Nannu Mia was tending to his vegetable field, sweating under the scorching sun. There was no tree or any sort of shade for a moment of respite.
Suddenly a man appeared with a ‘mathal’, the traditional wide straw hat worn by farmers. He handed it to over to Nannu Mia so the farmer could shade himself from the relentless rays of the sun.
Again, whenever a farmer sprays his field with pesticide, this man rushes forward with a mask. He helps the farmer wear the mask to avoid inhaling the toxic chemical fumes.
This person also provides soap to the farmers so that they can bathe properly at the end of the day when they return home after toiling in the fields. He also gives them mosquito nets to ensure they have a sound sleep.
This is Kazi Emdadul Haque. In his locality, he is known as a friend of the farmers.
He has established a night school so the illiterate farmers may get a basic education. Around 500 farmers have received literacy lessons at these schools so far. He advises farmers and trains them in making earthworm fertiliser to lessen the use of chemicals in the soil.
Emdadul, a resident of Daulatpur of Kaliganj, Jhenaidah, also ensures that the farmers record their blood groups.
He has been working for the farmers over a decade.
Emdad teaches at a local madrasa free of cost. He runs his family on fees he earns from private tuition at home and also from farming. He saves money and spends it on the welfare of the farmers.
His father Kazi Abdul Wahed, now deceased, was involved in social welfare besides farming. People in the locality still remember him.
Emdad, inspired by his father’s social welfare activities, also decided to do something for the people. In 2006 he consulted a few of his neighbours at his home in 2006 and started holding regular meetings at night in his village. He would teach at the meetings and help the farmers with their various problems.
In the beginning he made a list of farmers of 11 villages in his union, Kola. He made a list of the farmers who did not have ‘mathals’ to protect them from the sun and who did not wear masks while spraying pesticide and supplied them with the hats and masks. He has provided over a thousand of these straw hats over a thousand masks so far.
Mominur Rahman, a resident of Kamalhat village, said, “When Emdad Bhai sees a farmer without a ‘mathal’, he rushes to him with a hat.”
Night school and other activities
Emdad noticed that illiteracy was an obstacle for the farmers. It was hard for them to carry out the instructions of the agriculture department as they could not take down written notes. So he established night schools in his locality. He made over 500 farmers literate by establishing 13 night schools in eight villages. He has used government primary schools for the purpose.
Emdadul said many farmers do not bathe properly after returning home from the field. They also do not use mosquito nets at night. He distributed soap and mosquito nets among farmers and made them aware of the importance of using these.
Emdadul Haque received training on earthworm fertiliser from a local voluntary organisation. Now he provides this training to the villagers. He also distributes earthworms to the farmers. Many farmers of Kola union now make and use earthworm fertiliser and sell it too. Their crops are now free of toxic chemicals and the fertility of the land is increasing.
Kaliganj upazila agriculture officer Zahidul Karim said the local agriculture department is happy with Emdadul’s work and has established an agriculture library at his home.
Farmer Azizur Rahman said he can now read and write after attending the school set up by Emdad.
Emdad has two daughters and a son. He earns Tk 10,000 per month on private tuition. He spends Tk 6,000 for his family and the rest for the farmers.
Emdad said he has engaged more people to assist the farmers. He has established an institution in his father’s name, the Kazi Abdul Wahed Memorial Foundation. He is the president of this foundation.
Kola union parishad chairman Ayub Hossain said the people’s representatives could not do what Emdad has done for the welfare of the people.
Kaliganj upazila nirbahi officer Subarna Rani Saha highly appreciated Emdadul Haque.
“We have many people who are working to change the society. They are very good. Kazi Emdadul Haque is one of them,” said Subarna Rani Saha.
*This report, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.