Women farmers can drive growth in Bangladesh

I take this opportunity to write about the quintessential role women play in the agriculture sector across the globe. Their contribution never fails to inspire me. We do admit that agriculture sector would have had a different story altogether had it not been for the immense contribution of women. Through this post, I am sharing some facts I found interesting, on the contribution of women farmers particularly in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and India are very similar to each other in terms of topography, income and political structure.  In Bangladesh, almost 80% of the women reside in rural areas and 65% of them take up farming as a major source of income. Right from deciding which crop to grow to even marketing them, everything is managed seamlessly by the women.

The government of Bangladesh is also working continuously to find innovative ways to bring the women farmers into financial economy. In fact, Bangladesh government has allocated 12 thousand crore for the expansion and success of agriculture.

According to Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) close to 2.5 crore labourers were engaged in agriculture in 2010, out of which over a 1 crore were women. This has been because of the consistent steps taken  by the Bangladesh government to increase awareness about agriculture and empower women to join the sector. This serves a two-way process. Firstly, it helps the women to become self-sufficient financially and secondly it helps to increase GDP in agriculture.

Rini Roy, a middle-aged women farmer was facing tremendous crop loss and poor yield due to extreme climate conditions. She then realized that planting a crop relevant to the weather will be more cost effective and resource efficient. She then decided to sow climate-resilient crops like potatoes instead of water-resistant crops like paddy and in turn happily reported a bumper harvest last year!

Many women farmers are also innovating in the way they practice agriculture. They are adopting ways to practice sharing-agriculture where they share land with others. One such farmer is Laxmirani, who does not own arable land but cultivates crops (potato) on other’s land to sustain her family of 3 individuals.

These steps are being taken by progressive women farmers, who are moving away from rice towards more water efficient crops such as potatoes due to series of droughts in the region.

It is encouraging to know that Bangladeshi farmers do not shy from innovation or adopting progressive thinking. Their contribution in commercializing Bt Brinjal and progressive thinking in adopting the innovation quickly, in 2013 played a very important role in restructuring the entire agricultural economy of Bangladesh. This innovation not only allowed farmers to drastically reduce their use of insecticides by more than 80%, but it also decreased yield loss due to pest damage…

For example, Mst. Nasrin Sultana, a sub-assistant agriculture officer at the Department of Agriculture Extension shared that in her assigned block alone, there are 10-12 farmers who are deeply intrigued to cultivate Bt Brinjal after learning about its benefits. Those who already adopted it reported that traditional varieties would lead to a loss of 40% of their crops. (Source)

Hence there is no argument that agriculture in Bangladesh is taking a leap towards ensuring a better structure in the country. Like many other countries, this growth is fueled by the women in a huge capacity who continues to bring about a balance in the sector.

-Neha Sharma, Associate Manager – HR, Mahyco