<%-- Page Title--%> Development <%-- End Page Title--%>

<%-- Volume Number --%> Vol 1 Num 134 <%-- End Volume Number --%>

December 19, 2003

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"Together we are much Stronger"

Charlotte Jacquemart

Nursery owners in Faridpur and Rajshahi are discovering the benefit of organising themselves in associations. As they take over the lead of their associations, more and more from the local NGO, a new relation develops between NGO staff and the Nursery Malik Associations.

Since 1991 the Village and Farm Forestry Project (VFFP), run by the Intercooperation, a NGO in Dhaka, has tried to develop local capacities for producing timber and fruit tree saplings to meet the demand for afforestation programmes and to satisfy farmers' needs. A second goal was to develop a large network of professional sapling producers whose entrepreneurship can contribute to local agricultural development.

"Our first attempt to build up a network was ill-designed," remembers Alain Cuvelier from Intercoorporation. "Before, the individual nursery owners didn't feel as the associations were their own," he added.

Implemented by Intercooperation, the programme is financed by the Swiss Development Corporation.

The local NGO, the Development Community Centre (SDC), one of the 18 partners of VFFP, agreed to a new concept of associations. Today, the five NMSs are associations of nursery owners each consisting of 20 to 30 members based in a single upazila. The five NMSs have already founded an association on district level, the District Nursery Malik Samity DNMS.

Md. Munzurul Karim from the IC and responsible for the districts of Faridpur and Razbari says, "Our experience has been very good. The NGO staff evolves toward a role of "accompanier". And the nursery owners, instead of expecting everything from the field staff, realise that they have their own competencies, which they should value."

"Through our new network we are better informed about the market and we get access to public institutions and the government," adds Abul Kalam, the president of the DNMS in Rajshahi.

"Three years ago I had no idea about how to organise a meeting, how an association works. Now we have a bank account and gave out some first loans to members," says Md. Rafiq, a member of the DNMS.

A visit to one of the nurseries showed how professional the nursery owners have become. Abdul Mannan started his business only six years ago. Today, he raises as many as 14 species of timber, and 15 species of fruit trees on 4 acres of land. His net profit last year has been Tk 60,000.

Thanks to the associations the nursery owners can improve their work. "We are stimulated to increase the quality of our seeds and plants. We grade and evaluate each others work and have learnt to do an all-year-round planning," narrates Mannan.

They make visits to other nurseries, exchange their knowledge and share market information. They meet once a month and discuss their problems. Technical skills can in this way be improved.

But still, the nursery owners face other obstacles. One is the availability of good quality seeds. Nowadays they get good quality seeds from the mahogany trees as the associations marked 140 "Plus" trees in the two districts. But many other seeds would still be of poor quality.

The nursery owners are also bothered by the illegal work of criminals who collect seeds from fruit trees too early and sell them to India. The inner part of the seeds is used for cork. The farmers have no means to stop this illegal practice.

Yet there are good chances that the nursery associations will evolve into highly professional organisations. As they develop more confidence and independence they will become entirely self-reliant in the future. The examples of the NMSs show the way in which NGOs could make their work in Bangladesh more sustainable.




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