From Uncertainty to Dignity: How HKI Helps Bangladeshi Women Grow Their Nutrition and Income Levels

Nipa Chakma, a day laborer, was living in poverty. Sometimes she secured seasonal work in the paddy field or collecting firewood, but such inconsistent work made everything uncertain.

Then Nipa changed everything—with help from an HKI project called Making Markets Work for Women (M2W2). There, she learned to grow spinach and carrots, pineapples and maize. She was encouraged to grow nutrient-rich, higher-value fruits and vegetables to maximize her profits. Together with 74 other women in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of southeastern Bangladesh, learned skills in cooking and food preservation, all with the goal of lifting their families out of poverty and improving their health.

Equipped with seeds, a spade, hoe and Dao knife, Nipa learned to cultivate vegetables and raise chickens. Training in marketing and negotiation prepared her to sell her excess produce.

Much has changed in three years. Last year, she earned 30,000 BDT (382 USD) from vegetables, 5,000 BDT (63 USD) from fruit, 25,000 BDT (318 USD) from rice and 5,000 BDT from poultry. To produce more rice and vegetables, she leases .80 acres of land.

“We can now sell so much from the farm, and we have bargaining power, as we know the price information from our marketing committee,” she says of the project participants. “We all pool our produces and earn more money through grouped sales.”

The increased income has made a world of difference. The family now lives in a house with tin shed roof and a sanitary latrine and has a tube-well for safe drinking water and irrigation. Nipa joined a savings group, with the goal to generate assets and educate her children, and continues to deposit money in the bank.

Nipa lives with dignity in her community, known as an expert grower thanks to the skills she has cultivated. She and her husband now both are engaged in maintaining their fruit trees and rice, and managing their harvests. Most importantly, the family eats nutritious meals every day.

The M2W2 project is now recognized by the government of Bangladesh, an honor Nipa doesn’t take lightly. “I feel proud to be a member of a group registered by the Department of Women Affairs of Bangladesh government by virtue of being a participant in the M2W2 project,” she said.  — Amin Uddin and Dipankar Chakma