Anisuzzaman Khan

Ashoka Fellow
Fellow Since 1990


This profile was prepared when Anisuzzaman Khan was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1990.
The New Idea
In Bangladesh, man's dependence on nature is especially immediate and apparent. After decades of environmentally blind and increasingly aggressive development, this naturally beautiful land is suffering the consequences, e.g. flash floods, drought, and the loss of species.
Anisuzzaman feels that the solutions have to be found in the field. He had already started a census of Bangladesh's species, especially those in danger. Armed with this knowledge, he and his colleagues are setting to work both to help villagers learn how to adapt more effectively and to encourage new social and economic policies. He has, for example, demonstrated to the villagers in one area how they can train an endangered species of otter to chase fish into their nets, thereby transforming a pest and competitor into a friend and ally. The villagers are now raising rather than killing the otters, and Anisuzziman's job has become one of spreading the word and technique.
He's also fighting to give the endangered monitor lizard a future by helping villagers learn that it gobbles up rodents and is, in fact, the saviour of the farmers' crops. As this message sinks in, the 10-15 Taka a lizard's skin will bring seems less and less enticing.
Another example: He's spreading the understanding that ducks provide natural fertilizer for fish and don't eat grain as part of a broader effort to stop people from shooting them, especially in the winter months.
Sometimes policy change flows relatively easily from the facts his sort of field work produces. The government is most unlikely to keep a species on its export list when the census shows that only fifteen individuals remain alive in the country (a real case).
Anisuzzaman's idea involves mapping not only species at risk but the whole pattern of interactions of which they, the rest of the local ecosystem, and the local people are interacting parts. This involves skilled natural observation and learning a great deal from the local human residents. Thus armed, he tries to help work the system back to a new, sustainable balance. Doing so requires equally imaginative, sensitive grassroots, educating and policy advocacy.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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