Plant doctor clinics

Ahmed Shatil Alam writes how 10 plant clinics are creating a difference in the lives of farmers 

017A few years back, I was surprised when I came across the term ‘hair treatment clinic’. I had known of clinics for people, veterinary for animals and fishes. But not for hair treatment till that point in time.
I experienced similar levels of astonishment when I came across ‘tree clinic’. The offbeat concept of such clinics for plants are nothing new in this planet as such institutions can be found in many Asian countries including Pakistan, India, Vietnam and Afghanistan where these organisations play an important role in tackling diseases of plants.
Recently, the Ministry of Agricluture of the government of Bangladesh established clinics for plants in 10 upazilas of five districts with the support of Commonwealth Agricultural Bureau International under a pilot project.
The clinics are called ‘Plant Doctor Clinic’ and are located at Savar and Dhamrai in Dhaka, Fulpur and Muktagacha in Mymensingh, Nalitabari and Nakla in Sherpur, Madhupur and Sadar upazila in Tangail and Kapasia and Kaliakoir in Gazipur district.
018While talking to New Age Xtra, Tangail sadar’s ‘Plant Doctor Clinic’ official Osman Gani says, undoubtedly both farmers and the soil of the country are efficient for cultivation of most crops. ‘But, sometimes our farmers can not maintain proper fertilisation and use of pesticides due to the lack of knowledge,’ he says. ‘This affects the plants and yields as well,’ he adds.
‘In the clinic, we suggest the farmers about the proper pesticide use and fertilisation as well as the proper selection of plants depending on the field, soil quality etc.’ he informs.
In the clinic, farmers and plant owners bring petals, crops, roots, trunks etc as samples for the plant doctors’ observation and then describe the problem orally to the doctors. Later doctors prescribe treatment procedures. The sessions are free thus encouraging farmers.
Besides, doctors like Osman also give knowledge to the farmers about how they can cultivate more crops from their affected plants.
During a visit to Savar’s clinic during the recently-ended Ramadan, New Age Xtra found more than 30 people waiting in a queue for advise and prescription from the plant doctors for their affected plants
Among them, farmer Shamsul Arefin tells New Age Xtra, ‘I came here after learning about the clinic from a friend. I want to get a proper solution for growing tomatoes in my 2.5 katha field in Savar.’
‘Every year, I suffer from losses while trying to cultivate tomato on this land,’ he says, hoping that the treatment prescribed by the plant doctors will help him.
Osman Gani informs that the number of farmers coming to the clinics are increasing every day. ‘The word-of-mouth is spreading, I believe,’ he says.
Currently, more than 50 people visit the clinic in Tangail sadar daily. Even two to three months back, the number dwindled around 20.
Abdul Haque, a farmer of Tangail, visited the Tangail sadar clinic recently. He tells New Age Xtra over phone, ‘I have been asked to use sex pheromone procedures to get rid of pests from my brinjal plants.’
‘The best aspect of the clinic is that it is free for everyone. Also, the doctors are sincere in explaining the problems and describing the solutions,’ he says.
The first ever plant clinic in Bangladesh was set up on April 12, 2015 in Dhamarai upazila of Dhaka. Before that, 32 employees of the agricultural ministry were trained as plant doctors by international plant experts from United Kingdom and India.
Presently, the clinics operate six hours during just two days in a month. Three officials are assigned to each clinic.

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