Alpana’s farm

Sadiqur Rahman writes about Alpana Rani, the award-winning farmer who is preserving not just different varieties of spinach but other edible plants as well

Photo courtesy – infra-red communications ltd

Alpana's-farmDespite being a village housewife in a poor family, Alpana Rani hoped to collect daily food items for the family members, especially vegetables, from her surrounding areas. That was why she started a vegetable farm right beside her cottage and began cultivating different types of vegetable and spinach. Over the years, she took on more lands inherited by her husband Gangaram for the project and expanded the farm to cultivate different types of indigenous and non-indigenous fruits.
Alpana tells New Age Xtra, ‘I cultivate seasonal vegetables and fruits in my yard throughout the year. The harvest is enough to fulfill my family needs and I could sell rest of the produces commercially.’
Alpana has been raising her two children with the earning from her agro-farm. Her husband, who used to earn from day labour earlier, changed his profession. Now he helps cultivate and sell the products from the farm.
Before getting married to Gangaram, Alpana studied till fifth grade. With primary education as well as limited resources, a newly married village girl in Bangladesh, where patriarchy controls family affairs, hardly could think about entrepreneurship. Fortunately, Alpana had a little knowledge about herbal medicines. Often she had prescribed neighbours suffering from nominal ailment with herbal medicines when they came to her. At one point, Alpana thought she would be better off nursing herbal plants to manufacture the organic medicines at home. Hence she started cultivating herbal plants besides the regular vegetable farming.
Alpana's-farm2To enrich the herb patches, Alpana often roamed around the village in search of herbs variety and collected seeds or roots of a number of shrubs and spinaches, most of which were growing naturally besides roadsides or boundary lines of agricultural fields. Over the years, Alpana has developed the herb plots with Anantamul or Indian sarsaparilla (Hemidesmusindicus), Aporajita or Butterfly pea (Clitoriaternatea), Kanphul or Dandelion (Taraxacumofficinale, Patharkuchi (Kalanchoepinnata), Kalmegh (Andrographispaniculata), Nishinda or Chaste tree (Vitexnegundo Linn), Nayontara or Peri Winkle (Vincarosea), Lajjabati (Mimosa pudica), Shiuly (Nyctanthes arbor tristis), Shonajhuri (Cassia fistula), Tulshi (Ocimum sanctum), Madhabilata (Hiptagebenghalensis), Akanda (Calotropisprocera), Bashanta (Hypericumperforatum), Durba (Cynodondactylon), Henna (Lawsonia alba), Dhutra (Datura metal), Ganda (Tagesteserecta), Raktakarabi or Oleander (Neriumindicum) and so many.
At present, Alpana is well known around her locality for her ardent effort to preserve and cultivate many nutrient spinaches, mostly are rarely cultivated commercially. Among the varieties are Telakochu (Cocciniacordifolia), Kolmi (Ipomoea aquatica), Helancha (Enhydrafluctuans), Hatishur (Heliotropiumindicum), Shenchi (Alternantherasessilis), Kata Notey (Amaranthusspinosus), Gima (Hydrocotylerotundifolia), Thankuni (Centellaasiatica), Kalkochu (Colocasiaesculenta L. Schott) and others. In order to protect biodiversity and ensure nutrition, preservation of some neglected wild plants is necessary, opines Alpana.
Alpana says, ‘These spinaches grow naturally and do not need much nursing- no pesticides or fertilizers. Most of these uncultivated spinaches are edible either as food or medicine.’
However, there are many plants in the farm which need pesticides and fertilisers for better harvest. But the most eco-friendly feature of Alpana’s farming is the use of organic pesticides and fertilisers.Alpana has developed a compost fertilizer plant inside her yard. She also uses leaves of Neem (Azadirachtaindica) as an organic pesticide to save the harvest from insects and diseases.
For her dedication and success in the agro business, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina awarded Alpana with the lone national level prize on agriculture- Bangabandhu Jatiyo Krishi Padak 1419 [Bangla year] under the bronze category in 2013. Besides, the lady farmer has also been awarded with some district and upazila level prizes over the last few years for her contribution in agriculture.
‘I do not want to let people have food poison. That is why I use organic ingredients in farming. And preserving uncultivated plants is necessary to protect our ecosystem. Hence I do it for the betterment of the country,’ tells Alpana, the inspirational character who is now often hired by some local NGOs to train village farmers, both male and female.

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