Smartphone technology and training in agriculture opens up multiple avenues of income that are sustainable
Hunger is a double-edged sword, either inducing lethargy or spurring action. When Josna was hungry, she chose action. She was done sitting at home with her baby on her lap, both of their stomachs running on empty with only two meals a day. Her husband worked all day to feed them, but it was not enough.
Josna took the initiative to ameliorate the situation. With the support of her mother-in-law, who agreed to take care of her child and chores at home, she started work with an NGO called Mishuk, earning Tk1500 per month providing healthcare services. It was not enough and she realized that she needed to work more to meet her family’s needs. She participated in a month long tailoring training so that she could start making and selling dresses. After spending her days at her job, she would sew for hours in the evenings at home, but she and her family were able to eat. She left Mishuk after five years and immediately started work with the NGO JSK as a healthcare volunteer. Within one year, her salary increased, and she found herself well-off enough to save some money.
Still, Josna felt that she was missing education in her life. She had left school when she got married in class 8, unsupported in her desire to complete her higher studies. She knew that if she started school again, she would be able to get a better job with a higher salary. Through her own willpower and financing, she started class 9. Even though she did not have enough time to study, she was successful in completing her SSCs. Josna did not want to stop there and was determined to complete her HSC. However, her job with JSK ended, leaving her without the cash flow she needed to continue. She started growing some vegetables and raising poultry, but again was not making enough.
Then Josna started with PROTIC, which gave her the opportunity to expand her agricultural practices enough to make a profit. Through what she learned from trainings and apps on her smart phone, she was able to produce more maize, rice, and potatoes by spacing seeds in line and learning how to irrigate. She learned how to recognize plant diseases and knew which medicines to use as treatment. She also knew how much they cost because she could check their market value on her phone, preventing storekeepers from overcharging her. She raised poultry, grew vegetables using organic fertilizer, and cultivated seasonal fruit and was able to feed her family, relatives and neighbors before finally selling the rest. Through her vaccination training, she was able to identify diseases in farm animals and administer shots herself. She vaccinated her community’s livestock, making Tk2,000-3,000 per year. She was unafraid of injecting cows, a feat that the other vaccination trainees were too afraid to do. Through these various sources of income, Josna was able to save Tk800 per month.
Josna plans on continuing her agricultural activities while starting her education again. She plans on completing her HSC, but she is determined that her daughter will complete her undergraduate study. Josna knows that no one can take away her daughter’s knowledge once she has it, and she refuses to consider her marriage until her degree is done. At 15 years old, Josna’s daughter is well on her way to completing her HSC exams. Josna will be there for her through her journey, no doubt.
We learned from Josna that smartphone technology and training in agriculture opens up multiple avenues of income that are sustainable. Jobs come and go, but the skills required to farm are valuable and stand the test of time. She will be able to count on her agricultural activities as a source of income and her smart phone for up to date information. More importantly, Josna taught us that education, both formal schooling and informal learning, is crucial to empowerment and financial independence. At one point Josna could not eat, but with everything that she has learned through school, work, and PROTIC, she is less likely to fall into that situation again and much more likely to flourish.
Tania Ahmed and Mity Mahmuda are research officers at ICCCAD.