Tangail is the first area, where UBINIG started working with handloom weavers in 1987 and with farmers to form Nayakrishi Andolon started since 1989. It has the longest history and also largest number of farming families involved. Tangail is basically a flood plain area, and is known for well-developed agriculture and handloom. The unique agro-ecological feature of this area led us to formulate Nayakrishi concept with the direct interaction of farmers. We have been practising biodiversity-based farming in this district and this is reason that Tangail center is playing the pioneer role for Nayakrishi.
Tangail is a surplus agricultural area with very developed craft handloom sector. The relation between agriculture and handloom weaving is very much integrated. There is wide diversity in trees due to the needs of weaving as well as agriculture. Other artisanship such as blacksmith, bamboo craft, potters are also available. There is a strong Hindu community living in harmony with Muslims.
II. COX'S BAZAR
The next important area of Nayakrishi in a very different agro-ecological zone is Cox’sbazar. Nayakrishi was started in this area as a response to cyclone. Cox's Bazar is a coastal district in the south of Bangladesh. UBINIG started working in this district since 1987 with the research on shrimp fry collectors. Interest in Nayakrishi grew after the cyclone on 1991. A center was established in 1994 at Badarkhali union under Chakaria Thana, which is located at Mognamapara village on the bank of river Matamuhuri. This center specializes in coastal ecosystems and marine ecology.
The unique feature of this center is that it studies many innovative ideas with the Nayakrishi farmers. However, the innovative means cultivating of coastal lands where saline water often enters into the agricultural field and washes away by the rain. It is a challenging environment to practice Nayakrishi.
The Nayakrishi farmers and the local community have regenerated nearly 10 kilometers of mangrove forest that was previously destroyed by shrimp cultivation. The integration of the forest as a part and parcel of Nayakrishi agricultural practice, is a new experience, and Nayakrishi farmers are pioneering in many interesting researches on the agricultural practices in coastal areas.
The area is also used for salt cultivation. But in last decades shrimp cultivation have destroyed entire belt of the mangrove forest. Modern agriculture was introduced with use of chemical fertilisers and pesticides, which resulted in loss of soil fertility. So, the success of Nayakrishi farming in regaining soil fertility and regenerating mangrove forests have attracted the attention of a large number of communities desperately struggling to survive in the coastal belts.
The centre also plays key organising role for both the marine and in-land fishing communities in order to defend their rights and interests as well as to protect aquatic diversity of coastal and marine ecosystems.
The area is primarily a muslim dominated area, with indigenous community in Moheshkhali and other hill tracts. Nayakrishi is working with all the communities including the fishing communities.
In the district of Pabna, Nayakrishi was first started in Ishwardi. Ishwardi is a thana under Pabna district. UBINIG has been working in Ishwardi, Pabna on a seed project in 1994. Soon the Nayakrishi became popular here. Although Pabna is located in the western part of Bangladesh but in terms of agro-ecology and strategic point of view, Pabna and specially Ishwardi thana is highly potential for agricultural production. Most of the agricultural research institutions in Bangladesh view that Ishwardi can play a very potential role for agrarian development. So, Regional Agricultural Extension Station, Sugarcane Research Station, Pulse Research Institutions are located in Ishwardi. These research institutions are engaged in promoting conventional areasagricultural practices, which is only focussing on the crop yield. The cost for such increased yield is the massive destruction has taken place over the last 40 years in the Ishwardi area. So, ecological vulnerability is the predominant feature in all over Pabna district and it's adjoining areas.
Ishwardi is famous for horticulture and vegetable production. The major fruits that produce in Ishwardi are banana, papaya and litchi.
A major beel area is another interesting agro-ecological feature of Pabna and it's adjoining district Natore. These are known as Satail Beel and Sangkhabhangha beel. The area is suitable for local variety paddy that provides cattle fodder as well. It provides the option for livestock raising and keeping. In addition, plenty of local variety of fishes and aquatic species are grown in these beels.
Pabna area needs more attention because of the ecological vulnerabilities as well as for being heavily Arsenic prone. The arsenic contamination in the tubewells as well as in various crops is threatening the people in terms of their health as well as their social lives. Arsenic problem is intended to be dealt with in the Nayakrishi through water management and safe food production.
UBINIG started working in Kushtia primarily for cultural programmes with the followers of Fakir Lalon Shah. But soon it was clear that practice of culture is not separate from agriculture. Therefore, Nayakrishi gained acceptance among the farmers and also among the Lalon followers. Cheuriya in Kumarkhali thana of Kushtia is well known in both parts of Bengal for the shrine of Fakir Lalon Shah.
Kushtia is a northwestern district of Bangladesh. Historically, Kushtia has played a significant role for agriculture and it's development in various ways. It is said that many practices related to agriculture came from farming communities of Kushtia. Flood plain agro-ecological system is pre-dominant feature of the district. The major area is beel. The feature of beel is unique, as it is a major source of surface water. In addition, the beel area is very useful for fodder production. So, the number of cattle is comparatively higher in this area.
The intervention of "Green Revolution" has contributed to the erosion of many diversities of agriculture. Besides, the farmers lost many insightful community knowledge systems that were closely linked with agricultural practices. The major implication of Green Revolution is that the farmers became more engaged in the production of cash crop such as sugar cane and tobacco. The small and marginal farmers could not coup with such competition in commercial agriculture and therefore lost their livelihood in farming. The intensive use of pesticide in tobacco cultivation has raised serious concerns among the farmers.
However, the other major strength of this area is the spiritual aspect of community people. The Great saint and philosopher Fakir Lalon Shah, spent his life in this district disseminated the message of caring nature and save it through a harmonic relation between nature and human being. The people of Kushtia and its adjoining districts are very spiritual in nature.
V. CHAPAI NAWABGANJ
UBINIG started working in Chapainwabganj for a regional mango research project under South Asia Network on Food, Ecology and Culture (SANFEC). This project was undertaken by UBINIG for documenting the local varieties of mango. Chapai is one of the districts located on the north western border areas of Bangladesh. It is under Barendra area that was covered with tick and boti plants and trees. But after the introduction of modern agriculture the entire area was deforested. In addition, the use of underground water for irrigation and pesticides made the area ecologically vulnerable. This is an arsenic prone zone. It may be noted that the arsenic problem was identified first in Chapai.
Two thanas of Chapai (Nawabganj Sadar and Shibganj) are famous for Betel-leaf cultivation on a commercial basis. They use pesticides in betel leaf causing serious environmental threats.
Indigenous communities live in Godagari, Kakonhat thana (under Rajshahi district), Nawabganj sadar and Nachole thana (Chapai district). Among them the Santal community is the majority.
UBINIG started working in Kurigram in 1998 through a study on the missing young girls. Since UBINIG has been working on the issues of violence related to trafficking in women and children, this study was very important to understand the causes of trafficking. The lack of livelihood for people was seen as a major cause for this phenomenon of trafficking. Nayakrishi was started as an option for the poorest families in a difficult agro-ecological situation of char lands. The main focus of this work was to define the constraints and role of women and children in economy so that they could provide a significant contribution to a specific development approach related to food security and livelihood.
UBINIG started Kurigram is a northern district of Bangladesh. This is one of the major economically vulnerable district, the delta of Brahmaputra.
The distinction between poor and rich is very sharp. The poor people who live in delta area i.e. in char have been below the poverty line. The livelihood options for the people of this area are very limited. So, during the lean season most of the male members of this community come to other districts mainly for seeking employment like, seasonal agricultural labour, rickshaw pulling, construction works etc.