It was about to rain. The farmers were running home from the fields. A few were running to the fields to cover sapling beds with polythene sheets. Some were busy removing the water that had gathered by the beds. It rained for an hour and none of these farmers left the fields. After the rain, they removed the polythene sheets covering the saplings.
These were saplings of various vegetable and were taken special care of as they were different from other crops. The family members of the farmers all have to tend to the saplings from morning till night. They have to take note of rain, sunshine or insects. Special conditions require special measures.
Some 65 families from village Abdulpur in Jashore sadar upazila have been carrying out this painstaking job for years. They are seedling farmers.
Vegetable saplings are cultivated on 25 acres land in the village. Arshad Ali Morol, 65, began this 20 years ago. This is now a way to eliminate poverty and has spread among the people of the area. Seed businesses have flourished too due to the seedling farming. A market has sprouted to support sapling businesses while a number of people managed to secure livelihood running vans. Sapling cultivation has developed the economy of Abdulpur village.
Arshad Ali Morol who first commercially cultivated the seedlings told Prothom Alo that he learnt the method from his father. Three of his daughters who used to help him before they got married, still come to help him often. His wife Aharun Nesa is known as an experienced farmer in the village and the new farmers often seek advice from her.
According to some old farmers, Arshad was followed by farmers Abdur Razzak and Zakir Hossain and their success inspired others. The area of cropland gradually increased and seedlings are now cultivated four times a year. Radish, aubergine, and beans as well as potol, cauliflower, and cabbage and other vegetable seedlings are cultivated.
Farmers from neighbouring districts Chuadanga, Narail, Satkhira and Khulna too come to collect the saplings. These are sold at Tk 0.40 to Tk 0.60. Sapling market sits every day at 5:00pm every day and ends at 7:30am. There is a seed store, a parking lot and a agriculture marketing outlet close to the area.
According to the deputy assistant agriculture officer of Jashore district, Zakir Hossain, about 200 million seedlings worth Tk 100 million are cultivated from June to February.
It is not an easy task but the 65 families have succeeded as their entire families are included in the entire process, Zakir Hossain said.
*This piece, appearing in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten here in English by Nusrat Nowrin.