Monday, 18 October 2010


Get up at the crack of dawn today accompanied by the call to prayer for an early departure to Jhenidah. Thank goodness my host has a penchant for roadside 'cha' (tea) and we have regular refreshment and (at times borderline) toilet stops.

tea ceremony
My host has been working with several communities in the Jhenidah district, setting up an ICT-enabled knowledge brokerage system for farming cooperatives. The knowledge brokerage system has trained young educated men from these communities to act as the knowledge brokers ~ which means they are a trusted source. It provides much needed employment for these youths. The information being brokered (in Bangla) creates a 'know-do' link for farmers. It is available on the web as well as in CD-ROM format and brokers travel into communities for show & tell as needed. There is information on all  main local crop varieties, such as rice, wheat, potatoes, jute, maize and dahl ~ when to seed, when to plant, effective pest and other disaster control.

An MOU has been set up between farmers, the middle (wo)men and the local market committee which provides crop security in terms of both sales and pricing. The market extends credit without interest to the farmers, who pay back by way of crop. An innovative system but not without its pitfalls. The biggest threats to this system are external forces such as pest and weather. If the crop is damaged, the farming coops end up in debt unless they are able to make it up with other undamaged crops. 

With the cyclone season having started, there have been some severe rainstorms over the last few days, making it difficult to reach some of the communities we are supposed to be visiting in the Jhenidah.district. Instead, a central meeting place has been arranged in one of the communities and after wading through a fair bit of mud, we arrive at a clearing where some chairs have been set up for the visitors. People throng around. 

We chat about the benefits and gaps in the MOU agreement and also hear some of the now familiar stories on micro credit from those who are not part of the coop system. The farmers are looking for recommendations and we talk about the benefits for non-members to join the coop, intra- and inter-coop collaboration to increase critical mass and local power, possible farming bi-products they can sell, building a seed bank to steer clear of having to rely on hybrid seeds and a move towards organic farming and related pest control.

When my host disappears for his famous 'ten minutes' it translates into 1-2 hours Bangla time. This time he says he'll be gone for about 1 hour, which turns into almost 4 hours. In the meantime I am fed an abundant Bangla meal of rice, fish and mouton, shown around the village, stared at, stared at some more (I am continually on display and everyone who meets me immediately takes on a possessive air, showing off the white-skinned novelty to their neighbours). The people in this village are superbly hospitable, sharing whatever little they have, and I have a lovely time interacting with them, taking copious amounts of pictures of the beautiful people and surroundings as well as some cool videos of crop processing, henna making and the like. 

I am keen to share these in the blog, but when I come home, after another long and scary night-time car ride, I find that most of it hasn't recorded properly ~ bugger, bugger, bugger !

rice processing

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is indeed a pity about the videos. I have been enjoying your blog more every post. More please!