Saving 32 Families from Poverty
Hasibur Rahman Bilu
In Majhipara village of Chilmari, women have manufactured a fishing net that will save 32 families from the brink of starvation. Even just a few days ago, Amal Das did not believe that his wife Lebubala and her neighbors would be so successful in fighting poverty. The small village of Majhipara is located in Chilmari Upazila, where one of the ports of this country is situated, in the northern part of Bangladesh. Women like Koibala, Purnia and Lebubala and their families have been living there for a very long time. Even though the force of the Brahmaputra washes away much of what Majhipara had, it has not been able to erode the will power of the locals. The proof of their resilience is the massive 1500 foot fishing net they made with the financial support of the aid organization UK, Department for International Development.
The poor fishermen of this locale who had to borrow from loan sharks at exorbitant interest rates believe that they will not have to do so any more. Most of these fishermen and women are in their profession due to a long lineage of fishermen. They followed in the footsteps of their fathers and grandfathers.
Hosne Ara, Manager of “Char Livelihood Project” (CLP) Kurigram, informed that while she was working on the development of the area she got the idea of doing something for the women of the region. After deciding that something should be done for the women, the net was made under the pilot project. She spoke to higher officials and decided that all women of the area would be taught how to make nets. Almost 1.5 lakhs was spent and the job of making the net which was finally finished in November of 2006, however, the net was given to the people of the village just this last July 4th. These 32 women became the owners of this net for the price of 1050 work hours. They built it, they own it.
All these women, as owners, will lay claim to the revenues from the fish sold that were caught by this net. Koibal and others believe that every woman in Majhipara will make at least 100 taka off the net every time it is used. A fishing cooperative society has been formed to oversee the collective use and ownership of the net. Part of the net's income will go back to the society's fund for the maintenance of net.
Even though this net is tremendously benefitting this particular village, other surrounding villages are not yet taking this initiative. A CLP official has even stated it will not undertake any similar project in any other village. He says since this is just a pilot project there is not much more they can do at the moment.
The UNO of Chilmari upazila Md. Abdur Rouf has praised the success of the project and has also said that officially this project will not be implemented elsewhere just yet. He said that other areas are not in as much need. Every day CLP pays 80 taka per worker for eight hours of labor. In the surrounding villages, young men are willing to work for even less money are not getting the chance.
Chilmari's UP Chairman Md. Abdul Jalil Sarkar commented that if this 'model' is replicated elsewhere, it may become a powerful tool to fight poverty.
(R) thedailystar.net 2007