Coming home on a leave from his Saudi Arabian workplace, Saiful Islam of Tangail could not return for lockdowns imposed for the coronavirus outbreak.
The young man, however, did not pass idle times or get frustrated and instead immediately took to within the confines of his home a new venture: mushroom farming.
Saiful, 30, son of Bacchu Miah of Rashara village under Sadar union in Basail upazila, went to the Middle Eastern country in 2018 to earn a living. He left behind his wife and two children.
After working for two years, he came back in February last year on a two-month leave. However, a lockdown was imposed in the country and his visa expired.
Uncertainties gripped Saiful over how he would bear family expenses and pay back debts he had taken to go abroad.
Failing to secure a job within the country, he decided to do something for himself. Soon he was in talks with the local agriculture officers who advised cultivating mushrooms, since it takes little money and effort but yields bigger profits.
Saiful took a 10-day online training from the National Mushroom Development & Extension Centre in Savar.
He built a 40-foot structure next to his house for around Tk 1.5 lakh and started farming mushroom there on availing a seven-day practical experience in Savar and 350 mushroom seeds.
Harvests came about in just 30 days. His current daily yield is about several kilogrammes while he has 700 mushroom seeds.
Talking to The Daily Star, Saiful said mushroom farming showed him a way out of depressing times.
“After paying for all costs, now I can earn at least Tk 1,000 per day by selling mushrooms and snacks made out of it at an adjacent market,” he said.
Saiful said mushroom sells for Tk 200 per kilogramme and there was a huge demand for it in the upazila and outside.
“I want to farm it on a larger scale and also set up a lab for producing mushroom seeds. However, I cannot arrange the capital,” he said.
“My Saudi employer e-mailed me recently asking to go back spending only plane fare. But I didn’t respond…what shall I do on returning a few years later?” he asked.
“I want to do something permanent in the country,” he added.
Nazneen Akhter, upazila agriculture officer in Basail, said mushroom was a healthy food option.
“Saiful is a role model for the unemployed local youths. If anyone is interested in mushroom cultivation and want to avail training, we will make arrangements,” she added.