The Covid-19 pandemic has affected the livelihoods of most farmers who have reared cattle for months for the upcoming Eid-ul-Azha and are now facing a scarcity of customers.
However, some female farmers from remote villages in Sundarganj and Sadullapur of Gaibandha and Gabtoli of Bogura have been selling their cattle online.
Despite the fact that women perform an overwhelming majority of the tasks in livestock rearing, it is always a big challenge for them to market their cattle and get a fair price.
According to them, women don't go to cattle markets due to social stigma. They either needed to sell their cows to local brokers at lower prices or take help from men in transporting the cattle. Thus, the money often goes to the men and women cannot reap the benefits even after a year of hard work.
ActionAid Bangladesh, an international charity organisation that works with women and girls living in poverty, has linked Daraz Bangladesh, along with "Food for Nation"-- the online market placed the by ICT Division -- and these agro-based rural women entrepreneurs, under its "Making Market Work for Women (MMWW)" project.
According to Md Shawkat Akbar Fakir, project coordinator of MMWW for ActionAid Bangladesh, women entrepreneurs got better prices by selling bulls through Daraz last year. For the second consecutive year, they have targeted selling a higher number of bulls and branded them "Rakhalbari Agro".
Madhu Rani, an entrepreneur from the Chandipur union of Sundarganj upazila of Gaibandha, targeted selling four cows online this year and by July 24, she had sold three cows for Tk 1,86,000 (Tk 48,000, 54,000 and 84,000). Last year, she sold four cows through Daraz.
"I don't need to face any hassles in this process. The Daraz team comes to our house, takes photos and videos of the cows, and after the sale, they take the cows on their own transport and hand over the money to us," said Madhu.
According to her, this way, she can save her time, money (for transporting the cattle to the local market) and other expenditures at the market (tips for each person accompanying the cows, etc.).
"Since we cannot sell all the cows in one market, the process repeats," she said.
Another cattle farmer, Sreemoti Milon Rani Ghosh, also sold two cows this time for Tk 1,45,000 (one for Tk 80,000 and the other for Tk 65,000), while in 2019, she had sold three. While many entrepreneurs are not able to sell their cows locally, Milon is happy about the price she got as, according to her, the amount is much better than what she gets from local brokers.
Along with the fair prices, women farmers also appreciate the fact that when they sell their cows online, they get the entire money at once, which they can use when necessary.
"When we sell to local brokers, they never pay the entire amount at once and sometimes try to pay less than the amount we agreed upon while selling, using the excuse of low profits," said 39-year-old Shila Begum of Sundarganj's Chandipur. She has targeted selling two cows this time. Last year, she sold two for Tk 1,50,000.
Nahidul Islam, junior executive of Daraz Bangladesh, said that as of July 23, a total of 32 cows have been sold out of the 120 advertised on their platform since July 13.
However, despite the huge demand, people are not able to buy more cows due to limitations in the digital payment method.
E-commerce website "Amar Foods" has also been helping women farmers of Shorbojoya, a social business led by female farmers in Gaibandha's Sadullahpur, by selling their cattle through their site. Already, they have been able to sell 450 out of 500 cows of 75 female farmers, through this platform.
AGRO PRODUCTS GO DIGITAL
Apart from the bulls, at least 1,500 women from seven unions in Bogura's Gabtoli upazila have been selling their agro products on e-commerce sites under the MMWW project. They sell local hens, roosters and eggs, local ducks and eggs, chemical-free vegetable, puffed rice, Binni rice, lentils, milk, rice cakes and much more through e-commerce sites like Parmeeda, Market Bangla and Abaad.
Although the pandemic has impacted the businesses of rural farmers as they were forced to sell their products at lower prices in the absence of wholesalers from outside districts, these female farmers have been selling goods four times a week on these platforms.
According to Narayan Chandra Roy, project coordinator of Association for Socio-Economic Advancement of Bangladesh (ASEAB), the implementing organisation of MMWW in Bogura, the products are sold on a pre-order basis and the buyers inform them of the required amount of each product at least three days before they want the delivery.
"There is a three-member committee in every union, and the members collect the goods from grassroots women farmers in exchange for cash and send those to the online buyers in Dhaka," said Narayan.
Shirine Begum, a 30-year-old entrepreneur in Gabtoli's Durgahata, said since the buyers have their own transport, the women do not have to go through that hassle.
"After selling the goods, they send our money directly to our bank accounts that we jointly opened for this purpose, and then, we distribute the money amongst ourselves," she said.
"This way, we are also getting fair prices compared to local markets and we don't need to bargain with men. We are being able to profit around Tk 5-10 on every kg of each item," she added.