A resident of Uttara sector 4 in the capital city, Razia had begun a boutique business. She began this work when her husband had gone abroad for his higher studies. A certain shop attendant at her boutique shop suggested that she rear geese. She set up a goose farm at Haluaghat in Mymensingh. Then she utilised a neighbouring plot of fallow land to cultivate vegetables and fruit like capsicum, broccoli, lettuce, cherry tomatoes, French beans, red cabbage, Chinese cabbage and squash.
Razia made a profit from the beginning. She said, “I invested Tk80,000 in agriculture on a 5-bigha plot of land and earned Tk250 thousand (2.5 lakh). She operated the Haluaghat farm from Dhaka.
When her husband returned to Bangladesh, Razia had to go to stay with him in Sylhet where he was posted. This lady farmer established another farm there where the agriculture had been mostly one-crop (Boro-based).
Razia’s new farm was at Dakshin Surma upazila.
After one year, her husband was transferred to Dhaka, leaving Razia in a dilemma. But she didn’t give up. She leased a piece of land at Ashulia and continued agriculture there. Currently, she owns three farms at Ashulia, Manikganj and Haluaghat. Besides vegetable farming, she also rears cattle.
For fair marketing, Razia opened the Facebook group page Agriculture E-commerce Revolution BD. The initiative is benefiting hundreds of other farmers.
Chuadanga district resident Masum Billah is among the beneficiaries. Masum runs a nursery. Two months ago, he joined the Facebook group.
“The group has lots of members. A wide platform of members is best for marketing. In the two months, I sold saplings worth Tk60,000,” Masum said.
Anthropological evidence suggests that women pioneered agriculture. Excluding farm workers, the number of women entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector is still very low in Bangladesh.
Razia, a graduate in management, said, “Urban women, who are educated, do not often get involved in agriculture. The idea of women doing agriculture is still rather utopian. Fortunately, my family stood by me. Their support helped make everything possible.”
Razia’s father-in-law Jamaluddin Munshi assisted her while farming in Sylhet. With the support from her family, this mother of three children could concentrate on agriculture.
Besides operating farms and the Facebook group, Razia also runs a shop Ryan Agrolink. She believes that agriculture can create huge opportunities. But the existing marketing remains old-fashioned.
“The marketing needs to be boosted. Women should be involved in agriculture and best utilise the advantages of technology,” she said adding that women’s advancement would break many social taboos.
For example, the wholesale market in Kawranbazar area is fully male-dominated. Interestingly, Razia has been supplying agro products to the market since last year. She also manages a temporary stall at the weekend market Krishoker Bazar in front of the national parliament.
*This report appeared in Prothom Alo print and online edition, and has been rewritten in English by Sadiqur Rahman.