This is an inspiring case of a woman in Bangladesh, who transformed her life through sheer hard work and a little support. By growing vegetables using organic methods and adding on enterprises that she could manage, Alecha grew from poverty to prosperity.
Alecha Begum in Uttar Ghater Choti village in the North east of Bangladesh, makes a living on her homestead land alone. She has no cultivable land to grow crops.
The little amount of vegetables she grows in winter season is not sufficient to meet the family needs. She could not afford three times meal a day. Even though she had leased in land, she could not get good yields as the soil was sandy in nature. Gradually she lost interest in cultivating crops. Providing three meals a day for the family became a difficult task for her.
In 2010, she came in contact with the Community Learning Center (CLC) of Friends In Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB). She got trained for two days on homestead vegetable gardening. The training provided her insights into organic way of cultivation and the importance of producing organically. She learned to prepare organic manure and organic pesticides. After the training, she started to grow vegetables in the homestead systematically and organically. She successfully raised vegetable crops that met the family needs.
With this success, Alecha was motivated to expand the vegetable growing to a commercial scale. She got trained in commercial vegetable cultivation for 5 days from FIVDB. Her self confidence increased. She started to believe that she can be economically better only through agriculture. Then she leased in 3 bigha land (7.47 bigha = 1 hectare), where she grew vegetables commercially through organic methods. She started to make compost with the help of cowdung, water hyacinth, banana plants and with almost anything biodegradable which she could collect. She cultivated vegetables with the compost she prepared.
Alecha grew different vegetables in small pieces of land. The yield was good and she was surprised with the amount of money she made by selling the surplus. In 6 decimal land she had grown snake gourd and sold the crop for Tk.7500 (US$1 = 78 Taka); in 15 decimal land she cultivated Arum and sold the crop for Tk 24000; in 4 decimal land she grew bottle gourd and sold the crop for Tk. 4000; in 6 decimal land she raised red amaranth and sold the crop for Tk. 3500. Along with these she had also raised different vegetables seedlings (brinjal, tomato, turnip and chilli) and sold them.
Alecha had not used chemical fertilizers and insecticides to produce vegetables. The produce was therefore tasty, looked beautiful and was liked by the local people. The vegetable traders also collected the produce from her door step offering a better price. Alecha became self reliant. Alecha now grows vegetables all round the year.
Alecha bought four cows from the income she made by selling vegetables. Now, she does not go to the field to collect cowdung. She makes compost, vermi compost, pile compost, ditch compost in her field itself. She uses the vermi compost mostly for her vegetable crops and also earns some cash by selling earthworms to the neighboring farmers.
Presently, she grows vegetables in 3 bigha land and paddy in 8 bigha land, totally organic. She has integrated duck rearing along with paddy cultivation. Due to the integration there is no need for application of fertilizers and herbicides for paddy crop. The yield of paddy is also much better than before.
Alecha, with the support of FIVDB set up a hatchery. In 8 months she could earn around 120000 Tk from the hatchery.
Alecha has the support of her family in all her activities. The members of her family now have greater access to vegetables, providing good nutrition to the family members. Medical problems seem to have reduced than before.
Now many farmers come to her for suggestions with respect to organic method of growing paddy and vegetables. They have also started growing vegetables in their homestead lands using organic ways of cultivation. She also encourages the unemployed youth to work in the land. Alecha is now a role model in her village.
This article is an edited version of the original article which can be accessed at http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/sites/default/files/resources/Case_NE%20Bangladesh-Alecha.pdf
Dr. Shaikh Tanveer Hossain, earlier worked as Sustainable Agriculture Advisor, Friends In Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Bangladesh. Presently he is associated as Program Officer, Agriculture Department, Asian Productivity Organization (APO), Tokyo, Japan. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org