mayarani that she will do even better if she did farming scientifically taking advice from the agriculture department. Mayarani then contacted the agriculture department and started afresh with their help. This brought her a huge success.

Mayarani said, she gets a yield of about 500 maunds of Aman paddy, 600 maunds of corn and 100 to 125 maunds of mustard annually. She sows these three grains only. Different vegetables like bitter gourd, 'data shaak' (a type of spinach), long beans and kidney beans grow abundantly throughout the year.

Apart from that she grows Napier grass on about three to five bighas of land. She has bought another 10 Bighas of land and owns about 30 bighas of land in total.

In 2014, Mayarani decided on rearing cows alongside farming. She started with a mixed breed cow-calf bought for Tk 34,000. Then her cow farm kept growing gradually. However, she has to keep a constant eye and toil a lot after that.

Mayarani said that words of her success in farming and cow rearing spread among the people in the area. Then a TV channel aired her success story one day. In 2017, Mayarani won the bronze medal in 'Bangabandhu National Agriculture Award' and she was motivated even more by this.

Nahiduzzaman, Nawabganj upazila agriculture officer while talking about Mayarani Baul's success said, not only she's a good farmer; she's a good organiser also. For making the women of her area self-reliant in the field of agriculture, she organised various programmes including yard meetings.

She has been training about 30 women of her village in agriculture as well as helping them in different ways. Seeing her, many more women have been inspired in farming.

About the cow farm Mayarani said, now it’s not so profitable as before for the grain cow feed has become expensive. She has an advantage that she already grows grass and corn on her own land and these are used as cow feed. Besides, her workers work in the farmland and the cow farm all the same. So she didn’t need a separate staff for the cow farm.

It would have been difficult to continue if it was a cow farm only. She herself bought a power tiller and a corn threshing machine for cultivation, while the government gifted her with a milk skimming machine.

When asked what she plans to do next Mayarani said, "In actuality, I didn't plan anything. As the number of cows kept increasing, I kept building more sheds. Farmlands also grew little by little and it will keep going like this. More than five hundred women in our village are farming now. Many call it a village of women farmers and I have a bit of contribution to it. Earlier, I used to go to people for advice, now many come to me for that. And, that's what I like.”