Climatic Manipulation in Agriculture- A Thousands-Year-Old Practice in Bangladesh: Mohammed Ataur Rahman

Climatic Manipulation in Agriculture- A Thousands-Year-Old Practice in Bangladesh: Mohammed Ataur Rahman
Professor, International University of Business Agriculture and Technology (IUBAT), Uttara, Dhaka Email:, Mobile: +8801820425191

Climatic manipulation is thousands year old practice in Bengal Basin. Climatic manipulation means alteration, changing, or adjustment of climatic factors to provide an appropriate environment for growth and production of crops according to their adaptation.
Nowadays for improvement of crops, selection, hybridization, and introduction of new varieties or species are followed but the most important way, the climatic manipulations are not well discussed or understood in the present day’s so-called modern industrial agriculture although climatic manipulation has been following here for thousands of years.
Climatic factors influencing the growth and production of crops are light, temperature, precipitation mainly rainfall, humidity, and wind. As the crops are adapted with these factors in different climatic zones of the earth, the genetic properties are also influenced by them.
Human are the best observer, selector, and manipulator and domesticated wild plants into crops. During the advancement of the time period, humans learned adaptation behavior. Traditionally crops have been improved with long-run trial and error method respecting the environment and thus improved production and quality obeying the huge variation within and among the species, the biodiversity, till the beginning of industrial agriculture. Before industrial agriculture, crop election and climatic manipulation are the methods followed by the farmers. The introduction of different crops to other regions was mainly respecting the environment: soil and climate and climatic manipulation was only the tool to grow crops to provide the required environment according to their climatic adaptation especially of the respective centers of origin.
Climatic manipulation in agriculture is older than that of the origin of the Caste System in Bengal. The working-class ‘Shudra’ has 37 subclasses according to their work responsibility. Among the 37 subclasses, three belongs to Betel leaf production, processing, and service-related activities and they are Barui, Tambul, and Chaurasia. The Barui are the working class for betel leaf production in the Paan boraj. The Paan boraj is the classic example of manipulation of climatic factors for the production of Paan or betel leaf, a Tropical rainforest flora.
For Paan, a unique climatic manipulation is done to give an optimum condition for luxuriant growth throughout the year. Paan boraj or betel vine house is usually having a thatched roof for protection from the sun, heavy rainfall and hails; fence around the Boraj for protection of winds and storms, humidity control and also from predators; nice drainage system for the drainage of water and supports to climb the vines up to the roof. Besides these, unique cultural practices for propagation, upkeeping and maintenance and harvesting are followed. Traditionally women are not allowed to enter in the Paan boraj as they carry diseases that destroy the boraj. Although early people did not know the scientific reasons for damage of the boraj due to women’s engagement. But present science has investigated that the women carry harmful Monilia fungus that destroys the Paan boraj.
Cultivation of Amon rice in the uplands, and Boro in the littoral zones of Beels, haors, and Baors are also important examples of early day’s traditional climatic manipulations. Boro, a cold-tolerant and water-loving day-neutral rice usually grown in the drying-up edges or littoral zones of wetlands in the dry monsoon season. Climatic manipulation usually is done through pre-wet seed soaking, germination bed preparation, and frequent watering the plants traditionally by Dhoon and Ora, etc., and nowadays by motorized pumps.
Rupa or transplanted Aman usually the Shaili rice is another good example of climatic manipulation. Basically, Amans are broadcasted short-day plants needs a longer period: Pre-monsoon, Wet monsoon, and Post wet monsoon. By adapting climatic manipulation, cropping pattern of Aman has been changed to transplanted ones a long time back and shortened the cropping period early Wet monsoon to Post wet monsoon also extending Aman in the gradated flood-free uplands by terracing to facilitate holding and releasing water making Ails or boundaries to maintain dry and wet phases as required by the rice, especially, Shaili and Asra types. Presoaking wetting, seedbed (Jalapat) and land preparation for transplantation and water management, etc. are also manipulated by the farmers traditionally, as required by the crops.
Traditional mound agriculture is another unique example of climatic manipulation. In every homestead of the Bengal basin there was raised mounds (Mada) in the open corners of the homes. The mounds used to prepare annually collecting dry clods from the clayey loam Khetlands. The mounds were coated with fresh cow-dung and rice husk or chitas. The dome-shaped mounds usually of 1.0 to 1.5 meter high and at the flat top seeds of different vine or creeper crops viz. country bean, cucumber, Snake gourd, Ash gourd, Sweet gourd, pumpkin and bottle gourds, etc. were planted and allowed them to climb on trailers or to the rooftops of the thatch houses. The mounds with inter-clod airspaces used to protect the plants from waterlogging breaking the capillaries from the upward movement of water and thus saved the plants from stagnancy. This mound agriculture used to provide the opportunity to recycle the greywater to homestead crops and also the nutrients, especially from fish and meat washed water and dish cleanings.

Greenhouse agriculture through climatic manipulation in the developed world has now become a common practice both in Temperate and Tropical zones. Many crops are produced in the greenhouses in temperate counties within artificial structures maintaining proper light, temperature, humidity, and water; supplying required nutrients to the plants although in natural prevailing weather conditions it is quite impossible. Thus, manipulating climatic factors, many high input-based commercial farming is in practice. Even in the arid dry region, many crops are being grown in the greenhouses.
Therefore, climatic manipulation is a noble way to improve crop production without damaging the biodiversity and ecosystem. It is urged that the scientists and researchers should be more conscious about the importance of different species and varieties; should not destroy the biodiversity by forced hybridization or genetic engineering for crop improvement. Let nature run with its own speed with all its diverse heritage. We must not do any harm to nature which we cannot repair. We have already lost about ten thousand varieties or landraces of rice in the last fifty years to fulfill human greed and curiosity. Will we get them back?
Different varieties have different tastes, smells, and nutrients of course. We can get the energy and the nutrients from different varieties and kinds of plants or crops. We must not neglect the low yielding Jats as we do not know what hidden or unknown benefits they provide, maybe immunity for survival. During induced or forced hybridization plants lose their immunity, characters and thus become unable to uptake the necessary nutrients which ultimately affects human health. Therefore, do not destroy the genetic characters which developed through climatic adaptation for thousands of years. Let us understand the science behind the traditional agriculture of the great Bengal basin and improve it saving biodiversity and ecosystems. Let us come out of the hybrid and chemical input-based irrigation dependent agriculture; strengthen our immunity by nutrient-rich crop production and save our biodiversity.

Was a conspiracy to destroy Tambul or Paan culture: Mohammed Ataur Rahman

Tambul or Paan chewing is a very ancient custom of Indian tradition; it is older than the origin of the caste system in India. Among 37 Subclasses of Shudra, according to their work responsibility, three belongs to betel vine production, processing and serving related activities and they are Barui, Tambul and Chawrasia. In a larger sense, though it looks like one of our cultural rituals with an incredible health benefit. The traditional pan is made with betel leaves, areca nut, Khoir, and slaked lime. Other spices like clove, cardamom, mace and zinger etc. are also added to make more attractive flavorful and tasty.
According to Ayurveda, the betel leaves regulate the body while Khoir and Areca nut control Kapha and Pitta respectively; hence, managing all the tridoshas of the prakriti and keeping the body healthy. In balance, pitta promotes understanding and intelligence. Kapha is the energy that forms the body’s structure — bones, muscles, tendons — and provides the “glue” that holds the cells together. In ancient time, at night, the wife prepares special Tambula for the husband. It brings pleasant sensations in sense organs and strengthens them. It enhances sexual capacity even in old age.
Paan is ceremonious; eaten on formal, as well as, informal occasions in our everyday life. It is the symbol for love and sex. According to National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) of India, it contains essential nutrients such as iodine, potassium, vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and nicotinic acid. Besides these nutrients, betel leaves contain essential oils and chemical components such as betel oil and chavicol, betel-phenol, eugenol, terpene and campene. These chemical components possess medicinal properties and help in the treatment and management of various diseases and disorders.
As an anti-diabetic agent, betel leaf lowers high cholesterol levels as it is a reservoir of phenolic compounds that possess antioxidant, anti-mutagenic, anti-proliferative and anti-bacterial properties. Studies have revealed the chemo-preventive potential of betel leaves against various types of cancer. Furthermore, betel leaves contain an array of phytochemicals that possess cancer-fighting benefits. Betel leaves are an excellent source of antioxidants that neutralize free radicals and fight oxidative stress. It inhibits the growth of cancer cells and its spread to different organs of the body.

Moreover, the antioxidants of betel leaf act as a protective agent in wound healing by increasing the wound contraction rate and total protein content. Anti-asthmatic Agent Research has revealed that besides anti-depressant drugs, chewing betel leaves have been used since ancient times for its central nervous system (CNS) stimulant activity. It was further found that chewing betel leaves produces a sense of well-being, a feeling of happiness and heightened alertness. Furthermore, betel leaves contain aromatic phenolic compounds that stimulate the release of catecholamines. A strong link is present between low level of catecholamines in the body and increased risk of depression. Therefore, chewing betel leaves is an easy way to keep depression at bay and it improves oral health.

Areca nut or Supari is used for the treatment of a mental disorder called schizophrenia and an eye disorder called glaucoma; as a mild stimulant; and as a digestive aid. Some people use areca as a recreational drug because it speeds up the central nervous system (CNS)
Apart from its value as a masticatory agent, areca nut has considerable uses in medicine as well. Actually, it enters as a pharmaceutical drug in Indian and British pharmacopoeias. Paan chewing with betel nut is popularly believed to prevent tooth decay. Betel nut is considered a digestive agent and a diuretic, a strengthener of the heart, and a regulator of menstrual flow. It is used in overcoming swelling eyes, mental confusion, chronic urinary distress and pus formations. It also cures cancer.

Khoir (heartwood of Acacia catechu) is used in detoxifying the accumulated toxins in the body and works against cough, diarrhoea, skin eruptions, leucoderma and wounds. It is also good for treating diabetes, anaemia and intermittent fever.
Another ingredient, Slaked Lime or Chuna has many advantages which are seen in Ayurveda. Lime is a big and best source of calcium carbonate beneficial for bone diseases such as arthritis, joint pain, backache or tooth ache. Small amount of lime which is used with paan is beneficial.

Regarding cultivation, paan boraj is the most sophisticated cultural practice, the pioneer of modern greenhouse agriculture. In ancient, climatic manipulation practice in paan boraj followed by controlling all the climatic factors viz. light, temperature, rainfall, wind and humidity. Moreover, many unique practices are followed for propagation, upkeeping, maintenance and harvesting. Traditionally, women are not allowed to enter into the boraj as they carry diseases that destroy the boraj although early people did not know the scientific reason behind it. The whole cultivation practice was organic; oilcake and decomposed mulches are the sources of nutrients; with these, a boraj remained productive around twenty years.
Betal nut a unique plant used to cultivate in the coastal zone, plainlands and also even on the hills with high water-tables. They are unique windbreaks withstand against tornadoes and cyclones and are highly beneficial in climate change situation.

However, western industrial business technology had purposely destroyed our high technique and health beneficial famous traditional Tambul or Paan culture to introduce tobacco and beverages. Targeting the highly populated South Asia, a big market, they very cleverly did this during the colonial period. Due to religious sentiment they initially failed to market the tobacco and beverages: wine and beer. Then they spread them to the tribal populations and also targeted the lower classes. To get success and create wider market, they started to defame the Tambul culture by adding tobacco (Jarda) with Paan and thus gradually people became addicted with tobacco. Later on, our western-trained medical doctors began to blame Paan as carcinogenic and bad for health. Thus, affected the rich Tambul culture and become successful to market industrial beverages viz. wine, beer, tea, coffee, coke and lemonade etc. under the names of hard and soft drinks. etc. and tobacco (cigarettes) which are taking lives of hundreds of thousand every year.
Tobacco was first brought to India by Portuguese merchants 400 years ago. The trade boomed and tobacco quickly established itself as the most important commodity passing through Goa in the 17th century. Virtually every household in the Portuguese colony took up the new fashion of smoking or chewing tobacco. Later on, the British introduced modern commercially-produced cigarettes.
European-style beer was introduced in India by the British. By 1716, Pale ale and Burton ale were being imported to India from England. To protect the beer from spoiling during the long journey, it had to have high alcohol content and hops were added to it. This led to the invention of India Pale ale in about 1787 by Bow Brewery. In 1830, Edward Abraham Dyer set up India’s first brewery in Kasauli. It produced the beer brand Lion, which is still available. In 1835, the Kasauli brewery was shifted to Solan near Shimla. In 1885, it was incorporated as Dyer Breweries. Later, more breweries were built across India, Burma and Sri Lanka. In 1892, 4,831,127 gallons of beer was produced in India. Out of this, 2,748,365 gallons were purchased by commissarial and rest was left for consumption by the civilian population.
In 1689 Ovington records that tea was taken by the banias in Surat without sugar, or mixed with a small quantity of conserved lemons, and that tea with some spices added was used against headache, gravel and gripe. The tea leaves for such use may have come from China.
While experimenting to introduce tea in India, British colonists noticed that tea plants also grew in Assam, and these, when planted in India, responded very well. The same plants had long been cultivated by the Singphos tribe of Assam, and chests of tea supplied by the tribal ruler Ningroola.
In the early 1820s, the British East India Company began large-scale production of tea in Assam, of a tea variety traditionally brewed by the Singpho people. In 1826, the British East India Company took over the region from the Ahom kings through the Yandaboo Treaty. In 1837, the first English tea garden was established at Chabua in Upper Assam; in 1840, the Assam Tea Company began the commercial production of tea in the region. Beginning in the 1850s, the tea industry rapidly expanded, consuming vast tracts of land for tea plantations. By the turn of the century, Assam became the leading tea-producing region in the world.
From the first, Indian-grown tea proved extremely popular in Britain, both for its greater strength, and as a patriotic product of the empire. Tea had been a high-status drink when first introduced, but had steadily fallen in price and increased in popularity among the working class. The ‘Temperance movement’ massively promoted tea-drinking, from the early 19th century on, Tea was the dominant drink for all classes during the Victorian era, working-class families often doing without other foods in order to afford it. However, they influenced Indians to drink teas to extend their business using different business promotion techniques including propaganda of chewing paan as harmful.

The Coca-Cola Company started operating in India in 1950 and Pakistan in 1953 but expanded their business everywhere and extracting billions of dollars from South Asian countries using their business propaganda.

Therefore, we should look behind our age-old sustainable traditional Tambul or Paan culture, study its properties: health benefits and immunity and reject the unhealthy introduced cultures. The so-called introduced refreshers tobacco and hard and soft beverages which are affecting everyday life damaging immune system of millions of people of South Asia. We must remember that our agriculture is thousands of years old but western industrial agriculture is only two hundred years, then how they are dominating over our culture. We are losing our crops, our traditions, our cultural practices in the name of development, food and nutrient security and we are trapped under technology business. We must come out from the traps of these technology business and develop our traditional cultures and practices. We should discover the ‘science behind the traditions’ to make the region rich and more sustainable.

Population and Biomass Recycling: Mohammed Ataur Rahman

According to Population Stat, the present population of Dhaka city is 20,951,446. Considering 5 to 6 million rural-urban migrants, the urban city population stands about 15 million. The annual mortality rate in Bangladesh is 5.4 per thousand and 81,000 people die in a year. Taking an average body weight 30 kg the total biomass stands at 2,430,000 kg i.e. 2,330 tons which is burying every year in the graveyards. This body-mass is generated by up-taking nutrients from the soil, water, and air through plants, animals and microbes and the ultimate media is soil. This huge biomass needs recycling to the place of origin instead of mere burying in the graveyard years together. To ensure soil health we must recycle the corpses after decomposition.

World Environment Day- A promise for Ecosystem Restoration: Mohammed Ataur Rahman

World population is now 7.79 billion which was about one billion only two hundred years back; the human population increased but biodiversity and ecosystems are damaged. Many animals including mammals, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects; soil and water micro and macro flora, and fauna which used to balance the food chain and food web, are extinct now. Germs used to kill the germs, the great nature’s ecosystems use to run in a balanced way with a relation “enemies and friends” as food and feed. Moreover, industrial agriculture especially monoculture with preferred crops and domestics; hybrids, GMOs, excessive uses of chemical pesticides and fertilizers; extension of agriculture and industrial urbanization and unplanned road transportation and infrastructure, etc. have destroyed the forests and wetlands and changed the landscapes. These are all together have made a mess: the global environmental change, global warming, environmental pollution and are ultimately affecting human health and ecosystems where to live. Therefore, today’s World Environment Day, we must promise to restore the ecosystems for the smooth running of the earth systems.

To achieve SDG 2, biomass and nutrient recycling must be ensured: Mohammed Ataur Rahman

The human body contains as many as 61 chemical elements out of 94 naturally occurring known elements although little known about the remaining 33 elements. However, all these chemicals are needed for normal growth and development of the human body.
Most of the elements needed for life are relatively common in the earth’s crust. Human being used to get these elements from the soil, water, and air through plants, animals, and microbes and the ultimate media is soil. Unfortunately, conventional industrial agriculture still remains within the circle of 23 macro and micronutrients. However, in Bangladesh context the situation is very hopeless, the farmers use only the macro elements like nitrogen, potassium, phosphorus, sulfur, magnesium, calcium, and some microelement viz zinc, manganese, boron, and molybdenum as suggested by the field officers or fertilizer companies. They seldom think for other nutrients which can be obtained from recycling biomass of plants animals including human being. This resulted in an acute nutrient crisis in the human body. As a result, malnutrition and diseases like diabetes, liver and kidney diseases, stroke, cancer, pregnancy disorder, early aging, and sexual disabilities, etc. are becoming more common although nowadays people are consuming more vegetables and proteins. This is, of course, due to insufficient, imbalanced and nutrient-poor diet. But we can get the nutrients from recycling biomass including plants, animals, and human beings.
Millions of tons of green garbage is being dumped for landfilling every year, which could supplement the need for other nutrients to satisfy the nutrient demands for optimum growth of the plants and animals. Moreover, human litter remains in the septic tank years together, sometimes overflows to the sewerage and drains into the rivers or lakes most of which get contaminated with industrial effluents although these human litters are great sources of nutrients. To achieve the target SDG 2 biomass recycling is an important criterion for Sustainable Agriculture; without ensuring it we will not be able to achieve SDG 2 within the target period. The government should immediately look into this. Every year the farmers are using huge chemical fertilizers as per recommendation for each crop but where these chemicals go? Certainly, uptake by the plants, adsorb by the soil-minerals and some may leach to the water. Leaching into the water gets worsen during flood and waterlogging situations. Since huge biomass drains to water bodies like rivers, canals, beels, and haors, etc., these must-have to be pollution-free to get the benefits from the aquatic resources viz. fishes, mollusks, crabs and prawns and of course planktons.
Therefore, to get the required nutrients, there are no alternatives other than biomass recycling, and nature is designed for it. We must think deeply and refrain from greediness and so-called technology business for earning money exploiting others.