Two rural farmers, a state-run research organisation, a farm machinery manufacturer and an exporter yesterday won the maiden AGROW Award in recognition of their contribution to agriculture.
Standard Chartered Bangladesh in association with Bangladesh Brand Forum introduced the award in a bid to spur innovation and modernisation among the thousands of farmers across the country.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury handed out the awards to the winners, picked in five categories, at a ceremony at the capital's Sonargaon Hotel.
The Farmer of the Year (male) award went to Khan Asaduzzaman, a cultivator from Barisal for his diversified farming activities which cover fisheries, dairy and fruits. On daily basis, at least 15 workers work in Asaduzzaman's farms.
Alia Begum from Faridpur was crowned the Farmer of the Year (female) for her outstanding contribution to poultry, dairy and livestock farming. The 32-year-old has a poultry farm of 800 quail birds.
The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), the largest multi-crop search institute owned by the government, won the award in the innovation and research category.
Lal Teer Seed Ltd, the largest private sector seed company in the country, was given an “honourable mention” in the same category for its leading role as a researcher, supplier and producer of vegetable seeds.
The Best Associated Industry in support and execution went to Alim Industries Ltd, the country's leading agricultural machinery manufacturer. The firm has revolutionised agro-farming through easy-to-operate machineries which include power thresher, ventilating dryer and rice reaper.
The Best Agriculture Export award went to Creation Pvt Ltd. The firm exports jute diversified products to many developed countries including the UK, Germany, France and Japan.
Accepting the award, Alia Begum said: “I have never thought that I would get this type of award. I am feeling very good. If I get more support, I will be able to expand my farm activities.”
Asaduzzaman credited his father and elder brother for guiding him and providing financial support throughout his journey.
Rashedul Karim, owner of Creation Pvt Ltd, Alimul Ahsan Chowdhury, managing director of Alim Industries, and Md Rafiqul Islam Mondal, director general of BARI, received the award on behalf of their respective organisations.
Speaking as chief guest, Matia Chowdhury paid tribute to the farmers for their contributions in making the country self-sufficient in food production.
“Our agriculture sector is a wonderful story of progress that needs to be celebrated and deserves to be shared.”
She said the country's farmers have supported the country by taking interest in agriculture and putting their best efforts to produce food for the growing population, defying many challenges.
The three-time agriculture minister said the award has opened a new chapter to deepen the country's commitment towards agriculture.
“I hope this initiative will inspire our grass-root farmers, dairy, crops and livestock distributors, marketing agencies and logistic service providers to enhance their commitment towards the sector's development.”
The agriculture sector accounts for nearly 20 percent of the country's gross domestic product and represents 47.5 percent of the total labour force.
“It is high time to recognise the contribution of the farmers of the nation. This award is our attempt to recognise individuals and organisations that have played exemplary roles through innovation and hard work,” said Jim McCabe, chief executive officer of SCB.
The best practices displayed by each individual and farm and their ensuing successors are all part of the country's story of growth and resilience, he said.
“Tonight marks the beginning of this formal recognition.”
As part of the award programme, the bank will subsequently engage the awardees within the sector to enhance their knowledge and inspiration, which will encourage the farmers to produce more and benefit the sector as a whole, according to McCabe.
“This award will spur innovation and modernisation amongst the thousands of farmers across the country toiling away to meet the nation's demand.”
“At Standard Chartered, we promise to be here for the people, to be here for progress, and to be here for good. Our commitment to that end will remain unchanged.”
The SCB CEO took the opportunity to commend the central bank for its focus on agriculture finance, which is promoting financial inclusion and thus ensuring balanced growth approach for the nation.
Shariful Islam, chief executive officer of Bangladesh Brand Forum, said the tremendous growth in rice production was possible by the farmers' fast adoption of high-yielding crop varieties developed by scientists and rapid expansion of irrigation infrastructure through private investment in tube wells.
“This was also possible because of the tremendous support provided by the government and the private sector's drive to support the sector and ensure food security for Bangladesh.”
“But, one will miss the real picture of the sector merely looking through the numbers, as the true story lies with the farmers, the spirited individuals who despite odds and challenges have continued to increase food production, feeding us all. They represent the true essence and soul of the nation.”
Syed Ferhat Anwar, a member of the jury board and also a professor of the Institute of Business Administration, announced the names of the winners.
Bitopi Das Chowdhury, head of corporate affairs of SCB, also spoke.
The oldest and largest foreign bank in Bangladesh, SCB has exceeded the farm lending target set by the central bank in the last three years. The bank lends agriculture loans through microcredit organisations.