ALRD has been working since 2012 for capacity building of some of its PNGOs operating in 12 districts to motivate & organize grassroots marginalized farmers, landless, poor, men, women, indigenous people and youth to form Gonoprochesta (People’s Initiative) Group with specific objectives of collective farming & joint initiatives by using their own knowledge, technology, resources and experiences for market access which can change the livelihoods of the said people.Through the process of Gonoprochesta, rural people are using their own resources to create capital for collective investment in organic agricultural production. To assess this intervention, ALRD has initiated a study in July 2015 to find out impact of family farming in addressing fragmentation of land, women engagement, food security & to combat commercialization & land grabbing. The study was conducted by Dr. Abul Barkat, Economics Professor of Dhaka University and his team.
To share the preliminary research findings of a study on “Collective Farming and Initiative for Market Access of Grassroots Marginalized Communities’ Gonoprochesta Group: An Exploratory Study” to the policymakers, legislators and civil society at large, ALRD organized a daylong conference on "Gonoprochesta (People’s Initiative- PI) Groups and Small Collective Agricultural Entrepreneurs" in Dhaka on 5 December 2015. This conference has created a national platform to assemble the grassroots community people from ALRD’s partners where they have shared their three years experiences on practicing Gonoprochesta activities, challenges, best practices and future dreams to the audience.
The objective of the conference was to create an environment for cooperation of government institutions and to inform the government on collective farming through the exchange of experiences; to spread this kind of initiatives across the country which will help to create a social movement; to change the socio-economic status of rural people particularly in rural women for their social dignity and economic empowerment; to protect the legal environment of these initiatives.
The conference was chaired by the executive director of ALRD Mr. Shamsul Huda. In the first session of the conference— Mr. Moshiur Rahman Ranga, State Minister for Cooperatives, graced the conference as the Chief Guest and Mr. Fazle Hossain Badsha MP, member of the Standing Committee on Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development & Co-operatives, as special guest. Dr. Abul Barkat presented the preliminary research findings of the study. Panel discussants were Professor Shafiq-uz-Zaman and Professor Rowshan Ara from Dhaka University. The team leader of the study Dr. Abul Barkat in his presentation said about the enormous potentialities of the Gonoprochesta group’s have to become successful People’s Cooperative through collective entrepreneurships and would help the poor cooperative farmers becoming self-reliant farmers on the one hand and providing safe food to the people. The study findings from FGDs (Focal Group Discussions) showed that due to engagement in collective activities-self employment of household members; women employment; youth engagement; income earning opportunities; access to land; and food security have increased in the Gonoprochesta group’s.
In the second session of the conference, Professor Dr. Shima Zaman, Dept. of Law, Dhaka University presented another paper titled, “A Legal Study on the Stunted Growth of Cooperative Societies Movement in Bangladesh and Legal Reforms for Engendering Changes” while the discussants were Dr. Nazim Uddin, Senior Scientific Officer, Bangladesh Rice Research Institute (BARRI), Mr. A K M Masud Ali, executive director of INCIDIN Bangladesh. She illustrated the flaws in the existing cooperatives laws of the country. Those are rather hindering the growth of cooperatives than encouraging initiatives. She strongly recommended transforming the laws into people’s cooperatives friendly ones.
Besides, youth entrepreneur Manik Barma from CDA, Dinajpur; youth animator Rajendra Hembram from RULFAO, Tanor, Rajshahi; women leaders of Gonoprochesta group’s Merina Begum from GKS, Taragonj, Rangpur; Jahanara Begum from SUSTAIN, Chirirbandar, Dinajpur, Jarina Begum from BFF, Faridpur took part in both of the sessions of the conference and speak out confidently to the audience about their activities.
About 200 hundred participants from civil society, NGOs, journalists, governments, and academics have been attended the conference. Amongst them 100 were the group members from grassroots.
There were four stalls in the conference hall displaying the products of the collective farming and also the procedures of the groups’ activities.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Shamsul Huda expressed his optimism about the success of the initiatives even though there are lots of weaknesses and its have just started its journey. He put emphasis on the amendment of the existing cooperatives laws of the country to create conducive environment for them to flourish.