Up until a few years ago, Kalpana used to live in a straw-and-bamboo hut on the riverbank, built on unused public land. Annually during the monsoon, she had to leave her home due to seasonal flooding. For the longest time, the primary concern everyday was how to manage a kilogram of rice per day to feed her children. Meanwhile, her husband Bharat Badshah had no work and perhaps to escape the frustration of acute poverty he used to wander the country several times a year, aimlessly moving from one religious-shrine to another.
“Mostly I had to struggle alone,” recalls Kalpana. But at a point, the financial burden was too much to bear, and she had to send her eldest daughter, Shuktara to work in a ready-made garment factory in the city, to earn an income for the family.
Then, about six years ago a non-government organisation helped Kalpana and many in her community to build new houses for themselves on a raised plinth that would not be inundated every monsoon. The organization also gave them cows.
However, it was only when M4C began their intervention in the area that Kalpana and her family’s situation dramatically improved. M4C convinced a reputed agro-company to expand their business to the Ag-Bohail char. Instead of rice, Kalpana’s family and many others in their community could now cultivate a variety of high yield maize, suitable to the char conditions that offered better profits. M4C also made sure that the beneficiaries were provided with training on how to grow their crops the best way possible.
Many of the farmers did not have access to finances to buy costly seeds and fertilisers. M4C found a solution to that as well. They convinced United Finance, a private leasing company, to provide seasonal loan to the farmers through the local maize contractor Ziarul Mandal. "We took BDT 25,000 from Mr. Mandal for maize cultivation and paid it back after selling the maize," said Kalpana. Last year Kalpana’s family earned BDT 42,000 from maize. This year, her husband Bharat is cultivating maize on three bighas (Bengali unit of measurement for land) of their own land, as well as participating in sharecropping on another farmer’s land.
With the family’s improved livelihood, Kalpana is now planning to fulfill her dream of bringing Shuktara home to be married to a man from Kesta char, an adjacent village. Her other children Shandhya-tara and Shourav study in middle school.
“Due to poverty, Shuktara could not continue her education,” Kalpana says. “I do not want the same to happen to Shandhya-tara and Shourov.” Kalpana had never imagined her life could be the way it is now. “I had nothing,” she added. “And now I have a corrugated tin house. I have furniture including a bed and a metal cabinet and soon I plan to buy a solar power system for our home as well.”
The positive impact due to M4C’s interventions in Ag-Bohail char, has transformed Kalpana’s life and the lives of many of her neighbours. With an enduring smile across her face, Kalpana says, “I am more than happy.”
M4C is mandated by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives and the Government of Bangladesh.