For Anowara Begum,  the last five years was a roller-coaster ride. Being left behind with two daughters as her husband decided to leave for India when the enclave exchange occurred, with no earning source and no training, life seemed to be in dire straits.

The 38 year old resident of Kurigram’s Dasiyarchhara saw her life change in ways that even before the enclave exchange would have seemed like a dream.

Paved streets, schools, hospitals, access to basic citizen services, social services, electricity - things we took for granted but for enclave residents was a dream for close to 70 years.

And in all this development work, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Bangladesh Government’s SWAPNO project has been working to ensure that no one is left behind.

Strengthening Women’s Ability for Productive New Opportunities or SWAPNO have reached out to the women of the area who were abandoned, widowed, and divorced, offering them jobs in government works, training on how to save and become entrepreneurs.

Under the initiative, in 2019, the Upazila Parishad planted 15,000 Bask trees along the newly paved roads. Seventeen beneficiaries of the project, including Anowara, were assigned to taking care of those trees.

Two years later, ACME, one of Bangladesh’s leading pharmaceuticals companies, is buying the leaves from the bask trees that now cover the side of the roads in abundance.

The revenue from the sales is being shared by the Union Parishad (10%), Upazila Parishad (5%) and the beneficiaries (85%) taking care of the trees. And the sharing will continue for another eight years.

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