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The man who inspires rural folks to be self-reliant
Bazlur Rahman

          Sanowar, once a poor farmer of village Shakhipur in Tangail district, is now well off as he has been earning Tk 2.0 million annually from a nursery project.
Sanowar is a grand example how media can change life. The poor farmer took up the nursery project after being inspired by the popular TV programme---"Mati-o-Mansuh" (Men and Soil), produced by eminent TV journalist Shykh Seraj.
Like Sanowar millions of people across the country are now self-reliant and earning handsome amount of money taking cues from Seraj's TV programme that was first launched in 1982.
As the prime focus of the programme is on rural economy, particularly the agricultural sector, it has inspired the rural people, especially the peasants, distressed women and unemployed youth to contribute to the socio-economic development of the country.
"My programme has revitalised the agricultural sector including the poultry, livestock and pisciculture. The high level of current agricultural production has been the consequence of my effort partially," said Seraj in an interview with the FE.
"Thinking about the long history of Bangladesh agriculture's stagnant condition mired into formidable problems lowering the production capacity and level of production, I decided to dedicate my time and effort for the welfare of the patriotic farmers," he said.
Seraj said China is producing 13 tonnes of paddies per hectare of land while the country's current level of production is only 3.0 tonnes. Bangladesh has high potential to grow its current level of production again using hybrid seeds and modern technology, he added.
Shykh Seraj, son of Obaydul Huq and Ershadunnesa, was born in June 26, 1956 under the district of Chandpur, started his "Mati-o-Manush" programme in 1982 on state-run BTV. His programme is now telecasting on a private channel "Channel I".
At the initial stage of "Mati-o-Manush," Seraj made exclusive coverage on how had been the farmers made hostage to the hand of middlemen eating out the hard-earned outcome of vegetable production by farmers.
Contents of his programme include examine capacity of land to produce different segments of hybrid crops, suggestion to formulate policy guideline, inform the farmers about the newly invested crops and effectiveness of enacting laws related to agricultural expansion and modern technology, success of agro-scientists, agro-management during disaster.
For tireless sacrifice his programme has achieved popular recognition and brought reverend and prestigious awards totaling 15 in his 24-year long illustrious career including-Son of the Soil-2006, Ibrahim Memorial Prize 2006, Sheltech Award 2005, National Fisheries Award 2005, The Ashoka Fellowship (US), Young Asia Television Award, Poultry Prize 1993, Ekushey Padak 1995 and Rotary International Award in 1989, 1991 and 1993.
Starting with "Vegetable Production VS Farmers' Earnings" Seraj through his 95 serials containing 95 main reports, 65 short reports, 25 success stories and tips on agriculture and successful farmers including China, Japan and Vietnam, has brought drastic change in the country's the agriculture.
"Considering the country's low level of agricultural production compared to other countries I felt the need to disseminate my knowledge among the farmers and started this program," Seraj noted.
"I, considering the strategy; one sided move may not be successful, started bringing all the persons including policy makers, researchers specialists and decision makers involved in agriculture under same practical notion that new ideas and innovative mechanisms must be utilised here, observed the personality.
About poultry industry, he said commercial cultivation of poultry farm began in the early 1980s and the country is now self-sufficient in poultry production, which is generating employment opportunities for unskilled people and also saving foreign currency.
Seraj, a journalist of global repute in agricultural sector, has been bordering on different sub-sectors of agriculture with his innovative and conspicuous hindsight.
He claimed that country's agricultural production has doubled and in some cases tripled due to using hybrid seeds in different crops and his programme played a key role in inspiring farmers following modern equipment and sophisticated strategies.
Due to the failure of complying with World Health Organisation's code from hatchery to marketing stage, the country is faltering in shrimp export normally produced the coastal area, Seraj pointed out.
While focusing on his TV programme, he said many women have implemented vegetable garden and flower garden on yards, fish and duck cultivation into unutilised ponds, which have become a major source of their income changing the level of income and living standard as well.
Pointing finger to the gradual empowerment of the country's womenfolk by micro-credit support by different NGOs he said they became inspired by TV program and started the journey of struggle and now they are self-reliant in most cases.
He advocated for following tissue culture in increasing crop production that will help the country achieve self-sufficiency in food production and people would get vegetable throughout the year.
Shykh Seraj hoped that his programme would continue in days ahead with new thoughts and time-bound ideas targeting the down-trodden farmers staying at the periphery of the economy.


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