Here in Dhaka, Bangladesh, whenever someone thinks about healthy eating, the first question that comes into mind is, “Is it safe?” The next question is, “Can I afford it?” Due to high use of chemicals during cultivation, transportation and preservation, urban dwellers feel discouraged to buy fruits and vegetables. Safe (organic) fruits and vegetables are somewhat available in grocery stores, but these are not accessible to the middle income or low-income people due to high price. On the other hand, the farmers who grow organic vegetables also fail to earn enough money.
Abdur Razzaq is a farmer from Birulia, Savar. He is certified from Government of Bangladesh’s Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) as a farmer who grows organic vegetables. He works hard to grow vegetables without dangerous chemicals. He uses only government-approved green pesticides or organic pesticides as they are less poisonous and more environmentally friendly. He also avoids using any sort of chemicals to get rid of weeds; rather he uses a weeding hook or his own hands.
After all his hard work, Abdur Razzaq still did not earn enough to repay his debts. He sold his vegetables to middlemen against a minimum amount of money. The middlemen then take the vegetables to cities and sell them to the wholesale market with more than double profit. Abdur Razzaq was longing for an opportunity to sell his own produce to the consumers.
An opportunity knocked at his door when the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) and Work for a Better Bangladesh (WBB) Trust decided to establish a farmers’ market at Mirpur area of Dhaka. When Abdur Razzaq was contacted and learned about the concept of farmers’ markets, he happily agreed to take part.
The farmers’ market at Mirpur is a weekly market, organized on each Friday. Abdur Razzaq and nine other farmers from Birulia, all certified by DAE, regularly come to the market to sell their produce. Abdur Razzaq said that about 1500 people daily visit the market. As there is no middlemen, all the farmers make a profit. He also said that the farmers have a great connection with the community; “they share with us about the kind of products they want, and we try to bring those.” He added, “If such an initiative is expanded, many other farmers will be benefitted.”
WBB Trust is committed to help consumers access healthy, safe, affordable food while also improving the situation of farmers and not harming the environment. The farmers’ market allows us to reach all of those goals—while also reclaiming a street that was formerly used to dump trash and converting it into a lively, attractive neighborhood gathering place. We hope that farmers’ markets will proliferate in Dhaka so that other farmers and consumers can benefit in the way that Abdur Razzaq, his fellow certified farmers, and the regular visitors to the Mirpur farmers’ market are currently benefiting.
–Naima Akter, Project Manager, Work for a Better Bangladesh Trust