It has been a rewarding reversal of history that indigo farming is making a comeback in the country. Even though the history of indigo farming in Bangladesh reminds us of untold brutalities on the hapless farmers in British colonial rule in the sub-continent, the farming of the source of blue dye is now proving to be a boon for them.
Blue dye produced by farmers of Rajendrapur under Rangpur Sadar upazila under the supervision of Living Blue — a firm co-owned by Care Enterprise Inc and Nijera Cottage and Village Industries are now being exported to other countries.
According to reports, Living Blue exported one tonne of blue dye to the US in the last month.
In order to facilitate the indigo cultivation, the firm directly buys the indigo from them and processes them to dye.
The firm insiders have said they will soon be able to discover more export destinations as they have already successfully exported one tonnes of dye last month.
‘True Bengal Natural Indigo Dye’ disappeared from the country since the movement of 1859-62 and became extinct for more than a century.
Historical records suggest that indigo was produced in Bengal for use as a dye even in ancient times. But then it was cultivated more for catering to domestic and ritual needs than to serve as a commercial commodity- as per Banglapedia.
Its cultivation for commercial purpose appears to have begun in the eighteenth century. Indigo was almost entirely export oriented and the European planters mainly developed this export sector. But for political reasons they were not allowed to hold agricultural landed property until 1837. Later for EU production system who forced to grow indigo for the world market, indigo started disappear from the Bengal in 1859-62- it’s added.
But with the help of some non-government organizations its cultivation has been revived in the recent decades.
It has known that, Living Blue, which began its journey 10 years ago to produce indigo and handmade textiles, found a buyer for the natural dye in 2013.
The next year its local sales rose by 20 percent to 240 kilograms and the social enterprise made its way to the global market for the first time.
With the firms continuous support, the production of indigo gradually increased over the years as well as export. During 2014, a total of 15 kilograms indigo were exported, 21 kilograms in 2016, 35 kilograms in 2017.
There are also other NGO’s who are also working with indigo production. CARE Bangladesh worked with the poor people of Rajendrapur under its Social Economic Transformation of the Ultra Poor (SETU) project. Shareholders of the company appreciated the role of CARE for coming forward with the idea of reviving indigo farming.
As its demand is growing, now policymakers hope farmers will hit the indigo jackpot for their own benefit. Once such farmer, knew about indigo only from books and ballads extolling the Blue Mutiny and handed down from generation to generation. But now they are having adequate knowledge how to grow more indigo practically.