[Shahinur Begum is a courageous widow who is fighting to escape poverty. IFDC’s Improved Livelihood for Sidr-Affected Rice Farmers (ILSAFARM) project has taught her about farming and about using urea deep placement (Guti) technology. This technology is helping to increase her crop yields and income, making it possible to pay her land leases each year. Her goals are to purchase a small piece of land of her own to cultivate paddy and to provide a good education for her young daughter.]
Shahinur Begum is a 40-year-old widow living in the Udaykathi village of Kolakhali union, Pirojpur Sadar upazila in the Pirojpur district. She has no formal education. She was married for 14 years to Sattar Howleder, a day-laborer and sharecropper, and they had one daughter together. Sattar’s first wife died, leaving him with five unmarried daughters. Shahinur has been a good stepmother to the girls. Sattar died of a stroke four years ago. After her husband’s death, Shahinur felt deep despair. She said, “A woman who does not have a husband has a very difficult time and many new responsibilities. I am fortunate that my husband had already made the wedding arrangements for his five older daughters.”
After her husband’s death, Shahinur wanted to return to her parents’ house in Ashowa Amrajhuri village of Kaukhali upazila with her daughter, Nadia. But some benevolent neighbors and distant relatives offered to help her and convinced her to stay in her husband’s village. Shahinur and Nadia live in the family compound. She has a very small house with a tin roof and a earthen floor. She owns two chickens but no cattle. She collects water for drinking and cooking from her neighbor’s tube well. The water used for bathing, cleaning and washing comes from the nearby canal.
Shahinur worked as a maid in the village and received food and rice on the days that she worked but no cash. The maid work is sporadic, however, making the days without work difficult. She decided that she would learn to farm if she could get some land to sharecrop. A local benefactor, Mr. Anwar, gave Shahinur some land for sharecropping and helped her plant crops. “At first I felt embarrassed working in the field like a man, but I needed to provide for my family,” Shahinur said.
The sharecropped land that Shahinur is farming is situated at a roadside and does not have the best soil. She explained that renting fertile land is too expensive for her and she has to work from morning to evening on infertile land which generates lower yields. Shahinur cannot afford to plow her land with a power tiller so she tills the land by hand with a spade. She does all the work by herself from planting to harvesting of the paddy.
Initially, Shahinur did not use Guti urea. She heard about IFDC’s ILSAFARM project from Mr. Anwar, who is president of the local Integrated Crop Management (ICM) club. She met with the field monitoring officer and attended two training sessions arranged by the project. “I learned a lot from that training and I received 10 kilograms of Guti urea and 200 taka [US $2.83].” Project personnel visited her farming plots, encouraged her to use the Guti technology on her land and taught her how to deep place the briquettes.
She cultivated the 2009 Aus season crop with Guti on 30 decimals (about one-third of an acre) of land. Her yield for the season’s crop was 12 maunds. In the 2009 Aman season, she cultivated 15 decimals of land with Guti urea (no rented land for this season) and her yield was five maunds of paddy. During the 2010 Boro season, Shahinur cultivated 40 decimals of land (including sharecropped and rented land) with Guti urea, but the yield was poor due to low rainfall. She received only 10 maunds of paddy and sold it for 6,000 taka [about $85]. She used half of her proceeds to repay a loan. She kept the remainder for the cost of the coming Aus crop.
Shahinur continues to work as a house maid in the village during the off-season. For each day she works, she receives two kilograms of rice and two meals. When asked about the benefit of the ILSAFARM project, Shahinur said, “At present I have enough rice at my home and can live without fear or anxiety that I have to go to someone’s door to beg for rice. With the increased yield from Guti urea, I can sell extra paddy and can mortgage land for myself each crop season.”
Because of her involvement in the ILSAFARM project and the influence of Mr. Anwar, Shahinur recently joined an ICM club. Her dream now is to continue to learn all she can to improve her crop yields and be able to purchase her own land.