The changing rural landscape
Shihab Sarkar |
May 22, 2021, 10:52 p.m.
In accordance with human nature, people eventually get used to new realities that they never thought they would encounter. It happens quite insidiously. Over the days, months and years, they unwittingly accept the new glasses. At some point, they cannot think otherwise, that is, the reality was different in the past. Few could be more appropriate than the cases in the villages of Bangladesh. Not so long ago, cows, boats, plows, etc. were a rural spectacle in Bangladesh. The scenarios have been evolving for a long time. Let’s move on to the slow replacement of cows by horses. The latter is widely used in the large remote areas of villages in southwest and northern Bangladesh. And so it has been for ages.
Horses are used in these regions as the traditional workhorse. But in some central parts, farmers are getting used to engaging horses in farm-related activities. Using horses to manually plow farmland has not yet become a custom in Bangladesh. The cows are there to do the job. Ox carts filled with harvested paddy and other crops are still common sights. Boats and trawlers are used in the task in areas near rivers. Harvested paddy transported by “dingi” boats was once a common sight in central and southern Bangladesh. They still are. But few can deny the increased use of horses to pull carriages filled with crops in areas where there is a shortage of healthy cows.
Lately, elements of surprise have started to strike people in many parts of the country. Incredibly disbelieving, they learn about traditional cows – oxen and oxen for the most part, replaced by horses. By transporting rural passengers and harvesting crops, the use of horses is making inroads. In the central parts of Bangladesh, imaginary horses normally populate folk tales, such as the now extinct “jatras” and “kabi-gaans”. And there are countless villagers who have never seen a horse, except in circuses, also now missing.
In ancient times, “zeminders” and feudal lords and their guards were seen on horseback during tours. Horses were not common. These days, many believe, should undergo a change in the following days – especially in areas without waterways. Thanks to the increase in the price of fodder, the attack of a myriad of livestock diseases, etc., raising cows continues to become a burden for many wealthy farmers. They are turning to mechanized agriculture with the capacity to perform tasks ranging from plowing, irrigation, harvesting to threshing. Not all parts of rural Bangladesh may be able to turn to horses. But they can form cooperatives to buy agricultural machine tools.
However, machines like small rice planters or harvesters can be purchased by relatively well-off farmers. It was unthinkable in the distant past. And it would be difficult for poor and marginalized peasants to own even an outdated plow or a pair of oxen. As the futurists of agriculture in Bangladesh see, the activities related to cultivation and harvesting, long carried out using manual plows, earth levelers, manual winnowing, etc. are expected to undergo a drastic change in the near future. It could start with the slow replacement of traditionally shy farm cows with hardy horses in many unlikely parts of Bangladesh.
In a larger context, the current scenario in rural Bangladesh bears little resemblance to that which prevailed in this country fifty years ago. The changes have both socially refreshing and obscurantist components. Two categories of people now dominate in the villages. A class is always ready to accept changes in all sectors, including agriculture. The other finds it difficult to extricate himself from monolithic archaism. Rural Bangladesh once housed openings to a new future with broader horizons. But a small portion of people have always been enthusiastic about spoiling dreams.