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Despite having a major contribution to agriculture, women have no recognition in the sector. Their contribution must be recognised and cooperatives must be formed with women farmers. These observations were made at a roundtable discussion where the speakers also said that initiative should be taken to ensure women’s participation in modern marketing as well as agricultural management.

The virtual roundtable discussion was held on Sunday, organised by ActionAid Bangladesh, with support of the Netherlands embassy. Prothom Alo was the broadcast partner of the event.

Speaking at the discussion, director general (seeds) of the agriculture ministry, Balai Krishna Hajra, said that women had a major contribution in seed preservation. Without quality seeds, agricultural production is hampered. A large portion of these seeds come from the farmers. He highlighted various programmes of the government, saying that the government was giving priority to women’s empowerment and participation in agriculture.

Alongside ensuring their training, confidence and recognition, they (women farmers)must also be organised in cooperatives. United strength is major strength. Efforts must be made to ensure women can safely enter the agricultural market
Farah Kabir, country director, ActionAid
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Project director of the Directorate of Agricultural Extension, Moazzem Hossain, said that there is no scope to think about agriculture without women. He said the government had taken up various projects to bring women farmers into the mainstream.

Presiding over the discussion, ActionAid country director Farah Kabir said, the recommendations that have been made about women farmers must be implemented. Alongside ensuring their training, confidence and recognition, they must also be organised in cooperatives. United strength is major strength. She said that efforts must be made to ensure women can safely enter the agricultural market.

Coordinator of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO)’s Missing Middle Initiative, Imanun Nabi Khan, said that if women would work together in cooperatives, they could create an area for bargaining. He pointed out that banks still did not proffer loans to any farmer cooperatives. Imanun Nabi also highlighted women’s contribution to agriculture during the prevalence of coronavirus.

In the opening speech, Prothom Alo’s associate editor Abdul Quayum said women have a major contribution in family farming. They must be given due respect for this. This will create a space for sustainable agriculture.

The agricultural sectors in which women were involved, should be drawn into business, taking market demand into consideration. Women’s skills must be increased accordingly. If they are involved in the market, women will be able to play a greater role in earnings
Osman Haruni, senior policy advisor of the Netherlands embassy in Bangladesh

Regional coordinator of the Asian Food Security Network (AFSN), Ahmed Borhan, presenting the keynote, said women’s contribution was not recognized when it came to decision making. Even now, over half the decisions were made by men. He put forward several recommendations including an integrated system for the protection and expansion of family farming, recognition of household work, a specialised institution for women in agriculture, a family farming platform, and strengthening youth and women farmer organisations.

Senior policy advisor of the Netherlands embassy in Bangladesh, Osman Haruni, said that the agricultural sectors in which women were involved, should be drawn into business, taking market demand into consideration. Women’s skills must be increased accordingly. If they are involved in the market, women will be able to play a greater role in income. If women farmers can be organisationally strong, they will have a significant contribution to the market, he said.

Deputy executive director of the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), Rowshan Jahan, said that land was the basis of production. Women’s rights to that land must be given due consideration. She said that the khaas land laws were discriminatory and should be amended.

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Country director of Hunger Free World, Ataur Rahman, said agriculture was becoming mechanised. Women’s role in this respect must be taken into consideration. Women should not fall to one side with the advancement of agriculture. They must not lag behind. The government must plan accordingly.

Scientific officer of Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), Nazim Uddin, said that though women had a significant contribution to agriculture, they were not given any recognition. They are not counted in the GDP. That identity and recognition was important. Many policies were made, but these were not implemented or practiced. He said that the government had taken up many initiatives, adding that women’s leadership in agriculture had to be established.

Agricultural expert of Maria Seed Technology, AKM Zakaria, giving the example of a village, said women would be able to create high quality seeds with proper training. He questioned what was being done about the contribution of women to the GDP by creating seeds and also what the government’s budget was for this.

AFA regional coordinator Amirul Islam said women must be included in agricultural loans as well as agricultural management. Others must also share in the household work done by women farmers. If they were given help, they would be able to pay more attention to farming.

Also speaking at the roundtable moderated by Prothom Alo’s assistant editor Firoz Choudhury, were president of Bindu Nari Unnayan Sangshta Jannatul Mawa and Bangladesh Krishani Federation’s Shamsunnahar Dolly.