More Vegetables, Lower Costs for Md. Oliullah
BARISAL DISTRICT, BANGLADESH — In the last year and a half, 29-year-old Md. Oliullah has switched his farming focus from rice to vegetables. Before he became a key farmer with the Smart Farming, Healthy Food project, the majority of his farm was devoted to rice production; he grew only a few types of vegetables, like cucumbers and tomatoes.
Today, his vegetable crops extend to chili, bitter gourd, bottle gourd, pumpkin, sponge gourd, yard long bean, and leafy greens. The land he allots to vegetable farming has increased by a third, to 26,136 square meters.
Controlling Costs Through Sustainable Techniques
Under the Smart Farming, Healthy Food project, which is co-funded by SDGP and implemented in partnership with Solidaridad Netherlands, East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation (EWS-KT) directly trains smallholder farmers on climate-resilient and sustainable vegetable production practices.
One of the things that Md. Oliullah learned was how to produce healthy seedlings by utilizing quality seeds, seedling media, and a protected nursery environment, along with a hardening period for the seedlings before transplanting. Because his seedling output is so much higher with these new techniques, he has found that he needs fewer seeds, reducing his costs. Other cost-saving and yield-increasing practices include moderate use of fertilizers; optimal utilization of his land by following the recommended plant spacing for each crop; and organic mulch, which saves him weeding time as well as labor costs.
“I learned how and where to reduce the cost of farming and increase production.” – Md. Oliullah
Since he began implementing these and other techniques from EWS-KT, Md. Oliullah notes that his income from vegetable production has risen from 50% of his total income to 70%. Business planning and farm management, including keeping good crop records and calculating costs and returns, are part of EWS-KT’s training model.
Increasing Yields—And Protecting Health
Some of what Md. Oliullah learned from EWS-KT surprised him. The farmers where he lives were not accustomed to pruning their crops and were worried that pruning would reduce their yield. But after practicing pruning techniques with EWS-KT field staff and seeing the positive results, Md. Oliullah eagerly embraced pruning and now encourages other farmers to incorporate it into their crop maintenance.
Another eye-opening—and life-changing—practice Md. Oliullah has adopted is natural pest control. Instead of chemical pesticides, he uses insect sticky traps, pheromone traps, and biopesticides, along with Good Agricultural Practices that reduce damage from pests and diseases. After moving away from chemical pesticides, he noticed an important health benefit. While he experienced physical reactions like itching in response to chemical pesticides, he has not had any reaction to biopesticides.
With his own farm flourishing, Md. Oliullah has been encouraging other farmers to follow EWS-KT techniques. Using the informative EWS-KT crop guide banner installed at his farm as a reference, he has taught farmers in his community about healthy seedlings, single-seedling transplanting, mulching, pruning, and the use of sticky traps and pheromone traps.
Looking toward the future, he plans to further increase his vegetable production and to supply vegetables to markets in the capital and export them abroad.