A group of architecture major students from Daffodil University, while working on a project about designing community space in villages, visited two villages in Manikganj. During their four day stay, they have met young farmers practicing indigenous agricultural methods to produce organic crop. They have learnt about people’s lifestyle and relation to rural architecture, writes Tahajjud Hossain Tauhid; SK Md Rezwan and Bidyut behind lens
AS WE are Bangladeshi, our root belongs to villages and we live in rural areas for generation after generation. But in recent time we are forced to live inside urban areas because changing trend and the concentration of economic activities in the big cities. As a result, the children who grow up in urban establishments are neglecting our roots, having a negative idea about the village.
But the situation needs to be changed. That’s why to know our roots, we, a group of students from the department of architecture of Daffodil International University visited the village Kawtiya in Ghior Upazila, Manikganj.
We were working in a project which is about designing community spaces for a selected village. As said earlier, most of the students of the group are from urban background, we did not have a sound understanding of how rural architecture works within the context.
For that we need to have a close look on village settlements. Our course tutor Sk Md Rezwan and we attended a seminar at IAB (Institute of Architects Bangladesh), where we came to know about Prakritik Krishi kendro at Kawtiya.
We were a group of fourteen students and accompanied by our teacher Rezwan and Saad Al Islam. The group stayed there from April 10 to 13.
The kendro is an establishment where a group of young farmers are practicing indigenous methods of agriculture, with the help of locally available resources, non GMO seeds and organic pesticides. The village where the Kendro is located has conserved its typical village characteristics, culture, habitat, house pattern and lifestyle of people.
Prakritik Krishi Kendro works for chemical free food supply and maintains the seed supply within farmers. They practice their agriculture involving the local farmers and arrange training, workshops in the village. They helped us a great deal by arranging meeting with local politicians and farmers to understand more about their lifestyle.
We surveyed Jabrar char village and Kawtiya village focusing on various issues related to agriculture, education, house pattern, health, irrigation, communication, environment et cetera. We were divided into groups for collecting the data and in this way, we managed to cover more grounds and survey more people to gather their experiences.
Like most other villages in char areas, Jabrar char is also disconnected from physical land by the river around its lands. We already knew this but personally visiting there exposed the harsh reality of people over there and the array of complexities they have to face every day to commute.
We have observed that village houses have different patterns which are not like any city buildings. Everything is related to agriculture. We measured those houses physically and documented their plans and sections. Also we took notes of the surroundings such as trees, fields and plunge.
Courtyard in front of each house is the tradition of Bengal architecture and we found different arrangements of the courtyard which will be helpful in our design thinking.
Interior space and exterior of house is so different because of construction materials of the house. They mainly use tin, mud, wood, bamboo as their primary construction materials. As we know tin is a heat absorbing material, so at the day their buildings interior portion’s temperature is high compared to the exterior.
We also measured the wind, temperature, humidity, day light level by using different equipments like anemometer, lux meter and thermo-hygrometer.
We surveyed in total fourteen house patterns in both villages and asked questions encompassing family structure, type of agriculture and domestic animal, profit margins, occupation in monsoon, common problems to the villagers — to both men and women.
Most of them mainly farm paddy, corn and tobacco. Because of nearby Aziz Tobacco and British American Tobacco factories, these two villages cultivate a huge amount of tobacco. It has negative impact on their health, but the profit margin is good. Tobacco cultivation, as we have learned, is bad for the fertility of the land too.
Among educational institutes, there are Jabra Primary and High School and Baniya-Jhuti College in the Kawtiya village. Students from Jabrar char have to cross river to reach educational institutions every day. In monsoon it becomes very difficult as the villages get flooded for about two months.
In Hindu temple and Muslim mosques people receive their religious education. Younger peoples are more exposed to education than the previous generation as we have observed so far.
During the trip, our morning started very early, around 5am. We enjoyed the sun rise, then work for an hour in the agriculture field. We plucked vegetables that we wanted to have for lunch and dinner. It was a completely different experience for us.
Then we had chira-kola as breakfast. We started our survey at around 10am and worked till 2/3 pm. Then we took bath in the Kaliganga River; it is impossible to found such experience in city life. Some of us started learning swimming. We collected shells from the river and cooked that at night. The taste was good.
At afternoon we played games like ludo, uno and cards. All of us were very excited and became very friendly during this time. The teachers also participated in all the activities with us. This is something remarkable, a participatory approach in learning.
At evening we worked for 2/3 hours daily in a workshop style. In this time, we refined all the collected data by discussion and documented it by making posters. Teachers were very strict about this sessions as we may forget many information if we don’t record at right time. So in two days we made fourteen posters by our own.
We also remember the discussion with the vice-chairman of the village underneath a banyan tree. She described her efforts in the development of the village. We also asked about the khash land information to know the scope of work.
The banyan tree is a focal point in village life. People from different age gather and pass some time here making this an informal hub of information for the village. In winter jatra-pala is displayed here.
And at the end we slept on machang, an open to sky bamboo platform, looked at stars and felt how beautiful our Bangladesh is.
Tahajjud Hossain Tauhid is a student of Daffodil University.