Extremists turn floriculturists

A farmer works in a flower field in Ganna union under Jhenaidah sadar upazila.Prothom Alo

Yunus Ali had joined a secret extremist political party and had been on the run for long. He had also been behind the bars for several years. Returning to normal life, Yunus is a complete floriculturist now. 

He’s living a peaceful life with his family, cultivating flowers. Yunus Ali (66) lives in Ganna village under Ganna union of Jhenaidah Sadar upazila.

Yunus Ali said he did a job for some time after leaving ‘politics’. He started flower farming in 2000. He cannot do the farming himself now, but supervises it. He gets it done by labourers.

He’s doing really well and no longer has to remain in hiding. The fragrance of flowers has changed his life.

Oliar Rahman of Ikra village under Ganna union started farming in 1996 leaving extremism behind. Apart from growing flowers, he has been working as a union parishad member since 2011.

He told Prothom Alo, “I joined in politics with the hope of bringing a change the society, but nothing of that sort happened. Rather there were clashes.”

The condition in their area is a lot better now. Everyone is so hard-working. Flower farming has changed the quality of their lifestyle for better.

The comeback

In 1999, the government announced general amnesty for extremists in the south-western region of the country with the aim of eliminating terrorism. Many of them joined the Ansar force then.

It was learned talking to local residents and public representatives that around 26,000 people live in Ganna union of the upazila. Majority of them are dependent on farming.

Former union parishad chairman of Ganna union Nasir Uddin Malita told Prothom Alo many of the extremists would attack common people to gain control over the area. Then there would be killings too.

At least 15-20 people who were extremists once have returned to normal life and are now involved in flower farming.

Incumbent UP chairman Atiqul Islam said that residents of the once extremist area are now leaning towards agriculture. They are growing fruits and flowers.

Now the entire area is covered in flowers and fruits and this has been possible for the relentless efforts of the farmers.

How the fragrance of flowers spread

In 1995, when the power of extremists was at its peak in Ganna union, farmer Baki Billah started growing flowers for the first time at Paikpara village adjacent to Ganna Bazar. Khoda Baksh of Ganna village also started flower farming a year later.

Farmers used to sell their flowers in a faraway market for the lack of market in the locality. After 2000, when the situation of the area started to improve, the extent of flower farming kept increasing.

Khoda Baksh said at present field after filed is being cultivated with flowers. Residents of the area are no longer scared. All are farming fruits and flowers in a carefree mind.

According to department of agriculture data, flowers are grown on 143 hectares of land in Jhenaidah. Among that, 60 hectares of land has been cultivated in 17 unions of the Sadar upazila. Meanwhile, 50 hectares of land has been cultivated in Ganna union alone.

Flowers worth Tk 2 to 2.5 million (20 to 25 lakh) are sold every day at the flower market of Ganna Bazar.
Prothom Alo

Majority of the flowers are marigold while other flowers including tuberose, gerbera, lilium and roses are grown on some plots. More than 2,000 people of the area are involved in flower cultivation.

Sadar upazila agriculture officer Md Zahidul Karim said flowers are being cultivated extensively in Ganna area.

The department of agricultural marketing is working to facilitate market infrastructure, preservation and transportation for the floriculturists. They are providing all sorts of assistance to increase the cultivation.

General secretary of Ganna Bazar floriculturists and traders cooperative association, Nazrul Islam, said that flowers worth Tk 2 to 2.5 million (20 to 25 lakh) are sold every day at the flower market of Ganna Bazar.

Abdur Rahim, a farmer of Ganna area has five sons. All of them are floriculturists. Abdur Rahim had started growing flowers leaving extremists politics. His sons continued farming flowers after his death.

Abdur Rahim’s son Akhtarul Islam said his father had joined in extremist group. It was difficult for them. Later his father started growing flowers returning to normal life.

Now he along with his brothers continue growing flowers. Their family is affluent now. Flowers have made all the difference.