At a recent Farmers’ Awards meeting in Bangladesh, CARE asked how many awardees were women. The response was blank stares – women are not considered ‘farmers’ in Bangladesh. At the same time, CARE’s experience in Bangladesh tells us that women play important roles in the agricultural sector, currently making up 33.6% of Bangladesh’s agricultural labor force.
While pockets of poverty persist across Bangladesh, poverty is particularly prevalent in the northwest region, where populations continue to face chronic food insecurity. Improved infrastructure and private sector investment in this region, however, present critical opportunities for agricultural development programs like Pathways. In response, CARE Bangladesh has developed the Sammow initiative, applying the Pathways model to its work in 40 unions in three of the poorest districts in the northwest region – Nilphamari, Kurigram and Rangpur.
The overall objective of this initiative is to enable more productive and more equitable participation of specific segments of poor women smallholder farmers in sustainable agriculture, and to contribute to their empowerment. The initiative will have a direct impact on 20,000 poor women smallholders from three types of groups:
- women from landless households,
- women from poor smallholder farm households mostly dependent on agriculture,
- and women already engaged, or with the potential to engage, in agri-business.
Sammow will also impact 70,000 other household members, as well as men in labor, sharecropper and agri-business groups, and market intermediaries belonging to extreme poor or poor households.
Key interventions that make up the Sammow initiative include:
- Supporting collectives and community groups, including CARE’s well-established Empowerment, Knowledge, and Transformative Action Groups (solidarity groups for women), Village Development Committees, and Community Resource Centers.
- Employing a value chain approach to facilitate the development of more inclusive and efficient markets, and to identify opportunities for women smallholders to earn a sustainable income.
- Promoting the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices based on principles of economic profitability, social and economic equity, conserving the natural resource base, and adaptability to environmental threats.
- Promoting women’s leadership in agricultural input systems and services related to seeds, feed, fertilizer, packaging, preserving, agro-processing, and other services.
- Engaging men in processes of women’s empowerment, with a particular focus on women’s workload, intra-household food distribution, domestic violence, and women’s mobility outside of the household.
Additional approaches include: the development of farmer field schools; support for enforcing existing policies to enhance women farmers’ rights; and piloting alternative technologies that take into account women smallholders’ needs.
Three districts in northwest Bangladesh – Nilphamari, Kurigram, and Rangpur – targeting a total of 250 villages