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 !