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Economic empowerment in India and Bangladesh

May 2016

Our latest community partnership will help women in India and Bangladesh to improve their incomes. 

Customers and produce at organic farmers’ exhibition

As part of the South Asia development strand of the Scottish Government's International Development Fund, Christian Aid works with four partners in India and Bangladesh, including VICALP and CCD in India and INCIDIN and GUK in Bangladesh.

Our current project has been funded since 2013, following a previous one which ran in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka from 2010 to 2013, and we are delighted that the Scottish Government has recently agreed to extend the funding of this project for a further year.

Kitchen gardens

In India, the project supports disadvantaged Dalit and Adivasi women to develop backyard kitchen gardens where they can grow a variety of vegetables to feed their families and sell the surplus at the local market.

The women have also learned to make organic vermi-compost, organic pesticide and fertiliser, which they use to enhance productivity and sell on to other farmers.

Our partners have also shown farmers with small and medium land holdings how to grow resilient, high-yielding turmeric. This is then sold at local market at a greater profit by a farmer-led common interest group set up with the support of the Scottish Government.

Case study: Gulapai Bissa

Gulapai Bissa

Gulapai Bissa (pictured) is 40 years old and has six children. She is from the remote district of Khaprakhol in Odisha.

She has been part of the VICALP project since it began three years ago and was trained to produce vermi-compost. She used it to increase her yield and also sold it to other farmers.

As a result of her increase in income, she has also started her own small business buying and selling dried fish and prawns at the local market.

In November 2015, Gulapai was one of a group of 20 women farmers who travelled for over 28 hours by train to Delhi to sell their produce at the first ever Women of India Organic Farmers' exhibition.

At this time, our Scottish Projects Manager, Keryn Banks visited Christian Aid Scotland's partner VICALP in Odisha in India and also spent time at the Dillhi Haat market in Delhi where she observed women farmers such as Gulapai selling their organic produce to local Delhi residents. 

Gulapai told Keryn that this was her first trip to Delhi, and that she would love to go to more markets like this one. She was keen to be introduced to new markets which would give her the opportunity to earn additional income and felt inspired by what other women from other parts of India were producing organically.

Gulapai also collects and sells wild honey, which she hopes to sell at the district fair back in Khaprakhol - in fact, she has already spoken to officials there and shown them her produce.

Gulapai says: 'organic farming has helped make my life better'.

Increasing milk revenue

A similar project has been established in Bangladesh, working with partners in both the north and south of the country.

These partners are also building women dairy farmers' capacity to access local markets.

In the southern district of Bagerhat, our partner INCIDIN works with these farmers to get a better price for milk through improved quality, aggregation, breaking the control of middlemen, and supplying to Milk Vita, a milk producers' cooperative.

INCIDIN has also shown the women how to grow salt-resistant grass for their cows and milk yields have increased considerably.

Responding to the climate

Increasingly erratic weather in the south of Bangladesh has resulted in more storm surges which have flooded and salinated the land.

A lot of the land which was previously used to grow rice has now been deliberately inundated with salt water in order to raise and harvest prawns and crabs for export.

This reduces the land available to grow food for local consumption. To counteract this, INCIDIN has helped women to diversify their family food supply by growing vegetables in 'gunny bags' which they can move in case floods threaten.

Community partnership

We, and the Scottish Government, believe that we can help marginalised women farmers in India and Bangladesh to realise their potential, and we invite you to join us in doing so.

Our work in India and Bangladesh shows that even the most vulnerable communities don't have to be swept away by the tide of poverty. However vast their problems may be, there are solutions.

We can help the most at-risk communities become more resilient. We can help them thrive when times are good, so that they can stand firm when floods, cyclones and heat-waves hit.

If you join our community partnership, for every pound you raise, the Scottish Government will match it with £7.

By working together with our local partners on the ground, we can support these farmers to buy the seed and equipment they need with small grants. And with training in advanced farming techniques and access to seed banks, we will be ensuring that these farmers can rely on a sustainable income and enjoy food security.

Find out more

South Asia community partnership information sheet

Download a copy of our South Asia community partnership information sheet.

Download PDF

To discuss how your church can support this community partnership, email Mary Mulligan, our Church Development Officer, or call her on 0131 240 1523.

And for more information about other Christian Aid projects which have been funded by the Scottish Government's International Development Fund, email Christian Aid's Scottish Projects Manager, Keryn Banks, or call her on 0141 241 6141.


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