Small Entrepreneurs Emerge as Backbone of Bangladesh’s Rural Economy

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Small Entrepreneurs Emerge as Backbone of Bangladesh’s Rural Economy

Aid, Asia-Pacific, Economy & Trade, Education, Featured, Headlines, Health, Human Rights, Labour, TerraViva United Nations, Trade & Investment, Women & Economy Banaripara (Barisal), Sep 4 2017 (IPS) – She was born in the early 1950’s to an ultra-poor family in Kundihar, a remote village of Banaripara of Barisal division in Bangladesh. She was a beautiful baby and her father named her ‘Shahndah Rani’ which means ‘Queen of Evenings’. But in reality her life was far from that of a queen. Born into acute poverty, there were days when she went without any food. Rani’s parents could not afford any schooling and gave her away in marriage at age 16 to relieve some of the pressures on them. She was married off to Monoranjan Dhar, who despite being poor himself, cared for Rani. Soon after she moved in with her husband, Rani started working to produce lime from snail shells in the traditional way, by hand. Lime is one of the ingredients used in the consumption of betel leaf. Many people in Bangladesh and other South Asian countries are dependent on betel leaf or ‘paan’ chewing, which also includes other ingredients such as areca nut and often tobacco. It is chewed for its stimulant effects. Historians claim that betel leaf chewing has been part of South Asian culture for hundreds of years. Rani’s struggle for survival began at the time of Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. She managed to save a capital fund of just 65 dollars, which she used to buy firewood and for collecting snail shells from ponds, marshland and swampland around her village. On the very first day of her business venture, she produced one kilogram of lime, which she was able to sell in a nearby rural market for about one US dollar. Rani quickly realized that she was on the right track and understood the market value and demand. She’s never looked back. Her husband Monoranjan proudly says, “Rani is energetic and she can think well. She gives me the courage and confidence to face the challenges of poverty together.” Shanda Rani and her family with IFAD team members. Credit: Shahiduzzaman Following four decades of hard work, Shandha Rani is now an icon for rural entrepreneurs in her village and community. Her husband and three adult sons work with her. She has also created jobs for three more people. Several other women and men are following Rani’s footsteps. Dipali Rani is one of them, who also started producing lime. The local people have renamed the village Lime Para (village). “It is good. Traders are now directly coming to us to buy our product. It also reduces our worries about marketing the product,” said Manaranjan. Rani is eager to expand her network and business into neighbouring districts, so she is negotiating with financial institutions for loans to invest. She has successfully set up a small workshop with an electric moulding machine, a fireplace to burn snail shells and storage space. Rani is the proud owner of a motorboat for easy transportation of her product and raw materials. Her family home is now a tin-roofed, brick-walled house with a toilet on her own land. At present she has a running capital of about 10,000 dollars, with the capacity to produce 800 kg lime per day. However, lime from snail shells can’t be produced year-round because of non-availability of the shells, particularly in dry or winter seasons. “If initiatives are taken to cultivate snail shells, it will be a big push for lime production. It has a potential market in the country. Snail shells without flesh are the key raw material for lime production. Besides, their flesh has huge demand in fish cultivation farms as feed. Such initiatives will also create more job opportunities in rural areas,” said James P. Biswas, Deputy Executive Director of the Bangladesh Development Society (BDS). Rani’s story is one of the success stories of BDS, an NGO based in Barisal working to support development of rural entrepreneurs with assistance from the Palli Karma-Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a United Nations specialized agency. Since 2000, BDS has been supporting Rani. She was able to take loans 16 times and each of these loans was repaid on time. The loan amounts vary between 200 and 6,000 dollars. “The organization has provided loans for various purposes to dozens of families in this sub-district and there has been remarkable progress. In most cases, beneficiaries have overcome poverty while at the same time creating jobs. With such success, BDS in partnership with the IFAD and PKSF is planning to increase the loan amount and help expand areas of activities,” Biswas added. Benoit Thierry, Country Program Manager in the Asia and the Pacific Division of IFAD, who recently visited the Kundihar village along with PKSF officials, met up with several beneficiaries including Shahndah Rani to assess the impact of IFAD support in this area. Over four decades, th
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On September 4, 2017
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