FTB Stories

Life as a farmer in Cooch Behar

Amit Bhatt
Amit Bhatt
Strawberries growing in field

Safikul Islam is a resident of Cooch Behar district in West Bengal. He was recently interviewed by Pratiksha Malla, on the FTB Platform. Cooch Behar has seen many dynasties including Muslims and British. People of different religions live here peacefully with each other. Although fish like entire Bengal is the main dish here but a number of veggies are also grown in the region and rice is the staple food. Safikul is an experienced farmer who has worked hard to be where he is.

Why farming and effects of politics on his life

Pratiksha started by asking him how long he has been associated with farming, To, which he replied that, he had been engaged with farming since childhood but started farming seriously in 2002. He has experimented with a number of crops and at the moment his major products include vermicompost, gladiolus flowers and paddy. His major product is vermicompost and he is focusing on its production, for his income. Apart from the above mentioned he also grows turmeric, ginger & bananas.

He like other businessmen in the region have been hit hard by the political activities and the protests and sometime riots that follow them. He has a big house where he used to store most of his seeds, however during political riots several houses around were burnt and his house was one of them. He has worked hard but has not been able to reach the level of production that he had.

Working on strawberries in Nethouse

What he produces

His main business is in farming paddy, but it doesn’t generate enough income as that is what everyone around here produces. Therefore, he is focusing on gladiolus plant, which are quite popular as ornamental flowers and form part of most bouquet, as they are available in multiple colours. He has focused on gladiolus variety as it gives more output than other flowering plants.

Pratiksha asked him next about his strawberry business. He said as the paddy business is not very profitable, he is fond of cultivating strawberry crops as they are very profitable. For good quality and well-shaped strawberries, he is able to earn as much as Rs. 600 to 700 per kilogram and he has never sold them for less than Rs 300 per Kg.

Ripe strawberries for sale

We asked which one of his number of products, earns him the most. Safikul replied that vermicompost earns him more than anything that he produces. Vermicompost is highly regarded as an important fertilizer used in cultivation of all type or crops including flowers and fruits. 

Problems, Suggestions and Plans

On his problems with farming, he replies that he has issues of fungus with his strawberries, especially when he doesn't get good quality seeds.  With gladiolus he has no such problems and it’s much easier to farm than strawberries.

Mr. Sunjan Kumar Biswas of the local Krishi Vigyan Kendra (KVK) suggested to him that vermicompost is important to farming but so are other products and methods that are equally or more important than vermicompost. We should update our knowledgebase continuously.

Selling strawberries and a final message

He spoke to us again about his strawberry cultivation. He said you need good quality seeds for good crops. He repeated that he did not want to depend solely on paddy farming, as he was not able to make ends meet. Hence, he tried with a number of crops and shortlisted strawberries. The major city he trades with is Siliguri, but it costs him due to transportation costs. It takes him 3 to 3 and a half hours to travel to Siliguri, it takes up his entire day. He believes that farmers invest a lot but the returns often don't match what they have invested. The farmers must diversify and start side businesses like goat farming which will give them milk and mutton to sell. He himself owns some goats. He also owns polyhouses and greenhouses.

We requested Safikul to give his message to his fellow farmers. He said that most farmers are as good as him and some are even better. But through his experiences he has learnt to try new and different things. You can get yourself involved in Cattle farming, Goat rearing, Fisheries, Poultry farming. He believed if the government comes to their help the life of little farmers will improve, they will earn more. He said that the new generation is more educated and enlightened than us and if they take interest in agriculture, we will be able to reach newer avenues for success. Please click here to see the video.

Safikul Islam

Safikul Islam

Cooch Behar, West Bengal

Saphikul Strawberry and Compost

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