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9 December, 2018 12:27:38 AM
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World Vision helps rural women find foothold

Novel agricultural techniques
FAISAL MAHMUD, back from Muktagacha, Mymensingh
World Vision helps rural women find foothold

Momena Khatun still recalls the day when she was first asked to deal with earthworms and cow dung with bare hands.

As someone who has been living in a small village since her birth, Momena had been familiar with the tasks. But the very thought of applying her bare hands made her cringe and forced her to be reluctant.

 “Then, I did one thing in front of her (Momena). I took a handful of cow dung with earthworms and brought it closer to my mouth. I simply wanted to show her that there was nothing wrong with it,” said Kafil Uddin Mahmood, a technical specialist of World Vision, a global NGO.

 “I told her these earthworms make our land fertile and help us grow crops. Don’t shy away from it,” he also said.

“I was managed to remove her disgust and uneasiness with that little demonstration and she stopped recoiling,” he added.

Momena then started handling those two elements together to create vermicomposte, which is earthworm excrement and an excellent, nutrient-rich organic fertiliwer and soil conditioner.

While the knowledge of creating vermicompost and using it for a better crop yield is not new to many village communities, people in Muktagacha of Mymensingh apparently did not know about it. People like Kafil Uddin needed to slog really hard to disseminate the knowledge.

 Kafil’s employer, the World Vision, runs a livelihood programme in different rural areas of Bangladesh under which ultra-poor like Momena Khatun gets a chance to change their lives with the innovative and holistic approaches taken by the NGO.

The ultra-poor graduation is a three-year programme run by the World Vision. The programme targets the most destitute, chronically food insecure/malnourished families living well below the poverty line (ultra-poor). It ensures that the most vulnerable graduate out of extreme poverty towards self-reliance.

The programme fosters self-employment activities among the ultra-poor, helping to shift them from insecure and fragile sources of income to more sustainable income generating activities.

World Vision’s Bangladesh office operates this programme from four regions: central-eastern, greater Mymensingh, northern Bangladesh and southern Bangladesh. The programme provides the targeted people with livelihood training, assets, education on savings and health information.

The Independent recently went to Muktagacha and observed how innovative and enterprising programmes of the World Vision have changed the lives of people there.

 

Innovative agriculture

“One of the main targets of our ultra-poor programme is to train people to build their own assets through local value chain development,” said Ashutosh Rema, the area programme manager of World Vision.

“So, we identify and utilise all possible resources,” he added.

After the NGO finds out ultra-poor families through social mapping and local facilitators, it comes up with plans to enrich the lives of them with local resources, he noted.

“I did my graduation from Agricultural University of Mymensingh. I found that locals can easily earn by preparing vermicompost. Vermicomposting has the potential to involve an individual, a family and even a community. It can better their lives,” gushed Kafil Uddin.

Besides, there are other reasons as well, he added.

“Since Bangladesh has a huge population, farmers have to farm HYV rice and other diversified crops. Varied harmful chemicals are used in the process—this degrades the quality of the soil,” he noted.

Kafil said vermicompost can bring back the purity of the soil. “An individual, a family or even a community can make the organic fertiliser themselves, spending only an hour or two from their daily work. Moreover, if they can produce it in plenty, they can also create a market for their product,” he added.

Kafil and other field officials like Mohammad Rashedul Islam, a programme officer of World Vision, started sensitising the selected people in the area. “At the beginning, the task wasn’t that easy. I needed to convince them as they were reluctant to handle earthworms with bare hands,” Kafil said.

Rashida Begum, a housewife in a village in Muktagacha, admitted that she was far from interested in preparing vermicompost. “Kafil Bhai showed us the benefit of preparing it. We learned it from him,” she said.

Rashida, however, does not only use vermicompost for growing organic vegetables, but also sells it in the market to eke out her living. “I produce excellent vermicompost. There is barely any pest attack. We use very little pesticide. The produce is also good for health,” she said.

Laily Akter said she had first received about 150 earthworms with a chari (earthen pot) from World Vision. She kept working hard and soon got 16 maunds of vermicompost in a month.

Now, Laily has three earthen pots from which she can get 15 maunds of organic fertiliser. She sells each maund at Tk. 400.

“I could see with my own eyes the colour of vegetables where organic fertiliser is used and the ones where chemical fertiliser has been used. The organic crops looks comparatively fresher and greener,” said Laily.

 

Utilising all resources

 Under the World Vision programme, ultra-poor households were not only taught innovative agricultural techniques like vermicompost, but also  the utilisation of all possible resources to maximise the output.

“We taught them how to use the courtyard for cultivating vegetables and how to grow certain types of vegetables inside the sack,” Kafil Uddin told The Independent.

Sack farming involves filling a series of bags with soil, manure, and pebbles for drainage. It involves growing plants on the top and in the holes in the side. The sacks allow people to grow vegetables in places with minimal water supply.

The sack method allows a freer flow of water to the roots and retains moisture more efficiently than traditional methods. So, sack farmers can keep their plants hydrated with less water.

Bulbuli Rani, a housewife from Ghoga union of Muktagacha said she had never thought about utilising the front courtyard of her house for a garden or using a sack to grow vegetables. “Now I grow a lot of vegetables here. I also grow vegetables like chillies, spinach and bitter gourd in sacks," she added.

Bulbuli said the benefit of growing vegetables inside the sack is that they need less water and soil. Years after setting up her vegetable garden in the front courtyard and a small sack farm at the backyard of the house, Bulbuli now grows enough vegetables to feed her family and sell the surplus to the community.

“These innovative agricultural approaches are helping ultra-poor families to change their lives dramatically. Such methods have brought smiles to their faces,” said Kafil Uddin.

EA

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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