There is no definition of hardship in Bangladesh that can ignore the country’s hunger crisis. Nationwide, as many as 40 million people – a quarter of the population – do not have access to enough food, including a third of infants who are suffering from chronic rates of malnutrition (World Food Programme).
Story by LuAnne Cadd and photos by Ishrat Jahan (IFDC)
MAF flights therefore support the work of the International Fertiliser Development Centre (IFDC), an organisation striving to help families not only feed themselves but also produce surplus crops to sell.
IFDC was established in 1974 and is known for its agricultural research and development projects in over a hundred countries. The Bangladesh office was opened in 1992, and today staff encourage farmers to practice environmental stewardship by using mineral and organic fertilisers.
Targeting the livelihoods of low-income female vegetable and fruit farmers, the organisation’s Accelerating Vegetable Productivity Improvement scheme is benefiting 38,000 people. This initiative offers specific training in crop management, such as line-transplanting, balanced use of fertilisers and water management. This teaching takes place over two days, and in January alone, 20 of these courses provided training for 800 farmers.
A bumper crop on display
Fahima and her husband Shahidul, rely upon subsistence farming to provide for themselves and their three children. In 2014, Fahima participated in an IFDC course about vegetable production – the first formal agricultural training she had undergone after two decades. Applying the course material about optimum planting time and spacing, the family increased their cabbage crop by over 50%.
Fahima now showcases her success in demonstration plots which other women can view, allowing them to compare and contrast conventional farming methods with those offered by IFDC.
High quality produce for a fair price
Mita Yasmin, 28, is from Nayanshur village in Rajbari district and has cultivated and sold vegetables from her family’s plot for ten years. She used IFDC’s training to boost cucumber yields, and then applied these methods to other crops. The course also helped her understand how applying post-harvest management techniques, such as washing the produce, could help her obtain a premium price. In addition, adopting other tips she has learned from IFDC, Mita no longer takes her crops to the nearest market to sell but uses her mobile phone to identify where prices are highest.
A common-sense solution
Travelling to the IFDC project site in Bhola by road requires staying overnight in Barisal before continuing the journey the next day. Missing a ferry crossing on this route can add up to four hours to the total travel time. Under such circumstances, IFDC Deputy Director Ishrat Jahan finds MAF to be a common-sense solution, declaring that 'As Project Director, I and our expatriate chief of party, always travel by MAF flights to save our time, cost (time is cost), avoid traffic jams and also to oversee more activities in several places within the shortest possible time.'