Hasia Begum & Jamir Hossain:
A Successful Model of Family Approach in Organic Farming
Md. Jamir Hossain and Hasia Begum are husband and wife living in the village of Bittipara under Fulhari union of Shailkupa upazila of Jhenaidah district. In their area they are renowned for their organic family farm. They own six bighas (196 decimals) of cultivable land where they grow rice, wheat, jute, lentil, onion, garlic, betel leaf and banana throughout the year. Formerly they used excessive chemical fertilizers and pesticides on their lands. This practice resulted in increasing costs and decreasing soil fertility. Despite their continuously increasing use of chemical fertilizers, yields did not increase. They had to borrow money to purchase the chemical fertilizers and pesticides. Prices were constantly increasing, forcing them to sell their crops directly after harvest to pay their mounting debts. Of course, the prices they could get for their crops, were lowest at harvest time. Their hard work benefited the traders while their family suffered.
In early 2008 Hasia Begum participated in a yard meeting, mainly of women, organized by UD. UD’s field staff discussed organic farming and encouraged participants to use organic farming practices. Hasia Begum shared the discussion of the meeting with her husband, who initially was not very convinced. On her own, Hasia Begum started cultivating sweet gourd by using Fish Amino Acid (method is stated below) following the suggestions of UD’s field staff. It was a real success and sparked her husband’s interest for organic farming. Mr. Jamir Hossain’s attitude changed when he saw the results realized with the “Fish Amino Acid”. He agreed to try organic farming and started preparing compost & vermicompost. Here is their story of gradual change to sustainable farming.
The Jamir Hossain and Hasia Begum family uses different organic farming technologies like compost, vermicompost, Integrated Pest Management (IPM) options, different kinds of organic pesticides and Plant Growth Regulator (PGR). They prepare their organic fertilizers, pesticides and growth promoters at home with materials that are available on their farm. They do not purchase anything but some materials like lime and blue vitriol (copper sulphate) from the market, which are used to prepare the Bordeaux mixture.
Most of the work in preparing the compost was done by Hasia Begum while Jamir Hossain helped her to dig the compost pit. They obtained about 2000 kilograms of compost from the pit, which was applied to their fields of rice and chili. They achieved a greater yield compared to the other farmers in the area. Very little chemical fertilizer was used to complement the compost. Because the soil was depleted drastically due to the long time practice of chemical farming, the UD staff recommended a mixture of organic and chemical farming rather than stopping chemical fertilizers all at once. Because Jamir Hossain was still reluctant to stop using chemical fertilizers altogether, the UD staff suggested to prepare and use vermicompost.
In 2010 Jamir Hossain attended a UD arranged exposure visit to the home of a successful vermicompost producer, Mr. Abdul Karim, a farmer of Meherpur district. There Jamir Hossain learned how to produce vermicompost. He then started producing vermicompost in an earthen pot (locally called Chari) with an initial 300 earthworms. Within only one and a half years Mr. Jamir is producing about 4000 to 5000 kilograms of vermicompost annually, using the cow dung from their three cows and other household waste. Instead of a brick-built compost site, which he had observed at Abdul Karim’s home, he used all the pots available in his household, including ahari (an earthen pot), kola (another kind of earthen pot), bamboo cave, and plastic sacks for producing his vermicompost. Today he uses vermicompost regularly in the field.
Now Hasia Begum is the main producer of their vermicompost with some help from Jamir Hossain. Today the couple produces about 5000 kilograms of vermicompost per year in ten earthen chari, one steel tray (which was previously used for boiling rice), two abandoned earthen kolas, two bamboo caves and five plastic bags. They sold some of their vermicompost for BDT 4800 to the neighboring farmers and have plans to build three cement rings and one brick-built compost site in which they will produce vermicompost.
UD recommends using the red coloured earthworm species, which Mr. Karim previously brought from India. These are more effective than the commonly used earthworms of the region. This species is used in all 50 villages of UD’s working area. Some farmers are able to earn additional income by selling these earthworms for BDT six each, or BDT 2000 per kg.
In order to control rice pest Hasia Begum uses different kind of organic pesticides namely neem leaf powder, Mahogany Fruit Powder, Mahogany Fruit Extract, Garlic-Oil-Soap Mixture Boudreaux Mixture etc. and Perching as IPM option. They also use Fish Amino Acid, Plant Growth Promoter that increase their production.
Table 1: Chemical Fertilizer Reduction on Paddy
|Name of Fertilizer||Use in before||Use at present||Reduction of use
|Amount (kg/bigha)||Rate (BDT )||Total cost (BDT/bigha)||Amount (kg/bigha)||Rate (BDT )||Total cost (BDT/bigha)|
|Fertilizer cost reduced by 61%||Total=2840||Total=1120||Average=58%|
Successes and Impacts
- Reduction of use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides and increased income
Table 1 shows that Mr. Hossain and Ms. Begum have reduced the use of chemical fertilizers by 58% while the cost for fertilizers has been reduced by 61% in paddy cultivation. Usually, they cultivate paddy annually in five bighas of land during T-Aman season and in three bighas during boro season. As the data presented in this table show, earlier they needed about BDT 22,720 annually for fertilizers for eight bighas. That amount has been reduced to BDT 8960 at present. They have saved BDT 13,760 alone in a year. Additionally they have saved about BDT 5000 per year by reducing the use of pesticides in paddy cultivation. For both paddy cultivation and other crops they have reduced the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides from 50 to 100% as presented in the Table-2.
Chemical Fertilizer and Pesticide Reduction on Different Crops
|Name of the crop||Reduction of use (%)|
|Chemical fertilizers||Chemical pesticides|
|Vegetables (in homestead)||100||100|
Table 2 demonstrates that Mr. Hossain and Ms. Begum have been cultivating jute, lentils, peas, garlic and other household vegetables without using any chemical fertilizers and pesticides. In paddy fields and in the production of wheat, onion, betel leaf and banana they reduced the use of chemical fertilizers significantly and only in paddy cultivation they still sprayed chemical pesticides, but reduced the application by 80%. As a result, the production costs of their different crops are much lower than those of other farmers. This increased their family income, contributing significantly to poverty alleviation, food security and improved health and education.
- Impact on other farmers
Inspired by Mr. Hossain and Ms. Begum, the neighboring farmers are producing vermicompost and collecting the needed earthworms from them. Organic farming practices are spreading throughout the village. Recognizing his innovation and leadership abilities, the farmers have elected Jamir Hossain chairperson of Bittipara Independent Farmer Organization in which position he motivates other farmers to consider organic farming.
- Impact on soil and environment
Due to the continuous use of organic fertilizers, the organic matter in the soil has increased. Last year the soil of one of the farm plots was assessed by the local Soil Resource Development Institute that found out that the organic matter content of the soil is 1.25% while the soil organic matter content in other parts of the area has dropped below 0.5%. Mr. Hossain and Ms. Begum have plans to have the soil of all of his plots tested by the Institute. Other farmers of the villages have also reduced the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, resulting in further improvements of the community’s soil and environment.
- Women empowerment
While her husband initially resisted Hasia Begum’s suggestions, her initiative is largely responsible for the family’s organic farming practices and the extension to other farmers in the area. Hasia Begum has become a very important partner of Jamir Hossain on their farm. Her role in farming decision-making and other family affairs is an important model for improving gender relations.
Organic farming is much needed but very challenging in Bangladesh. It is needed because soil, environment, biodiversity and human health are under threat due to the excessive use of agrochemicals in crop cultivation. Moreover, the high input-costs of the agrochemicals are going beyond the bearing capacity of the country’s small, marginal and landless farmers, who constitute about 89% of the farming people. Organic farming is challenging in Bangladesh because the country has a huge and growing population depending on increasing food production on scarce land. The land available for agriculture is decreasing at an alarming rate, due to industrialization, urbanization, and infrastructure development. The effects of climate change are an additional threat to food production in Bangladesh. The lack of awareness both at farmer and consumer levels, lack of capacity in practicing organic farming, lack of sufficient organic farming technologies and resources are further constraints for organic farming. In such a context, the exchange of successful organic farming practices is essential. May the organic farming methods of Ms Begum and Mr. Hossain as well as the other case studies of this report encourage farmers and authorities to promote organic farming for more food sovereignty and sustainable livelihoods.