Dhaka, Bangladesh is one of the fastest growing cities on the planet. Pollution has been a worrisome challenge in the city. New initiatives for the production of safe food have been established to the delight of many residents who have not been able to obtain local vegetables without contamination.
“I feel that farming is a noble profession, and the fact that I am a farmer gives me a lot of joy.”
Safe food farmer, MahBub Alam Shohag
By Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust (WBB Trust)
Nowadays people in Bangladesh are more concerned about food safety. The vegetables containing harmful chemicals and formalin already exhaust city people. They prefer to visit those markets that contain and sell fresh, safe, nutritious food. Therefore, the farmers’ market is one of the platforms, which will fulfil the demand of both producers and consumers. In this initiative, local farmers will have access to sell their freshly produced vegetables in the market, where at the same time, city people will get the chance to buy fresh foods without having any worries about chemicals and formalin.
In addition, the farmers’ market will also benefit the farmers by eliminating the middlemen. Bangladesh is the third leading country in terms of producing vegetables. The fisheries and livestock sectors have also contributed remarkably to the agricultural income of the country. But due to poor marketing systems farmers face loss. A farmers’ market can provide the farmers with a place to directly sell their products to the consumers thus ensuring a win-win situation for both.
Interview with safe food farmer MahBub Alam Shohag
Please introduce yourself
My name is Shohag and I am a farmer. I completed my honours in English, from Govt. Bangla College. I am involved in various social activities, but my main occupation is agricultural work and I have been engaged with this for about 18 years. Since I am a farmer, I often take training to improve my skills in agriculture. When I received training from Savar Upazila Training Centre under the Department of Agriculture Extension, my involvement with safe farming and the farmers’ market started.
How is the quality of vegetables in Dhaka?
The vegetables that are usually available in Dhaka city mainly come from outside of Dhaka and they contain a lot of pesticides and chemical fertilizers, which are very harmful to the human body. And if we consider the health of the Dhaka city dwellers, then there is a great need for such safe food farmers’ markets in every ward of this city. But there are many challenges in this regard.
What are the challenges you and other safe food farmers face in Dhaka?
One of those challenges is lack of consumer awareness regarding safe food consumption. That it can actually be dangerous to consume vegetables and fruits that are so full of chemicals. Another challenge is that the production cost is high, while at the same time, the yield is also low. Due to which, the price of those products is relatively high. So, it is a challenge for us to convince the consumers about the elevated price of our safe foods.
Almost all types of vegetables are sold in Dhaka city. Most vegetables are produced by farmers and sold through the middlemen, as a result of which, the farmers do not get enough time to produce the crops properly. On the other hand, due to the high demand, farmers use more pesticides and do not even follow any instructions of using them. As a result of this, the crops are not healthy.
My main aim is to provide safe food for the consumers. Previously, the vegetables reached people through the middlemen. But today I am able to provide my own produced products through the farmers’ market. So, the farmers’ market has helped farmers like me become entrepreneurs.
How does climate effect your business?
Basically, agriculture is related to the weather and climate. If the weather is not favourable, then the agricultural work will be disrupted. As a result of the adverse effects of the current climate, we are facing problems such as excessive rainfall, droughts, and floods. Moreover, we are cutting down trees extensively, which causes huge effects on our weather and climate. I have also spoken about this issue with farmers I know.
When we received training on ‘Equitable Distribution of Water’ under the Department of Agriculture Extension, almost 45 farmers were informed about the adverse effect of climate change. From that training, we came to know that by 2050, a third of the agricultural GDP could be lost and about 13 million people could become internal climate migrants. At present, due to climate change, we are not able to do seasonal farming. It is a global problem and we all have to work together to solve it.
What would you like to achieve in your life?
We know that food is getting contaminated in various ways nowadays. Which is a threat to human health. So many types of disease is directly connected to food. I feel proud as a farmer to be involved in the farmers’ market and ensure safe food for the people.
I want to become an ideal farmer as well as a successful entrepreneur. I want to continue growing safe vegetables for people. In the future, I want to export my own produced products abroad and play a role in the development of my country. As a whole, I want to be a role model farmer in my village. So, by following me, others also become inspired and choose safe agriculture as their occupation.