Agri Focus desk:Shikha Rani Chakravarti, a Lead Farmer of Solidaridad Network Asia’s SaFaL programme in southwest Bangladesh was recognised for her dedication to her work and for the overall contribution she made for women in agriculture on 1st March 2018 when she received the Bangabandhu Jatiya Krishi Puroshkar 1423 (Bangabandhu National Agriculture Award 1423).
Ms Rani received the prize from the Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at a formal ceremony in the Osmani Memorial Auditorium in Dhaka. For a teacher earning a minimal salary who had once wondered whether she would be able to sustain her family, Ms Chakravarti has come a long way indeed and serves as a source of inspiration for her peers.
Shikha and her family, from the Kalaroa Upazila of the Satkhira district struggled with poverty and destitution for years as the little land they owned was waterlogged for much of the year. Producing more food with fewer natural resources to meet ever-rising and evolving demand is emerging as an incredibly difficult challenge for Bangladeshis. Pressures on and competition for land, water, and energy resources are increasing while farmlands decrease. Solidaridad Network Asia in Bangladesh is working towards alleivation of the results of these immense problems by facilitating growth of nutrition sensitive agriculture and by creating market linkages through public private partnerships and those operating within the supply chain.
Shikha was selected as a Lead Farmer of Solidaridad’s Sustainable Agriculture, Food Security and Linkages (SaFaL) programme because of keen intelligence, interest and prior attempts to work in an agricultural capacity.
As a LF, Shikha received a series of training on identification and management of high quality seeds, production and management of organic compost, key points on safe food production without biological or chemical contamination, how to develop business plans, use biopesticides, sex pheromone traps, and various generic trainings that included safe and pesticide free mango plantation, farm record management and so on/ She then took forward the lessons she had learnt and acted as a change maker in her own community by helping local farmers manage their farms and produce better. As part of her duties, she undertook several learning tours and farm visits around the region and was fascinated by the work with vermicompost that she witnessed in Monirampur, Jessore undertaken by SaFaL’s farmers. Shikha undertook the responsibility of growing her own vermicompost as a Lead Farmer and has demonstration plots for several agricultural produce in order to display to farmers the efficacy of using natural solutions as opposed to chemical ones.
With her savings and successful business endeavor’s, Shikha has been able to send her husband abroad for work and in accordance with Solidaridad’s mandate of employment generation, had employed 45 women from ultra-poor backgrounds to work for her.
The SaFaLprogramme, being implemented by Solidaridad and supported by the Dutch Embassy is supporting over 100,000 smallholder farmers and landless workers in the deltaic region of Bangladesh to improve food security and develop resilient livelihoods through the adoption and adaptation of climate smart and nutrition sensitive agriculture market linkages. By strengthening public-private partnerships, SaFaL is developing an investment framework for production and market promotion of safe and sustainable food.