For the past 63 years, the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) at Cumilla has been playing a leading role in local development. Although BARD is known for its innovative working method and contributions, it is also a place with exceptional scenic beauty, hospitality, and learning for every visitor!
The entire campus of BARD, starting from its entrance, has a unique classic vibe. It is as if the infrastructure is not exactly modern, yet just as beautiful as any modern design would deem-to-be. What is satisfying, though, despite being a classic design, as it is safe to presume is a rather not-so-new built place, the land is very well maintained.
The campus is refreshingly green, with air-breathing similar to deep-forest(s). But the most important observation was the institution's horizontal coverage. Within it are its saloon shops, grocery stores, clothing stores and whatnot! It is humongous relative to most other urban development institutions in Bangladesh. It is as if within the walls of BARD lives an entire community, free from the hustle-bustle of city life and tirelessly working towards the nation's development.
Akhter Hameed Khan Library
The BARD Library stands out among all the amazing guest house(s), office(s), and other infrastructure. Named the Akhter Hameed Khan Library, the library is very rich in resources. Although one might expect only development-oriented academic resources, the range of collection genres is more extensive, from fiction to science materials, etcetera.
There is a digital version of the library as well. Many resources are available as physical materials such as printed books or CDs, and virtual materials such as e-books, MP4 files, etcetera. The library team has done an excellent job curating an advanced search system for their digital library. You may search for your desired content through variables such as the ISBN, author name, year, type of content, etcetera.
The fascinating factor of all the archives tracks back to journals and other reports as old as the creation of BARD to 1959! Especially for those who wish to learn about the past, or understand practices of research or governance, etcetera in retrospect - this library is a definite goldmine. Such an amazing repository would interest many, given it offers unique resources in a range of variable genres and timelines.
Global Problems, Local Solutions
BARD, at its core, is a research and training institution for rural development. Many challenges that are locally present in Bangladesh are not uniquely specific to Bangladesh but often extend to other nations, especially the developing nations.
In the 1960s, the BARD created a development model known as the "Cumilla Model", essentially a development plan optimized for rural areas. The model is internationally recognised among academicians and practitioners. The model essentially boils down to a rapid expansion of production and sales in villages that leads toward sustainable development. As the world continues to thrive towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations by 2030, this model depicts a global approach of BARD since its inception.
BARD conducts action research by connecting global best practices, such as examining successful case studies of other nations relevant to the local requirements to optimize the best possible output for rural development. BARD initially runs a pilot project within its campus, and only when it is proven to be an effective, strategic, and sustainable method for Bangladesh BARD extends it beyond its boundary. Moreover, BARD imparts training to those interested in learning global best practices and passionate about local development.
Life at BARD
Although it is a development institute at its core, one major focus of visiting BARD is its scenic excellence. From many hillocks to bridges, ponds, and whatnot, BARD is a treat to the eye for an average Bangladeshi. Walking around the campus constantly unveils something new with every step - at first, maybe it is a hillock you walked past, but right next to it is a pond where you can gather and enjoy the view.
The morning is really beautiful, as well. Waking up with the singing of birds and putting yourself out at the guest house where the sun shines brightly and washes even the last drop of sleepy-ness of you is very refreshing. Moreover, looking outside the window reminds you that you slept the night at the heart of nature, with trees, ponds, and hillocks surrounding you.
Especially post-evening, the vibe of the area changes completely. Sounds of insects making song-like noises, for instance, make you feel as if you are very deep into the countryside. Sitting next to the pond is just majestic; with the sound of silence embracing you, an occasional wave changes as fishes dive in and out of the surface water. The buildings' lighting and the gardens in front of the guest house(s) add a mystic feel to the nighttime experience.
The cherry on top was the rain at BARD before departure, making the green greener and making the air smell rained-on-soil. And the sound of rain, away from other noises of the city life, is the perfect complement to enjoy the moment. So what could have been a generic view of endless water drops constantly falling on the ground as anywhere else became so full of life with everyone enjoying it together.
More than a development institute
The BARD auditorium(s) are excellent - they are made in a design that makes you feel you are still sitting inside the nature of the land. Enjoying the night away inside the auditorium is a must-do activity as well.
The wholesomeness of everyone performing including the faculties was joyful. It is as if both the faculties and students created a bond of respect and friendship - which definitely in future will make the classroom experience at university much better and the activities more enjoyable.
All-in-all, the field visit to BARD was an experience for everyone because not only did they see and learn about BARD, one of the leading development institutions in Bangladesh - but also everyone enjoyed and the memory will always remain fresh.
Ahmad Tousif Jami is a Research Assistant and student in the Global Studies and Governance (GSG) department of Independent University, Bangladesh (IUB). Dr Shanawez Hossain is an Assistant Professor in the GSG department at IUB.
The authors of this write-up went on a two-day field visit to BARD comprising faculty and students from the Global Studies and Governance (GSG) Department of the Independent University, Bangladesh.
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