Tree is our closest friend and redeemer of us from all kinds of danger associated with natural disaster such as flood, Tornadoes, storms etc. Tree provides us oxygen and sequesters carbon dioxide. Therefore, it is ultimate true that we can’t live without tree as the earth herself. Tree also helps us mitigate climate change induced impact and consequences and provides us various ranges of foods. However, in order to illustrate the importance of local tree and other natural plants, the Upazilla administration of Atpara under Netrokuna district every year arranges “Fruit Tree Fair”. The event this year (2012) has taken place from 12 August to 14 August in the premises of Upazilla administration office where people of all stake comprises farmers, women, weaver, traditional healers, students, members of civil society, journalists, government officials participated actively.
The UNO of Atpara (Upazilla Nirbahi Officer) after inaugurating the event from the very first day of the fair visited various stalls and chatted with the people who exhibited various types of local trees in their own stalls. A total of 11 stalls were exhibited in the fair where with the facilitation of BARCIK farmers, women and other occupational groups exhibited some local fruit trees, organic pesticides, local varieties of rice and paddies and medicinal plants. There were 200 types of conserved local varieties of rice, herbarium of 60 types of uncultivated food plants, seedlings of Neem, Tulsi and Pudina as well as publications of BARCIK in those BARCIK’s facilitated stalls. The stalls were the most attractive ones for the visitors leading them asking various questions to the stall givers (farmers and BARCIK staffs) for clarification. Some of them even collected the seeds from the farmers to farm in their lands while some of them got the seedlings of medicinal trees for planting in their house yard.

Apparently, seeing the diverse varieties of local rice, an aged farmer, named Sattar Mian (60) said, “We farmed these sorts of rice in the past and I myself has been farming these local varieties of rice for a long time. I have 34 types of fruit trees in my house yard and land and every year I planted two fruit trees.” He went on saying, “Buying fruit from the market means buying poison but local fruits that grow in our lands contain much more nutrient and vitamin and make us healthy.” He added, “Farmers today intend to cultivate hybrid rice for huge production and introduce tractor in land preparation but they could never think that hybrid seeds could reduce the fertility of their lands. According to me, plough is the best tool for land preparation. If plough is used for land preparation, think that a total of 11 footsteps (8 foot steps of livestock, 2 footsteps of human and one footstep of plough) could hit the lands which assist to break the clod of soil and make the land softer. But the tractor could only hit and break the soil clod once”. He said, “I do not understand why we farmers are busy to harm ourselves by being dependent on external agricultural material while having our own traditional ones”.

A school teacher was very much impressed seeing the uncultivated food plants being exhibited in the fair particularly in the stalls of farmers being facilitated by BARCIK. He said, “I could not remember when for the last time I ate uncultivated food plants such as Khuita, Kolomy, Mama, Jarmony and some others but seeing these here has made me to recall the memory of my boyhood. Thanks to you”! He went on saying, “Now we are pretending to be rich and reluctant to collect and conserve such nutritious food from the nature less someone sees us and thinks that we have no cash in hand leading us to collect such grass! We feel shy to let other see us collecting and conserving these useful plants. I condemn this very mentality of people who have such kind of thought about the food in nature.” He said, “We go to market with huge bags and buy foods which could cause us hundred of dangerous diseases but we never feel shy as we feel to collect and conserve the uncultivated food plants. We need to change this mentality so that we could make us healthy as well as the nature by protecting these sorts of natural plants from extinction. I extend my heartiest thanks to the farmers who still conserve these plants”.

It is mentionable that a rally and discussion were organized in these 3-day fruit tree fair where including others BARCIK staffs from Netrokuna participated and shared their experience and works regarding biodiversity conservation and their effort to facilitate people conserving and planting local varieties of fruit trees, rice and other plants for a healthy environment.

Happy Roy, Program Officer, BARCIK