The work of women in rural Bangladesh is often confined to the homestead due to their household obligations as well as social stigmata. Katalyst’s Women’s Economic Empowerment (WEE) sector aims to provide new income-generating opportunities to women farmers so that they can lift themselves out of poverty, increase their financial autonomy, and strengthen their decision-making role within the family and beyond. Sarah Cooke, Head of DFID Bangladesh, along with her team visited the village of Shyamnagar on 26th November 2015 in order to get a first-hand account on how Katalyst’s gender-specific interventions strengthen the role of women and provide new perspectives.
Based in the outskirts of Satkhira and bordered by the Sundarbans mangrove forest, the village is prone to natural calamities. Rising water levels, high salinity, poor infrastructure and limited linkage to market services result in restricted livelihood opportunities for women farmers in this area. That is why Katalyst promotes the cultivation of sweet water prawn as a feasible means of profitable agriculture activity among women farmers.
Prawn is a high-demand product that can result in considerable income for women farmers who can culture prawn in their homestead ponds. However, their lack of knowledge on modern cultivation techniques coupled with limited access to quality prawn feed, aqua-chemicals and hatchery prawn fingerlings prevent women farmers from profitably culturing prawn. Keeping these constraints in mind, Katalyst implemented an intervention which creates linkages between women prawn farmers and relevant market players that provide them with access to knowledge and inputs.
Ms. Cooke and the DFID team met with several women prawn farmers such as Shonarban, who received training on modern prawn cultivation methods earlier this year. Thanks to Katalyst’s intervention, she also has improved access to better quality prawn fingerlings, prawn feed and aqua-chemicals. Shonarban told the delegation that by using modern cultivation methods and inputs, she was already experiencing higher yields and an increased income. She also stated that this year’s prawn seemed to be growing at a higher rate than before, and Shonarban was anticipating that the duration of prawn culture would be reduced from 2 years to 9 months if she continued using modern cultivation methods.
Alongside Shyamnagar, this intervention has been implemented in 27 other upazilas of Khulna and Dhaka division, empowering 22,500 women prawn farmers.