Community Dhan (paddy) Bank programme meant for providing the food crop to the ultra-poor rural people as easy term loan during the lean period (April-May) is becoming popular at different villages in Panchagarh district.
RDRS Bangladesh, a non-governmental organisation, is implementing the programme under a project titled 'Empowering the Poor through Federation' funded by Finn Church Aid, Dan Church Aid, Church of Sweden, Norwegian Church Aid and the European Union.
Under the programme, five community dhan banks have been set up at Sipaipara and Mondalhat villages in Boda upazila and Paikani, Hafizabad and Dhakkamara villages in Sadar upazila in Panchagarh district, said Mahfuzur Rahman, assistant agriculture officer of Panchagarh RDRS Bangladesh.
Initially, 25 to 30 ultra poor rural people, mostly widows, divorcees and physically challenged ones, were listed as beneficiaries in each dhan bank and 30 maunds (one maund = 40 kg) of paddy, scales and weights and a big size bamboo-made basket were given free of cost from the project.
The basket containing the paddy is kept at the house of a member of the 'bank management committee' in the area concerned.
The committee comprising 5-7 members selected from the women beneficiary group run the bank under the supervision of an advisory committee led by the president of the Union Social Welfare Federation of RDRS.
The poor people in the rural areas of the district, who suffer during April-May due to lack of job after completion of Irri-Boro plantation till start of the harvest, can get 50kg to 80kg of paddy from the bank as loan and they repay the amount with additional 5-7 kg after harvesting of the crop.
"The bank was set up at our village in 2012 with the assistance of Moidandighi Social Welfare Federation under RDRS Bangladesh.
Starting with 30 maunds of paddy, our collection has now reached 42 maunds and we are including more members," Parul Rani, 'president' of the women group running Sipaipara Community Dhan Bank, said during this correspondent's recent visit to the village.
"Earlier we borrowed paddy from land owners during the lean period and we had to repay double the amount after about two months. But now we can take loan from the dhan bank on easy terms," said Shefali Rani, a beneficiary of the programme.