In Bangladesh, poverty and hunger are a way of life. Seven per cent of women suffer from iron-deficiency anaemia, 48 per cent of children under the age of five are malnourished, and nearly 50 percent of the population have iodine-deficiency disorder. But there is hope. A UN-sponsored project called “Integrated Horticulture and Nutrition Development (IHND)” is giving young women like Sultana Begum, 20, a bright girl of Telegati village in Khulna, Bangladesh, a chance to produce mushroom, banana and other necessary vegetables on property near her home.
“We don’t need to buy vegetables from the market, rather we are able to eat as well as sell the surplus,” she told a group of visiting journalists.
Under the self-help project, landless people are mobilised in groups to lease unused lands from landowners, and cultivate their own vegetable gardens. Bangladesh has 13.3 million hectares of arable land, and only 0.64 million hectares, or 4.8 percent, is farmed. The project not only helps landless and marginal people generate income, it also helps meet their nutrition needs. So far, 22000 people have benefited in 106 villages, and 77.4% of them are women.