People who tasted the sweetness of mango know how great the fruit is. Emperor Akbar was once suffering from stomachache. The doctor advised the emperor to eat mango, which would heal the disease. It did indeed. The emperor stayed healthy eating mangoes throughout the summer. Summer ended, with that the mango season ended as well. The emperor again started suffering from stomachache due to not being able to eat mango. The doctor was summoned again. He told the emperor that there is no medicine except mango. But where could he get mango during the off-season? The emperor ordered arranging cultivation of mango all the year. But it was quite impossible to find seedlings of year-long variety? After a long research, an orchard was made with 100 thousand mango seedlings on the banks of the Ganges in Bihar. Whether the story is true or not, I'm not sure he really was relieved from the stomachache by eating the year-long variety of mango. However, at this time, around the world, year-long mango is being cultivated.
For some years now, I have seen people from different parts of the country grow a year-long variety of mango, called Baromashi in Bangla, in the courtyard or on the roof. This proliferation has been made possible due to hard work of the nursery keepers around the country. An agricultural entrepreneur has developed an orchard of Baromashi mango which is worth more than Tk 10 million (nearly US$ 119 thousand) a year. No, he is not an industrialist. He is an ordinary person. He is an average farmer who has brought revolution in Bangladesh's farming sector. He is Abul Kashem from Jibannagar upazila of Chuadanga. He had nursery business besides regular farming. One day he heard from a friend about the cultivation of year-long variety of mango in Thailand. He was surprised. What kind of a mango grows throughout the whole year? As he owns a nursery, he is interested in collecting seedlings of various types of fruits and crops. Abul Kashem requested his friend to bring the seedlings of year-long mango from Thailand. The friend kept Kashem's request and gave him Katimon mango, which is now known as Baromashi in our country. Little did he know that this variety would change his fortune. Kashem's cultivation started back in 2008. In space of a decade, this Baromashi mango has brought huge success for Kashem. It has made him financially solvent, made his dream bigger.
I have been hearing about Abul Kashem's initiative for a few years now. Finally, I travelled to Chuadanga on the first day of Kartik of current Bangla year 1425 with the Project Director of Nutrition Development, Dr Mehedi Masud and Hridoye Mati O Manush production team. When I reached Abul Kashem's mango orchard, the sun had mostly tilted towards the west. In the afternoon of Kartik, the fragrance of mango buds mesmerized me. It was so astonishing to see such a large orchard where Katimon mango is cultivated commercially. Abul Kashem showed up as soon as we entered the orchard. His hands were full of ripe mangoes. The first thing he said to me was to taste the mangoes. So, I had to eat the mangoes just after entering his orchard. I thought that they would taste sour. But no, they were sweet as sugar. Dr Mehedi Masud said the total soluble solids (TSS) of a regular mango is 23-24. And the TSS of Katimon is 27. These mangoes have beautiful shapes. Usually, four mangoes make up for one kg, with less fibre. I roamed around the garden. The garden is built over six bighas of land (approximately 2.40 acres). There are 600 Katimon trees. Each bigha can produce up to 35 maunds (1400 kg) of mangoes. Kashem believes the rate of production will increase further in the future. He has a lot of hope for this sweet, off-season mango. He is not that keen to produce mangoes from this orchard during the usual season i.e. summer. Kashem says the profit is lesser during summer but higher during the off-season. He gets Tk 42 thousand (approximately US$ 500) for 35 maunds of mango during summer. And during the off-season, he gets Tk 420 thousand (approximately US$ 5000) for the same amount of mangoes. A 10 times more profit! This is just the calculation for one bigha of land (approximately 0.40 acres). Remember this dear reader, his Katimon orchard is on six bighas. Long ago, Kashem got back his investment. He is now earning and sitting over profits.
Kashem is also doing another profitable business. At his nursery, he has produced 250 thousand Katimon seedlings. He is selling each for Tk 200 (US$ 2.37). If you count as well, he can earn Tk 5 crore (approximately US$ 595 thousand) by selling all these seedlings. Can you imagine having a summer fruit in winter? What can be better than this with this much profit from both fruit and seedlings?
The wonder does not end here. Something more astonishing than this six- bigha orchard was waiting for me. Abul Kashem said, "This is my small orchard. Let's go and see the big one." I was shocked and asked, "What do you mean?" He said that he had another mango orchard a mile away in Tetulia village. It has 1700 Katimon trees on 16 bighas of land (approximately 6.40 acres). I went with him to see his bigger orchard. The sun was then almost setting in the western sky. We needed to finish filming the scene before the day ended. In this orchard, besides mango, there are guavas too.
I am saying very firmly, that the day is not too far when the fruit will make its way to the everyday food item list of average people. Those will be Bangladesh's fruits. Farming sector is moving forward faster than the dream. Every entrepreneur is presenting wonders in front of the people. Farmer works at his speed. Agriculture is the main tool for sustainable development and the key remains with the farmers like Abul Kashem. Farming will become a dream job for the youths in near future. With the help of these young dreamers, Bangladesh will move forward and do magic in the agricultural economy.
Shykh Seraj is Bangladesh's pioneer development journalist. He received country's two highest civilian honours, Swadhinata Puroshkar and Ekushey Padak, respectively. He is an Ashoka and Bangla Academy Fellow. He also received highest award for agricultural journalism from the United Nations, FAO A.H. Boerma Award, Gusi Peace Prize (Philippines) and many other prestigious accolades at home and abroad. At Channel i, he's the Founder Director and Head of News. He's also Director and Host of Channel i's popular agro-documentary, Hridoye Mati O Manush.