Planting a Better Future


Sparrow McGowan, CARE Canada
January 2012

When asked about her life five years ago, 50-year-old Dulali Begum quickly becomes shy. She and her family live in Velabari Village in the Bogra District of Bangladesh and were among the extremely poor of an already very poor community. Her husband Jamal had lost the use of his legs and Dulali had to beg to feed her family. But ask her about her life today and she immediately lights up. From the simple provision of 200 Taka (approx 2 to 3 USD) worth of seeds and training from CARE's SHOUHARDO program, with a small patch of land from her village, Dulali and her family now have a steady and healthy supply of food, a small business and her 14-year-old son is in school.

Dulali”s owes much of this success to her persistence and dedication to building a better life. Dulali took the seeds given to her and planted and cultivated them to produce vegetables that could be sold for an income, and also used to feed her family. From the money she earned from her vegetables, she bought hens and started a small poultry farm. She then sold hens for a profit allowing her to purchase supplies for her husband, a skilled craftsman, to start making handicrafts. Today, she sells the handicrafts locally, using market knowledge she learned through CARE's SHOUHARDO program – all this from the cultivation of seeds and support from CARE.

"When I used to go to the market to sell products, I wasn”t able to bargain. Now I have the ability to determine my proper price and say ’˜this is the price – you can buy it if you want to pay that price'. I”ve become quite clever."

Dulali and her family now enjoy three meals of good food daily, compared to the one or two meals they previously managed. They eat a mixture of vegetables as well as small fish and eggs, and meat a couple of times a week. She has also purchased trees that are planted around her house that serve two purposes: Dulali lives next to a flood plain and the trees help stop erosion and keep her land elevated, but they are also an investment. In about five years, the trees will mature and their wood will command a significant amount of money at market, approx. 6000 Taka (72 USD).

The relationship with her husband has also changed substantially. "This family depends on Dulali because she is doing every job," says her husband Jamal. "Although I make the handicrafts, she is selling them and cultivating the vegetables, going to market and managing the family. I respect her for this." When asked if she is now involved in household decision making, Dulali responds, "Definitely! Why not?" They also look forward to a brighter future for their son -- that he will be well educated and go on to have a good job, a better life.

The Chairman of the Village's Development Committee points out that the village was one of the poorest in Bangladesh, but that women like Dulali are helping to improve the condition of the whole community. "Dulali is one of the influential women in the community", he says. "She is a role model."

What's more, the EKATA group has expanded the world for its members. Since joining the EKATA group, Rina has travelled across the country, carrying her goal to make life better for herself, the others in her group and her community. Referring to her group's meeting space, Rina says, "This room was not the only destination in my life. I had to explore beyond it."