Special days can get you thinking…
Mural at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University
Which modern statesmen and women will be remembered for serving their countries’ farmers? There’s a loooong list of politicians who have harmed agriculture. (Most, but not all, of them dictators). But proven, sustainable, positive action? (Noise of heads being scratched). Who would be on your list*?
National Mourning Day gives Bangladesh an opportunity to reflect on a serious candidate. The day is a tribute to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, whom many regard as the father of the nation. As one of the Syngenta Foundation Bangladesh team put it the other day: “The man we call Bangabandhu played a pivotal role in steering the country towards independence and agricultural advancement”. Many countries achieve the first of these tasks and mess up the second. But as we noted in a book review last year, Bangladesh has done a great job in both areas.
Sadly, the father of the nation didn’t live long after independence. He was assassinated in 1975, as National Mourning Day annually recalls. But Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s agricultural legacy lives on. Speaking at a commemoration event, our Country Director Farhad Zamil reminded staff of some of the achievements.
“Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's innovative strategies aimed at alleviating hunger and poverty”, Farhad said. “They included the distribution of better seeds and fertilizers, and improvement of irrigation facilities. He established institutions such as the Bangladesh Agriculture Development Corporation, the Bangladesh Sugarcane Research Institute, and the Fisheries Development Corporation. And he launched the Bangladesh Krishi Bank, providing farmers with loans on reasonable terms.”
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman is also remembered with affection for allocating government fields to landless farmers and – unlike many politicians today! – voluntarily paying taxes on his own holdings.
Does that list of steps forward remind you of any other modern politicians? *Then tell us the name(s) and service(s) to agriculture, and we’ll be happy to share.
And if mourning isn’t your idea of a perfect national day, Bangladesh might still offer your new favorite: Mother Language Day. It’s now marked internationally by the United Nations. But the inspiration came from Bangladesh. The original reasons are sad, but a day celebrating the languages of people’s hearts is a wonderful idea! If you’re in Dhaka on February 21st, enjoy. And if, like the Syngenta Foundation, you work with smallholders in many countries, remember that mother tongues are the key to change…