Meeting nutritional needs of the ultra-poor
It is heartening that women in char areas of Kurigram's Chilmari upazila are learning to ensure balanced nutrition for their families by growing fruits and vegetables around their houses for their own consumption. Reportedly, women from around 11 thousand families with limited resources are involved in this kind of farming. Their houses, built mostly on four to six decimals of land, are being turned into miniature agricultural farms called "Pushti Bari". The project is funded by the European Union and two non-government organisations are training the char residents on how to make the best use of their available land.
Residents of char areas generally live in extreme poverty because of adverse environmental conditions and a lack of work opportunities. Flood and river erosion often wash away their houses and belongings. These poverty-stricken people need special assistance from the government and non-government organisations to be able to live with some form of dignity. They need to be trained with some basic life skills so they can earn a living, have three meals a day and send their children to school. Projects like "Pushti Bari" could be the first step in helping these people move in the right direction.
While previously people of Chilmari chars could not ensure proper nutrition for their families because of high prices of foods and vegetables at the markets, the situation has now changed. After taking the necessary training, people, mostly women, are now utilising every inch of their unused land around the house and growing vegetables and fruits there. After meeting the nutritional needs of the family, many are also selling the excess produce. The example set in the remote chars of Kurigram's Chilmari upazila is very encouraging and should be emulated in other poverty-stricken areas of the country.