Today, 28-year-old Nasreen is a successful businesswoman. From her home in the Bangladesh countryside, she runs a thriving ecological farm, which supports the local ecosystem and does not use chemical fertilizers or pesticides. Its chemical-free vegetables reach customers in urban areas, thanks to the electronic platforms on which it is active.
And as a participant in the IFAD-supported program PACE project, it is part of a larger initiative that is rethinking and transforming gender roles across the country.
But Nasreen was not always so self-sufficient.
Just three years ago, Nasreen’s family were like many others. Her husband was the sole breadwinner and her daily salary was not enough to live on.
They had a small family garden that Nasreen looked after herself. To try to make ends meet, she sold her surplus vegetables at the local market, but it never made much money. They struggled to provide for their two daughters and, like too many other women in rural Bangladesh, Nasreen’s work was unpaid and unrecognized outside her family.
Access the right resources
This started to change in 2019. Some acquaintances of his neighborhood had become involved in the Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF), a long-time partner of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and a leading provider of microcredit to women entrepreneurs.
Through this contact, Nasreen learned more about the PACE project, an initiative that helps rural households in Bangladesh to start and maintain their own farming businesses.
The sub-project in his region focused on ‘safe’ vegetables – those which are particularly well suited to the growing conditions in the region and beneficial to the local environment – ensuring that even the most vulnerable households have a means. to participate and earn a reliable source of income.
For Nasreen, this seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand his family garden into a full-fledged business. In addition, many other PACE participants in her region had embraced eco-farming – an agricultural practice designed to enhance and support the local ecosystem rather than disrupting it – and this appealed to her as well.
Of course, she needed a loan and some supplies to get started, so she turned to PKSF. As an implementing partner of the PACE project, the financial services of the PKSF are coupled with support in the form of training and technical assistance to help entrepreneurs set up a business, increase their productivity and access new markets. .
Nasreen started with a $ 300 loan and a series of trainings on everything from the basics of green farming to how to reach customers beyond his neighborhood to managing a loan. The loan allowed her to start producing on a commercial scale and the trainings gave her the skills she needed to start a business.
A wobbly start
It was not easy at first. She had no experience as a full-time farmer, and like many other green farmers, she struggled to keep up with her production pace with those who use conventional methods such as genetically modified seeds or fertilizers. chemical. But by the end of her freshman year, she had already earned $ 3,000.
Today, she produces an incredible variety of vegetables throughout the year – squash of all kinds, onions, radish tops, hyacinth and green beans, cauliflower, tomatoes, potatoes, peppers – and them. sells both in his local market and in the district market. It is also active on an e-commerce platform that allows its products to reach customers as far away as the capital, Dhaka.
The ecological farming techniques she practices support her family and community and restore the local ecosystem.
Because she grows a wide variety of crops and uses manure and natural fertilizers, she restores soil fertility with each growing cycle. She also only uses organic pest control methods, which further allows her to avoid the use of chemicals. And because she is able to harvest year round, there is a constant supply of nutritious food for her family.
She always faces challenges in the day-to-day management of the business. Conventional-style farmers will always be able to produce larger quantities than her at a lower cost, meaning the struggle to keep up will never go away entirely. Many consumers are not aware of the benefits of ecological farming or are not interested in buying vegetables without chemicals, so sometimes it is difficult to get a fair price.
The Covid-19 pandemic also affected her business: the lockdown prevented the opening of a collection and classification center that would have helped her earn higher prices for her products through her assessment services, and therefore would probably have opened up new markets as well.
Do well despite the challenges
Despite these difficulties, she and her family are doing well. With the profits she earns, she was able to send her eldest daughter to a school run by the local government (her other daughter is still too young to attend).
Her business is so profitable that her husband no longer works as a laborer and has started helping Nasreen in the fields.
She is now also able to fully participate in household decisions. In the future, she hopes to expand her farm, continue to invest in her children’s education, and save enough to build a house. For now, however, she is content to know that she is already creating better opportunities for her family. Most of all, her hard work is recognized – and she begins to notice that her success inspires others as well.
“As I am the one who guarantees a sustainable livelihood for my family, I see people around me who recognize me and appreciate my opinions,” she says. “I like to see that my relatives and my neighbors are also interested in taking the risk of starting their own business. “
This article was originally published by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
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