DHAKA: Julekha Begum has become something of a celebrity in her region of Bangladesh. As a respected and successful woman farmer, she is visited by women from all over the country seeking help and
advice on how they can follow her footsteps. Earlier, Julekha eked a living by farming rice and keeping a few fish during the
A group of organisations called a meeting of poor farmers in three areas of central and southern Bangladesh vulnerable to flooding, cyclones and food insecurity.
Research for Climate Change Adaptation in Bangladesh (SARCCAB), a project of International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) Bangladesh, chose Julekha along with other local farmers as beneficiaries for the project.
For the recent International Women’s Day, the UN focused on the theme ‘Empower rural women — end hunger and poverty,’
providing opportunities for the poorest women around the world. Julekha is a living example of how this is being played out. She was first
approached by Aluddin Sikdar, secretary of Nilgonj Krishak Moyethri, a comm-unity-based farmers’ organ-isation, in 2011. Julekha was then fully resourced with the tools, equipment and training so that she could take up farming the ‘Sorjan’ way.
Instead of traditional plain rice farming in the relatively dry season and then farming carp in the flooded monsoon fields, she has now created raised beds interspersed with rice and fish farming, which enables her to grow vegetables, interchanging different crops at all times of the year.
The raised long and narrow beds grow tomatoes, onions, soya, and green vegetables, which feed the family and provide additional income. Julekha’s income has increased by 60 per cent. She says, “After being involved with Sorjan, I have earned 260,000 Bangladeshi taka till last month. Currently, my weekly income is between 10,000 to 12,000 Bangladeshi taka and monthly income is 50,000 Bangladeshi taka.”
Her husband, Joynal Abedin, was sceptical about the new approach at first. But now he says, “We bought land and other
machinery and have also been able to buy cattle with our income.”
Julekha has seen how opportunities have increased their standard of living. She says, “Several village women visit me and consult with me about how they can duplicate what we have achieved. ”
According to her, if more women use this system, they can definitely improve the local economy and help other women as well. This is a step to eradicate poverty.
(Meagher is an environmentalist in the UK. Farhana is the communication specialist at International Rice Research Institute, Bangladesh and can be contacted through email@example.com)