To explore the best practices on indigent rural people’s livelihoods diversification and improvement for instance led by rural women through cooperatives, Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) have participated in the Learning Route (LR) on women’s empowerment, business development and sustainable natural resource management. Scaling-up programs for the rural poor in Nepal, organized by IFAD and PROCASUR Corporation in Nepal from 6 to 13th of December 2014. During the 8 days of learning journey, participants of the LR had the opportunity to visit and obtain knowledge on generating new opportunities for scaling up their livelihood through cooperatives, recognizing women´s role in network strengthening and their empowerment in decision making role within family and community at large in Chitwan and Kapilvastu Districts of Nepal where the targeted people are practicing the activities successfully. With a view to apply the obtained knowledge in own country context relating to existing initiatives, ALRD participated in the innovation plan contest offered by Procasur and was awarded US$ 25, 00 funded by IFAD, aimed to set a milestone with Procasur for engaging rural women collectively in income generating initiatives using lands which will improve their livelihoods and secure access to land. The innovation project titled “Strengthen Women’s Voice Towards Empowerment Through Access to Land and Market for their Better Livelihood” has started from July 2015 with Procasur. ALRD will implement the project with its local partner organization SUSTAIN situated in Chirirbandar upazila under Dinazpur dristrict, in the northern region of Bangladesh, where the existing groups live and are working. This innovation plan is for enabling more space for women towards empowerment and secure equitable access to and control over land by the landless poor, women and marginalized and to improve their livelihood through effective management of natural resources.
ALRD is working to create access to land for the marginalized landless communities including farmers, indigenous peoples, religious minorities and women in particular. To achieve this, ALRD followed a process of “People’s Initiative (Gonoprochesta)” with them by using local resources, technology and indigenous knowledge of the community. This process also promotes small scale family-based sustainable organic farming and small entrepreneurs in agriculture sector. Through this initiative, on the one hand these disadvantaged communities will get the direct access to the land and market; on the other hand they will contribute in country’s food security. It will also target to carry forward the message to the policy level to acknowledge women as farmer and enabled access to public land and support services like credit from scheduled banks, agricultural inputs, technology, information and knowledge for the rural women farmers and linking them with the govt. mechanism/institutions. In this process the group members creating own capital collectively by saving a handful of rice from their daily meal and invest the capital in producing agricultural product and organic fertilizer. Whole initiative will uphold the value of women’s collective approach.
This people’s initiative transformed into People’s Cooperative is a unique example of improving living standard without any external financial assistance. It also creates an alternative market where farmers and a group of small entrepreneur are united by co-operative group with their agricultural products; which ensure and raise a new arena of wider employment opportunity in the rural area of Bangladesh particularly for women. To achieve this goal the farmers are practicing different types of production collectively like cultivating agricultural products (paddy, vegetables), fisheries, and fertilizer production like vermin compost.
ALRD have channelled financial resource from the Procasur to the community under this project and organized a two days training on "Mobilization and Leadership Training on People's Cooperative" held at Chirirbandar, Dinajpur district on 2-3 November in association with its Partner organization SUSTAIN for the new four groups according to the project action plan.
Fifty one participants mostly women from four female groups have been participated in this training. All groups are landless and mixed with Hindu, Muslim and indigenous communities from three villages respectively Mohalbari, Surail, and Damoir under Chirirbandar Upazila of Dinajpur District. In this training we have followed participatory discussion method to analyze the country’s socio-economic context and the way forward to get rid from the situation as well as what would have their roles in this regard. All the participants agreed to illustrate new vision in terms of social and economic changes in their own life and to protect their children’s future through entering together into the People’s Initiative process. Therefore, they selected their groups name and leader also for each group and set a work plan for next three months. They have decided to save handful of rice twice a day and organize their meeting weekly in Friday in presence of the animator where they would put it for sale among the members to generate own financial resource to be used for income generation activities. Moreover, they have also agreed that this collective way of farming will enable them to utilize their little piece of land even may be their homestead. Their activities would be monitored and guided by the local partner organization of ALRD.