Traversed by numerous rivers and tributaries, my home country Bangladesh is the largest delta in the world; a fertile land that ranks among the most densely populated regions on Earth! As a delta, Bangladesh has traditionally been vulnerable to flooding and cyclones, but the present challenge is completely different in extent and nature. It is being apprehended that in the next 20 years, 25% of the country’s land will go under water. The consequences will be disastrous from an ecological perspective because the largest delta, besides supporting livelihood of 160 million people, also hosts the largest mangrove forest on earth.
My migration to Canada can be considered as a preemptive reaction to the climate change. My family and I moved to Toronto last September because Ontario and its greenbelt, which is the largest in the world, promised my kids a better future. As I grew up in a flat and fertile tropical country, which is naturally endowed with agricultural produces, my lifestyle and food habit is inseparable from rice and vegetables. After coming to Canada, abundance of fresh food produced in Ontario came as a pleasant surprise to me. It is for me a blessing as I cannot imagine a meal without fresh vegetables.
For having fresh local food, I always visit the local markets wherever I travel in Bangladesh and abroad, which also helps me to feel the essence of the culture. While I was doing my Masters in ‘Sustainable International Development’ in Boston, USA, I visited some farmers' markets. One such trip here took me to one of Toronto farmers’ markets where I had the opportunity to interact and learn about planting seasons, community supported agriculture, and numerous new fruits and vegetables of Ontario. My interest in agriculture and farming communities made me curious about Toronto’s farmers’ markets and their supporters. In this way, I came to know about Ontario’s Greenbelt and the Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation.
My work with rural communities for more than 15 years in the areas of livelihood and food security, capacity building of farmers and women, food and nutrition, and so forth. I was motivated by my fascination to agriculture and the people engaged in it. I started working as a Program Officer in Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Services in northern Bangladesh in 1995. For a brief period, I worked for the government of Bangladesh (Khulna Development Authority) as an Urban Planner but my heart remained with the agricultural communities in the villages that inspired me to join Jagrata Juba Shangha, who worked with the rural people in southern Bangladesh. After more than two years with Jagrata Juba Shangha, I was for almost ten years with United Nations World Food Programme where I had the opportunity to work for 750,000 rural women each year under VGD (Vulnerable Group Development program) which was the largest food security and livelihood program in Bangladesh. I also worked for Save the Children in Bangladesh for two years in their largest food security and livelihood program, where I immensely enjoyed working for farmers to provide them access to the markets for contributing in value chain of their products.
My background inspired me to join the Greenbelt Foundation in March 2014 to work for the ‘Farmers’ Market Network Project’. I am proud to be able to work with farmers again, which is my passion, though this time it is on the opposite side of the world. Maybe this will give me another perspective of the farmers’ world and I am looking forward to it.
Acknowledgement: I am grateful to my teachers (Bernadette Glover, Harry Orbach, Darell Cowan and Janet Wilton) at the City Adult Learning Centre for guiding me to get into the co-op placement with the Greenbelt Foundation.
-- Program Associate