Fajila Begum was a 23-year-old mother of four daughters when she lost her husband Nuruzzaman 15 years ago. The young, single mother felt lost, but she knew she would have to find a way to provide for her daughters.
At the time, Fajila took up embroidery, block and batik designs in clothes. She often worked in fields as well, and she married off three of her daughters in this time. Soon afterwards, she realised that education is a must for improving their lives, and sought to ensure a proper education for her youngest daughter.
“Living in poverty, my parents could not send me to school. But I wanted to do for my daughter but my parents couldn’t do for me,” said Fajila, now 38 years old.
“I began looking for a job and that’s when I heard about SWAPNO. After enlisting with SWAPNO, I started making a stable income. Now my daughter is in ninth grade and I do not worry about her education getting disrupted due to losing my income source,” she said.
“I am able to better support my family,” she added.
One day, a union worker of SWAPNO came to her house and suggested that she use the land in front of her house for sack cultivation.
“I had no idea about bosta (sack) cultivation. Three months ago, SWAPNO staff came to my house and suggested that I do kitchen gardening using this method. They told me that using this method will not only help me fulfil my family’s nutritional needs but also generate extra income by selling the vegetables,” Fajila explained. Fajila started with five sacks initially. “I cultivated vegetables such as pumpkin, gourd, brinjal, green chilli etc using the macha method,” she said.
When the coronavirus pandemic hit the country, Fajila fully dedicated herself to this home farming initiative. “Union workers have provided useful information and gave us the contact number of Sub Assistant Agriculture Officer. So whenever I face any problem, I take advice from him. This method has helped me to fulfil my daughter’s nutritional needs during a crisis time.”
“I sell the rest of the vegetables to my neighbours and nearby markets. This adds up to around Tk 1,800. Due to Covid-19, I could not continue my regular income-generating activities. But this sack method of cultivation has been a blessing for us,” said Fajila, who thinks this was a very useful venture for both earning some extra income and meeting the family’s nutritional needs.
“I am already a graduated SWAPNO beneficiary but the project is still helping me to cope with COVID-19. Not only that, but my neighbours and friends are also showing interest in sack cultivation after my initiative yielded such great results. It has been a very rewarding experience with SWAPNO and UNDP for me,” Fajila said with a smile.
Since 2014, Strengthening Women's Ability for Productive New Opportunities (SWAPNO) has been working as a social transfer project for ultra-poor women to be engaged in public works that are essential in the economic and social lives of rural communities. It promotes employment, and most importantly future employability, of extreme-poor rural women.