Table of Contents

0005-B1

Farmers' Preferences and the Indigenous Practice of Fodder Trees in the Flood Plain Area of Bangladesh

Danesh Miah[1] and Mohammad Khasru Noman


Abstract

This paper focuses on the indigenous practice of the use of fodder trees in the flood plain area of 40 randomly selected households sampled from Homna Upazilla (sub-district) of Comilla District, Bangladesh. The study’s objectives were to find out farmers’ ranking of fodder tree species of their choice, their criteria for assessing fodder trees, together with uses, management, niches and techniques of establishment. Kapila (Garuga pinnata) and Mandar (Erythrina indica) were the first and second most preferred fodder tree species by all categories of households. The most frequently mentioned criteria were palatability and the ability of the fodder to satisfy the hunger of the animal among the different animal related criteria, and no dropping of leaves among the tree-related criteria. Fodder trees were mostly used to feed the goats and sheep, especially during the rainy season. All households used the two most preferred fodder species as live stakes and support trees for climbers like vegetable plants and over 90% of the farmers used these two species as live fence. Most of the fodder trees were found in home compounds established naturally. Satisfactory management techniques for fodder species were not followed by any household category. The study has helped to identify the species for further research and development activities, with the aim of improving their productivity and disseminating them among the farmers.


Introduction

Bangladesh has a predominantly agrarian economy in which livestock management forms an integral part of its farming systems. The contribution of livestock sub-sector to the country’s GDP is around 3% and to agricultural GDP around 9%. Livestock contributes 95% of draught power to agriculture and provides full time employment to about 20% of the rural population generating cash income for the rural poor with a small amount of investment (Anon 1998). But there is a severe shortage of fodder to maintain the livestock in Bangladesh. The cultivation of fodder crops has been decreasing day by day. In the past, livestock of the country had to depend mostly on the natural pastures of rural areas and the rice straw. But due to increasing pressure of human population, most of these pastures have now been brought under agricultural cultivation. Now ruminants of Bangladesh are normally fed with rice straw, field weeds and by products of other agricultural crops. The feed they receive is not only insufficient, but also inferior in quality. The nutritive value of crop residues and by products is very low compared to that of feeds used in the developed countries. Per capita land holding in Bangladesh is approximately 0.12 ha which is one of the lowest in the world (BBS 2001). Due to flood devastation, agricultural residues are often spoiled and all types of grazing lands are inundated. Hence, the large gap between the availability and requirements of animal feeds in Bangladesh can be supplemented by the utilization of fodder trees as feed sources.

Many of the tree leaves are found very nutritious because deep root system of trees allow them to draw nutrients from deeper parts of the soil nutrients which are not available to grasses. Fodder trees are often used as a buffer to overcome feed gaps that arise from seasonal fluctuations in the productivity of other feed sources. For example, grasses and other herbs may die when upper soil layers lose their moisture but the deep-rooted trees exploit moisture at depth and continue to grow. During the dry season or in times of drought, some species stay green and provide green forage rich in protein, minerals and vitamins while herbaceous cover provides only poor quality straw. Fodder trees are also the important source of green forage during the flood period when all types of communal grazing land and pasture areas are inundated as well as post flood period when fodder shortage is acute. Some of the leguminous species are extremely important both in providing fodder for livestock and in enhancing soil fertility for crops.

Indigenous knowledge is important not just in terms of the description, proper management and harvesting of a product, but also in terms of the maintenance of the ecological processes and biodiversity linked to traditional economic activities, such as cultivation or husbandry. Recognizing indigenous people's harmonious relationship with nature, indigenous sustainable development strategies and cultural values must be respected as distinct and vital sources of knowledge. Most of the fodder trees are multipurpose assets in all traditional farming systems in Bangladesh. Over the past two decades, the importance of farmer's indigenous knowledge in managing their natural resources has gained increasing recognition from the scientific community (Rist 1991) and rural development planners are paying particular attention to use of such local knowledge (Chambers et al. 1989). An increasing volume of literature exists that documents indigenous systems for the management of natural resources by local people, and illustrates how such knowledge could be usefully applied in the development context (Thapa 1994). However, relatively little work has so far been conducted on farmer's indigenous practice on fodder trees and shrubs in the flood plain areas of Bangladesh. But traditional knowledge and management practices on fodder trees offer relevant techniques and insights for foresters and other relevant scientists. Roothaert (2000) hypothesized that knowledge of individual farmers would be consistent enough to form a basis for selecting the most useful fodder species. In addition, farmer's preferences and cultural practices also need to be considered when species are screened for their appropriateness. Farmers in some parts of the world have some practical knowledge about the quality of fodder trees (Bayer 1990, Thapa et al. 1997). Taping this knowledge would be much faster and cheaper than carrying out elaborate analysis in laboratories, for the purpose of screening the nutritive values of trees. However, previous studies in this field have shown variable correlation between farmer's knowledge and laboratory assessment (Thapa et al. 1997). It was hypothesized that there is a strong relation between farmer's assessment and the combination of laboratory analysis, and that farmer's assessment could be used more often in future to save time and costs (Roothaert 2000).

The economy of Comilla region is mainly agro based as the other floodplain areas of Bangladesh. Of the total 6,72,620 holdings of the district 71.73% have farms that produce varieties of crops. Besides crops, rearing of livestock and poultry are also the main sources of household income. The total population of bovine animal in the comilla region is 7,11,906 which is 3.16% of the country, and goat-sheep is 4,13,889 which is 2.83% of Bangladesh (BBS 1996). Livestock is an integral part of farming systems in the comilla region and forms the main source of drought power for most of the agricultural operations in the villages of Comilla district. Comilla region is affected by flood almost every year as many rivers, streams, and canals pass along and across the whole region. The vast areas of the region are flooded almost every year during the rainy season and all types of grazing land are inundated as well as agricrops are destroyed. As a result feed shortage is the major constraint to the rearing of livestock during the rainy season in Comilla region. Fodder trees may be a good source of green forage during the rainy season or flood period and post-flood period. But no study was so far found to investigate the indigenous practice of the use of fodder trees in the Comilla region to show the real situation of the fodder trees. As a flood plain area, Comilla region is assumed to have some important fodder trees and particular indigenous practice to rear the livestock in the feed scarcity period. Taking this hypothesis, the study was undertaken to assess the farmers dependence on fodder trees during the feed scarcity i.e. mainly rainy season and post flood period and also to assess the farmer's indigenous knowledge on the use of fodder trees and shrubs.

Material and methods

Study area

The study was conducted in the Homna Upazilla (sub-district) of Comilla district, Bangladesh. Homna Upazilla occupies an area of 180.13 sq km including 13.16 sq km river area. It is situated in the northwest portion of the Comilla district and at the distance of approximately 66km from the district town. Homna Upazilla is located between 23o 37/ and 23045/ north latitudes and between 90038/ and 90053/ east longitudes (BBS 1995). Homna Upazilla includes the tropical monsoon climate. Rainy season generally lasts from the month of May to October. The lowest temperature is observed in the month of December and January whose average is 19.50C. Mean annual temperature is 25.50C. The average rainfall is 69mm in winter season and the annual rainfall is 2131mm (Anon 1999). The lowest humidity recorded in the month of February was 77%. From April to next January humidity remains above 80% (BBS 2001). The whole Homna Upazilla is included in the Middle Meghna River Floodplain. The middle Meghna Floodplain soils are occurring in the north as grey sandy loams of the Tanger-Char-Fuldi association, in the middle as Barela-Silmandi grey silty clays and in the south as Tanger-Char- Border gray sandy loams. The soil pH ranges from 4.9 to 6.9 (Anon 1999). Homna Upazilla has a population of 211,563 of which 106,222 are males and 105,341 are females. The density of population is 1,174 per sq km. The sex ratio of the Upazilla is 101males per 100 females. In Homna Upazilla, 64.68% of the dwelling households own and 35.32% don’t own agricultural land. In the Upazilla, 57.35% of the dwelling households depend on agriculture as the main source of household income with 42.40% on cultivation/share cropping, 3.07% on livestock, forestry and fishery, 0.13% on pisciculture and 11.75% as agricultural labor. Other sources of household income are non-agricultural labor (2.00%), business (11.17%) and employment (4.48%) (BBS 1995).

Methods

Sampling method

From the middle Meghna River Floodplain landscapes, Comilla region was selected in this study. There were 13 ‘Upazillas’ in Comilla District. Out of the 13 Upazillas, one (Honma Upazilla) was selected purposively. The reason is that the study area is low-lying and three sides of the area are surrounded by the river and frequently flooded during monsoon. So farmers must depend on fodder trees during rainy season for rearing their livestock. There were 10 unions in Homna Upazilla; one village from each union was selected at random i.e. a total of 10 villages were considered in this study. In each of the villages stratified random sampling technique was adopted. As rearing of livestock and production of fodder trees are the functions of land holding capacity of the households, the farmers were stratified into marginal (0.21-0.50 ha), Small (0.51-1.00 ha), medium (1.01-2.00 ha) and large (above 2.00 ha). Out of these stratification, 40 households, 4 from each village of which one belongs to each stratum i.e. overall 10 from each stratum were then selected randomly forming a total of 40 households. Farmers without cows and goats were excluded from the survey.

Data collection

Study was conducted for gathering data by interview method using a pre-sorted questionnaire during June-August, 2001. Interviews began with a tour of the household to view the principal fodder trees that the farmer used. Data were collected from male heads or other important respondents. Related socio-economic information were also collected. Farmers were asked to rank their ten most important fodder tree species in order of importance through the method of tree use matrix. Total score of each species was then determined.

Data processing

The surveyed questionnaire was processed through a database program. Tabular methods of analysis were intensively used to analyze the data.

Results and discussion

Farmer’s most preferred fodder trees

Kapila (Garuga pinnata) and Mandar (Erythrina indica) was the first and second most preferred species in all types of household securing the score of highest and second highest respectively; because of their palatability, availability and easy to propagate (Table 1). Menda (Litsea polyantha) was the third most preferred species in all categories of farmers except the large category because naturally grown Menda (Litsea polyantha) was available both in homestead and government roadside in the study area and the palatability was also high. Sheora (Streblus asper) was the fifth most preferred species in small, medium and large farmers and fourth most preferred species in the marginal farmers as the species was naturally established and available in the study area and palatability was also satisfactory.

Table 1. Farmer’s most preferred top ten fodder trees at Homna Upazilla, Comilla, Bangladesh.

Farm category

Marginal

Small

Medium

Large

Species

No.of respondentsa

Scoreb

Species

No. of respondentsa

Scoreb

Species

No.of respondentsa

Scoreb

Species

No. of respondentsa

Scoreb

Kapila (Garuga pinnata)

10

94

Kapila(Garuga pinnata)

10

89

Kapila(Garuga pinnata)

10

95

Kapila (Garuga pinnata)

10

92

Mandar (Erythrina indica)

10

85

Mandar (Erythrina indica)

10

83

Mandar(Erythrina indica)

10

80

Mandar (Erythrina indica)

10

81

Menda (Litsea polyantha.)

9

60

Menda (Litsea polyantha)

8

63

Menda (Litsea polyantha)

8

67

Bot (Ficus benghalensis)

9

70

Sheora (Streblus asper)

8

49

Sil Koroi (Albizia procera)

7

44

Dumur (Ficus racemosa)

6

39

Menda (Litsea polyantha)

7

51

Sil Koroi (Albizia procera)

8

36

Sherora (Streblus asper)

10

32

Sheora (Streblus asper)

9

35

Sheora (Streblus asper)

10

38

Jiban (Trema orientalis)

6

30

Bamboo (Bambusa spp.)

5

24

Bot (Ficus benghalensis)

6

23

Bamboo (Bambusa spp.)

9

28

Bamboo (Bambusa spp.)

6

21

Jiban (Trema orientalis)

5

19

Bamboo (Bamusa Spp.)

5

17

Dumur (Ficus racemosa)

6

22

Am (Mangifera indica)

5

19

Dumur (Ficus racemosa)

4

17

Silkoroi (Albizia procera)

5

15

Boroi (Ziziphus mauritiana)

6

18

Boroi(Ziziphus mauritiana)

5

12

Am (Mangifera indica)

6

17

Ipil-ipi(Leucaena leucocephala)

4

14

Jiban (Trema orientalis)

5

18

Dumur (Ficus racemosa)

4

11

Boroi (Ziziphus mauritiana)

5

14

Jiban (Trema orientalis)

6

14

Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala)

5

15

Note:

a Number of respondents who included the species in the top ten. Sample size was 10 in each household category.

b If a farmer ranked the species first, it received a score of ten, if second, a value of 9, if third, a value of 8 etc. Scores shown are sums of individual farmer’s score.

Only two fruit species such as Am (Mangifera indica) and Boroi (Ziziphus mauritiana) appeared in the top most ten preferred fodder species rating the lower score because it was reported that due to the lessening of fruit production, fodder was not collected frequently from the horticultural trees. Am (Mangifera indica) was included in the top most ten preferred fodder species only in marginal and small farmers due to fodder constraints and ranked eighth and ninth, respectively. No exotic species appeared in the top most ten desired species of marginal and small farmers. Only one exotic tree, Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala) appeared in the list of top most ten preferred fodder species of medium and large farmers rating the lowest score. The reason for not preferring the exotic species as fodder may be that farmers were not familiar with the palatability and other quality of that. It was also reported that Kanthal (Artocarpus heterophyllus) was one of the top most preferred fodder species but farmers did not rank them due to its non-availability. During the last two floods in 1988 and 1998, almost all the Kanthal species died. All or most of the Kanthal species found in the study area were in sapling stage and in recent times farmers were reluctant to plant Kanthal (A heterophyllus) because of frequent flood. Thus the study infers that not only palatability but also availability affects the preference and ranking of fodder trees in the study area.

Farmer’s evaluation of fodder trees

Farmer’s criteria for evaluating fodder trees were either animal-related (e.g. palatability or affects on animal nutrition) or tree-related (such as drought resistance or no dropping of leaves) as shown in the Table 2. In all farm categories, the most frequently mentioned criteria were palatability and the ability of the fodder to satisfy the hunger of the animal among the different animal-related criteria. Contributions to the animal health were also important. Effect on milk production was not important to the marginal and small farmers but little important to the medium and large farmers. Among the tree-related criteria, no dropping of leaves was the most frequently mentioned criterion in all types of household. Compatibility with other crops was also important. Drought resistance of the tree and effect on soil fertility were not important to the marginal and small farmers but had little importance to the medium and large farmers. Even though farmers did not define those criteria, they found them relatively easy to assess and were consistent in their assessments.

Table 2. Criteria used by the farmers to evaluate the fodder trees and percentages of respondents in each farm category who mentioned those at Homna Upazilla, Comilla, Bangladesh.

Criteria

Farm category

Marginal

Small

Medium

Large

Animal-related

(Percentage of respondents)


Satisfies hunger of animals

100

100

100

100

Improves health of animal

60

70

80

80

Palatability

100

100

100

100

Improves milk production

0

0

30

20

Tree-related

(Percentage of respondents)


Drought resistance

0

0

10

30

Compatibility with other crops

90

80

90

90

Improves soil fertility

0

0

20

30

No dropping of leaves

100

100

100

100

Feeding and other uses

All of the farmers used the top most two preferred fodder trees to feed their goat and sheep. Other fodder species as shown in the Table 3 were also fed to the goat by all of the farmers except Bamboo (Bambusa spp.), Ipil-ipil (Leucaena leucocephala), and Dumur (Ficus racemosa). All of the farmers fed the Kanthal (Artocarpus heterophyllus) and Bot (Ficus benghalensis) to their sheep and over 50% of the farmers used all other species to feed the sheep except Ipil-ipil (L. leucocephala). Bamboo (Bambusa spp.) was fed to the cattle and buffalo by all of the farmers and no other species were fed to the buffalo but Sheora (Streblus asper) and Dumur (Ficus racemosa) were fed to the cattle by 45% and 75% of the farmers, respectively (Table 3). Study indicates that fodder trees were mostly used to feed the goat and sheep.

Table 3. Feeding management and other uses of main fodder trees at Homna Upazilla, Comilla, Bangladesh.

Parameters

Name of the species

Kapila (G. pinnata)

Mandar (E. indica)

Menda (L. polantha)

Sheora (S. asper)

Kanthal (A.heterophyllus)

Boroi (Z. mauritiana)

Am (M. indica)

Bamboo (B. spp.)

Ipil-ipil (L.. leucocephala)

Silkoroi (A.procera)

Dumur (F. rac emosa)

Bot (F. benghalensis)

Jiban (T. orientalis)

Animal feed

(Percentage of respondents)

Cattle

0

0

0

45

0

0

0

100

0

0

75

0

0

Goat

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

60

77

100

85

100

100

Sheep

100

100

80

82.5

100

90

72

55

47

50

82

100

60

Buffalo

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

100

0

0

0

0

0

Season of feeding

(Percentage of respondents)

Rainy season

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

Throughout the year

0

50

30

55

35

52.5

32.5

100

0

0

60

25

0

Parts fed

(Percentage of respondents)

Leaves only

0

0

100

0

100

100

100

0

0

0

0

100

0

Twigs and leaves

100

100

0

100

0

0

0

100

100

100

100

0

100

Fruits or Pods

0

0

0

0

100

0

60

0

0

0

0

0

0

Other uses

(Percentage of respondents)

Timber, poles, construction

30

0

32

0

100

90

70

100

100

100

0

0

0

Fuel wood

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

Live fence

92

90

25

10

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Live stake/support tree

100

100

12.5

0

0

95

10

0

0

0

0

0

0

Medicine (human, vet., antidote)

0

0

0

47

0

0

0

100

0

0

0

0

0

Fruit

0

0

0

0

100

100

100

0

0

0

75

0

0

Seeds

0

0

0

0

100

0

0

0

80

0

0

0

0

Fibers, ropes

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Note: Percentage was determined only in case of respondents possessing the specific type of species and livestock. The analysis of all the household categories is combined, as the results of all the parameters are almost similar.

All of the farmers used all the fodder tees during the rainy season and only Bamboo (Bambusa spp.) throughout the year. 25 to 60% of the farmers used some selected evergreen fodder species such as Mander (Erythrina indica), Menda (Litsea polyantha), Sheora (Streblus asper), Kanthal (Artocarpus heterophyllus), Boroi (Ziziphus mauritiana), Am (Mangifera indica), Dumur (Ficus racemosa) and Bot (Ficus benghalensis) etc. throughout the year (Table 3). The most common parts of the selected species eaten are the twigs and leaves; for some species, some farmers preferred to feed only the leaves. Fruit wastes (rind) of Jackfruit (Artocarpus heterophyllus) were eaten by all of the farmers to their livestock and Mango wastes (skins of ripen mango) were eaten by 60% of the farmers (Table 3).

Nearly all species were reported to have other uses (Table 3). Among the most preferred fodder species, all were used for fuel wood. Kanthal (A. heterophyllus), Bamboo (B. spp), Ipil-ipil (L. leucocephala) and Silkoroi (A. procera) were used by the 100% of the farmers for timber, poles, construction etc. Over 90% of the farmers used top most two preferred fodder species such as Kapila (Garuga pinnata) and Mandar (Erythrina indica) as live fence. All of the households used the two most preferred fodder species as live stake and support for climbers like vegetable plant e.g. bean, pumpkin, cucumber, groundnut etc. Feeding of bamboo leaf to the cow after delivery (calving) was done by all the farmers as indigenous treatment, which enhances the removal of placenta from the uterus. Other uses of fodder trees and shrubs include fruit, seeds, fibers (from Bombax ceiba) etc.

Niches, establishment and management

Niches varied considerably among the species (Table 4). In the study site, Fodder trees were not found scattered in grazing land or cropland. External farm boundaries (margin of crop field close to the homestead) were important for indigenous fodder trees, especially for Kapila (Garuga pinnata), Mandar (Erythrina indica), Am (Mangifera indica) and naturalized Menda (Litsea polyantha). The first two were grown in hedges and served as live fence. Most of the fodder species were found in home compounds or off the farm (Table 4).

Table 4. Niches, establishment, propagation methods and management of important fodder trees at Homna Upazilla, Comilla, Bangladesh

Parameters

Name of species

kapila (G. pinnata)

Mandar (E. indica)

Menda (L. polyantha)

Sheora (S. asper)

Kanthal (A. heterophyllus.)

Boroi (Z. mauritiana)

Am (M. indica)

Bamboo (B. spp.)

Ipil-ipil (L leucocephala.)

Koroi (A. Procera)

Dumu (F. race mosa)

Bot (F. benghalensis)

Jiban (T. orientalis.)

Niche

(Percentage of respondents)

External farm boundary

67

75

42

10

0

15

20

0

0

10

0

0

0

Within the home compound

100

82

85

100

100

95

97

100

100

100

100

5

100

Scattered within the food crops

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Scattered within grazing land

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Establishment

(Percentage of respondents)

Natural

0

15

100

100

67

85

80

0

0

52

100

100

100

Cuttings/Budding

100

100

0

0

0

25

0

100

0

0

0

0

0

Other known propagation methods

(Percentage of respondents)

Seed/Seedling

0

0

0

0

85

37

100

0

100

90

0

0

0

Roots

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Cutting management

(Percentage of respondents)

Small branches with leaves/Pollard/Pruned branches.

70

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

100

Twigs and leaves (Rachis)

95

45

0

0

0

0

0

65

0

0

0

0

0

Coppice at knee height

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Coppice above 1 meter

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

0

Browsing

0

0

0

25

0

0

0

22

0

0

0

0

0

Note: Percentage was determined only in case of respondents possessing the specific type of species. The analysis of all the household categories is combined, as the results of all the parameters are almost similar.

Most of the indigenous fodder trees were established naturally (Table 4), once found by farmers they were protected and allowed to grow to maturity. In the study area, Kapila (Garuga pinnata) and Mandar (Erythrina indica) were established through the planting of large branch/stem cutting by all of the households. All the farmers propagated bamboo (Bambusa spp.) through the planting of cut culm with rhizome (Table 4). Farmers were also aware of other propagation methods. For some species farmers were aware that they could be planted using seeds or seedling/sapling.

Pruning was common in the study area, where farmers pollarded the branches for the purpose of harvesting of animal feed (Table 4). Maximum farmers pruned their trees primarily with the hope to get more fruits in future and also for straight bole, while pruning for animal feed was comparatively less. Some farmers also harvested twigs and leaves for feeding their livestock. Farmers didn’t coppice for the purpose of harvesting animal feed at height, which seems to be related to the potential height of the tree. Most of the farmers also harvested fodder in unsystematic way (indiscriminate lopping), which ultimately affected on the fruit production and re-growth of the plant. Browsing of fodder was not common and cut-and-carry system was mostly practiced.

Conclusion

Traditional Ecological Knowledge is the basis for local-level decision-making in areas of contemporary life, including natural resource management, nutrition, food preparation, health, education, and community and social organization (Warren et al. 1995). The study has provided important information from farmers of the floodplain area of Bangladesh for setting priorities among indigenous and exotic fodder trees for research and development. The indigenous knowledge on fodder trees explored from the flood plain area of Comilla region may be an important tool to plan the livestock management in respect of nutrition, especially setting priorities in the crisis period. The policy maker, livestock professionals and foresters may use this knowledge to develop the livestock resources in Bangladesh. The present findings represent that indigenous knowledge on fodder trees may be important part for the development of fodder status through the proper combination of researcher’s scientific knowledge with the farmer’s indigenous knowledge. More research is also needed on chemical composition, nutritive & antinutritive qualities and toxicity of the fodder trees and shrubs available in the study area. The relationship between farmer’s assessments of fodder trees and laboratory nutritive analysis is required. The potentiality of livestock feeds that can be obtained from trees is not well perceived by the farmers. Therefore, these valuable feeds are not utilized to their full extent for feeding all types of livestock.

There is an urgent need to quantify available biomass from trees and shrubs at the farmer’s level and to incorporate these into the rations of village ruminants for improving straw-based diets. Research is needed to arrive at recommended inclusion levels of tree fodder in the diets of livestock using tree species that have proved compatible in the farming system of other countries.

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[1] Institute of Forestry and Environmental Sciences, University of Chittagong, Chittagong 4331, Bangladesh. Email: dansmiah@yahoo.com