In Bangladesh: three women, three farmers, three tales of success
Across the developing world, rural women play a crucial role in agriculture and farming. And Bangladesh, where women exceed 50 percent of the agricultural labour force, is no exception.
Eliza Khan, a dairy farmer from the Sirajganj district of Rajshahi in central Bangladesh, is a beneficiary of an FAO project focusing on smallholder dairy development.
So it’s no surprise that much of FAO’s work in the country has focused on supporting rural women farmers across a variety of sectors. These include aquaculture, crop, and dairy farming, all of which are showcased in a recent FAO video, Women Farmers of Bangladesh.
“If I hadn’t received this training...”
Shipra Bagchi is the first of the women we meet in the video; she is a shrimp farmer from the village of Baniakhali in Bagerhat, a district of the Khulna division in southwestern Bangladesh.
When she first started shrimp farming twenty years ago, Shipra had less than a tenth of a hectare of land (0.05 ha). She recalls how difficult it was to make ends meet in those days. “At that time, this whole area was inundated. Rice cultivation wasn’t possible.” She remembers that people used to survive by picking water lilies. And Shipra herself struggled with her new endeavour. “Earlier, I didn’t know the good practices of shrimp farming.”
Thanks to a project implemented by FAO and the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, with support from the Standards and Trade Development Facility (STDF), Shipra received training in key skills and techniques for improved and increased shrimp production: “How to enhance shrimp production, the benefit of the nursery and the use of PCR certified seeds, correct doses of lime, etc.”
“If I hadn’t received this training, I would not have come to this stage,” she says, noting that her shrimp production has increased significantly. “It is more than double.”
Today, Shipra has around 4 to 4.5 ha of land. “I bought land,” she says. And that’s not all. “After all these years I have managed to build houses, provide education for my children.”
Shipra is eager to share the skills she has learned with others. “Now other people come to me, wanting to learn shrimp farming techniques,” she says. “They seek advice from me on how to become successful. This has all become possible because I followed the instructions under the project.”
“People refer to my success...”
The video also introduces us to Monowara Begum, a crop farmer from Uttar Monikura, Mymensingh, in the north of the country.
Three years ago, Monowara joined a Village Based Organization (VBO) under the Food Security Project supported by FAO, and began to learn about improved farming techniques such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), and about food safety issues.
“I used to put excessive pesticides without knowing the correct doses,” she confesses. But thanks to the training she received through the VBO, she has learned that “improper use of pesticides caused diseases.”
“By using IPM techniques, we are free from harmful practices,” she says proudly. “Now, I know where to find quality seeds, when and how much fertilizer needs to be used.”
In the past, Monowara had trouble growing enough to feed herself and her family. “I used to starve for shortage of rice, but now I sell rice. This year I sold 360 kg of paddy for 40 000 Bangladeshi takas [about US$500]. I used this money to repair my house.”
Monowara feels that her newly-learned skills and perseverance have played a key role in her success, and in the respect she is now accorded by others. “I am commonly known as Salma’s mother,” she says (Salma being her eldest daughter). “People refer to my success; they say, if we could work hard like Salma’s mother, we would also be successful.”
Lastly, we meet Eliza Khan, a dairy farmer from Routara, in the Sirajganj district of Rajshahi in central Bangladesh. Eliza is a beneficiary of an FAO project focusing on smallholder dairy development. Through the project, she was trained in improved dairy farming practices and livestock management. “From this training I learned how to prepare the sheds and how to take care of the cows.”
“Milk production gradually increased. As well as consuming, I started supplying the milk to Milk Vita,” she says, referring to the Bangladesh Milk Producers' Co-Operative Union that the project connected her with. “I learned how to produce quality milk so that I can supply good quality milk to Milk Vita and to the locals.”
The increased production and marketing opportunities have given Eliza the confidence to grow her business. “I started getting money every week,” she says. “And that inspired me to extend the farm.”
Towards the end of the video, we return to Shipra’s shrimp pond for a moment, to hear her thoughts on the role of gender in all this. “Nowadays, men respect their wives’ opinions and wives also respect their husbands’ views,” she says, adding that both have learned “to give value to each other’s contribution.”
“Without this, success will not come.”
Click here to watch the video.