“I was very shy and always felt insecure about saying something, but now I don’t feel nervous when I want to raise an issue,” says Gita Goldar from Fultola Village in rural Bangladesh about her journey from farmer to researcher.
Gita was selected to participate in a community-led project as part of the CGIAR Research Program on Aquatic Agricultural Systems (AAS) to identify the best varieties of vegetables for local conditions and conduct research on seed quality. Vegetables are a particularly important crop for women as they often have greater control over vegetable production around the home.
Gita, like many Bangladeshi women, had little say when it came to making decisions at home and her husband initially resisted her joining the research project. “He thought I would not be able to understand the issues related to the program,” she explains. “As we live in our in-laws’ house and do not own any land, I had no previous experience of homestead horticulture,” Gita adds.
“When we go to Gita’s husband for any issues related with the research he refers us to Gita, which is quite a change of attitude from the one he had a couple of months ago.” - Sumona, AAS Program Officer
Undeterred, she met with program staff working in her village, began attending community training sessions and leased a plot of land from a family member to research five varieties of okra.
“The main purpose of our research is to find out the best variety of seeds for okra production. Usually the people in our area do not grow okra in the rainy season, but our research shows that it can be grown during this season if we take proper care of the plant. Now I am comfortable with preparing a vegetable plot,” says Gita.
After harvesting 12-13kg from her research crops, Gita sold the produce for Tk.350 ($US4.50) and used the funds to pay for her son’s school fees.
Gita believes that her involvement with the research has strengthened her relationship with her husband, who no longer objects to her attending research meetings or walking through the village on her own.
“When we go to Gita’s husband for any issues related with the research he refers us to Gita, which is quite a change of attitude from the one he had a couple of months ago,” noticed Sumona, an AAS Program Officer working in the village. “Gita became a focal person and now leads the female farmer group of Fultola Village confidently,” she adds.
Involving women in research and development, and addressing the social and cultural norms that often restrict them, can improve their well-being and contribute to the income and food security of the family.
The results of the research conducted by the local farmers participating in the program will be disseminated throughout the villages and used to inform future agricultural development in the area.