A Note about My Second Trip to Bangladesh 2015, by Dr. Y. Martin Lo, Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer in Bangladesh:
“My assignment was quickly adjusted due to political strike on the street, yet it turned out to be more effective than I expected. The leaders at Winrock office and CCBA (Cold Chain Bangladesh Alliance) were highly instrumental and dynamic to organize a three-day session on GAPs (Good Agriculture Practices) in Dhaka, followed by a second set of three-day training in Jessore, the heart of agriculture zone for Bangladesh, which was decided last-minute when they made sure the street conditions were fit for travel. I was impressed by the great turnout at the Dhaka office while the traffic was severely impacted by road blockages throughout the city. Everyone managed to come to the training on time, and the learning and discussion were both very engaged and rewarding. We were able to analyze current Bangladesh practices to pinpoint where improvements should be made.
The day after arrival at Jessore we were able to pay a special visit to the farming communities nearby. I was amazed by the great turnout with such a short notice and the in-depth discussion with 20-25 farmers who are eager to upgrade their operations. There were fields after fields of beautifully grown vegetables without any empty land. The farmers kindly showed us the fields of eggplants, cauliflower, potatoes, and tomatoes. It was a nice walk through the farmland on a breezy afternoon.
The training in Jessore was well attended by researchers from agriculture research centers, extension educators, and employees of other NGOs in the region. Not only did we carefully assess improper farming practices currently harming the health of farmers, their family members, and the environment, but we also identified the corresponding government agencies or specialists who can provide immediate assistance to improve water quality, apply integrated pest control strategies, and educate farmers about proper handling and application of pesticide. Many SOP (standard operation procedures) and SSOP (sanitation SOP) were developed after serious debate and discussion. It was a highly rewarding experience as the materials I had prepared were useful for the trainees. I left the total of 220 files (331 MB) to the trainees as supporting documents for the training modules I developed for the country’s efforts moving towards establishing Bangla GAPs.
I could not thank everyone in the Winrock office and CCBA enough for their hospitality, especially the assistance provided by Biswajit. He worked so hard to figure out a way for me to stay connected via Internet. He must had tried at least five different options to connect my Macbook whose operating system was too new for any local internet modem provider to support. Besides taking good care of me throughout the assignment, Biswajit was extremely effective and patient when it comes to working with various groups during breakout sessions. He made my job so much easier and my experience so much more enjoyable. For instance, a side trip was arranged to join the local cake festival at the agriculture research center. Although most of the time I couldn’t quite understand the words they spoke at the ceremony, Biswajit whispered to my ear every step during the ceremony to make sure I understood why and what was going on. I was delighted to be the recipient of beautiful flowers with the honor to sit on the center stage while they announced the many achievements by the scientists at the center. The beautiful singing and dances were completed with the sharing of very delicious cakes made by different grains. I felt obliged to receive such a warm welcome into the rich culture.
On the day I departed from Bangladesh I was requested to meet with the leadership of PRAN, a food processing company in Bangladesh that I assisted in September 2014 on their food safety programs. It was a heartwarming meeting when I saw the managers carefully crafted a nice presentation showing the “before and after” of the recommendations I made during my last visit. It was very touching knowing they had taken every single detail I mentioned into actions. While the presentation showed certain degree of their pride in achieving the improvements, the best came when they asked me if there is anything they could continue to work on to make things even better. That’s it! That’s the part I like the best about people in Bangladesh. Regardless of the political obstacles, bad traffic, and the lack of infrastructure, everyone I met works so hard to keep the country going. I see a lot of hope in the future for this lovely country and will be more than happy to provide my assistance and observe their continuous growth whenever possible.”
Here are some photos from the assignment: