He is a living-radar to the farmers of Godagari upazila of Rajshahi. He provides weather updates to the farmers to help them in their farming and growing crops.
This is Atanu Sarkar, deputy assistant agriculture officer of Ishwaripur block of Deopara union of Godagari upazila in Rajshahi. He helps the farmers through Facebook posts, text messages and phone calls, providing them with weather updates from the meteorological department.
The farmers have come to rely on him to decide whether or not to irrigate the land, or when to harvest and so on.
The 42-year-old Atanu has been providing this information on his own for four years.
He has been living in Godagari since 2009. He started receiving weather reports over phone from the Dhaka met office in 2015. Later he conveyed these reports to the farmers over phone or arranged meetings to inform them. He would tell them ‘it may rain tomorrow, do not irrigate’, ‘harvest ripened rice quickly as its likely to rain with storms and hail’ and other messages of such type to warn the farmers on time.
Some crops are damaged if it rains after irrigation. These farmers were informed of the rains in advance by Atanu Sarkar so that the crops were not wasted. Atanu has been providing weather reports to Deopara union farmers on Facebook from 2018.
The Rajshahi meteorological office has been sending weather reports to the upazila agriculture office for six months. These reports are posted only on the upazila agriculture office’s Facebook page. Atanu is the one who provided the weather forecast at a union level.
Atanu Sarkar wrote on Facebook on 16 October, “Weather forecasts for dear farmers. Rainfall is less likely from 17-23 October in Deopara union. There may be light rain on 24, 25 and 26 October.”
A farmer Muktar Ali from Hatibanda village of the union said he harvested rice from all his 5 bighas of lands after Atanu told him that it was likely to rain after three days.
It started raining the day of harvesting rice, he added.
Chairman of Deopara Union Parishad, Akhtaruzzaman, said that the farmers in Deopara union followed Atanu’s weather reports.
Many of them following the Facebook posts and text messages reap rice in advance and save their crops from being wasted, he added.
Atanu comes from Samaj village of Mohanganj upazila, Netrokona. He received the Bangabandhu Krishi Padak in 2016 for his extraordinary contribution to agricultural innovation and expansion. He received a Diploma in Agriculture from Sherpur Agricultural Training Institute in 1997. He then completed his Masters in Political Science from Jagannath University.
He introduced cultivating about 10 varieties of new crops including Malta, guava, summer tomatoes, gladiolus, pineapples, summer watermelon, yellow watermelon, strawberries, dragon fruit and many others fruits in the Barendra region.
Speaking of his initiative, Atanu Sarkar told Prothom Alo, he once was upset at the losses of a farmer, Rafiqul Islam, of Phulbari village of Godagari five years ago. Mustard on four bighas of land was ruined due to rain after irrigation.
Atanu’s father Gauranga Chandra Sarkar is a farmer, too.
Had these farmers known the weather updates in advance, their crops would not be wasted, Atanu thought.
In the meantime, he learned during a training programme that one can avail the weather updates through a phone number provided by the Met office.
From then on, he used to daily call Dhaka to collect the weather forecasts of Deopara union of Godagari and then informed the farmers. In the beginning, he used to go from village to village to inform the farmers. He later used mobile phones and Facebook to keep the farmers updated.
Godagari upazila agriculture officer Shafiqul Islam said, “We get the weather forecast of the upazila or district from the Meteorological Department. But Atanu collects the forecasts of the union on his own and circulates it to the farmers. It benefits the farmers directly. ”