Magazine article Anglican Journal

'Sisters, Keep the Seeds in Your Hands!' Women Farmers in Bangladesh

Magazine article Anglican Journal

'Sisters, Keep the Seeds in Your Hands!' Women Farmers in Bangladesh

Article excerpt

BANGLADESH, like Canada, is a country rich in biodiversity, at one point boasting more than 15,000 varieties of rice. Yet thousands of those varieties were lost when a limited number of 'higher yielding varieties' of rice were offered to Bangladeshi farmers. It was this so-called Green Revolution, coupled with the devastating floods of 1987-88, that brought farmers in the Tangail region of Bangladesh to PWRDF partner UBINIG to ask for help.

Farida Akhter, founder and director of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative) based in Dhaka, says it became clear that the effects of the floods were more devastating because of the farmers' dependence on a reduced diversity of rice seeds. "They could not afford to bear the additional costs of fertilizers and pesticides," she says.

The farming communities of Bangladesh who were practising biodiversity-based ecological agriculture joined together to form The New Agricultural Movement, or Nayakrishi Andalon. The Bangla word 'krishi', Farida explains, means "cultivation of the relation between human beings and nature that transforms both and functions as an integral whole, as the single organism... It is an act of reciprocal nurturing."

Another casualty of the Green Revolution was the role of women as seed bearers. Farida repeats the rallying cry of a Bangladeshi women farmer at a Nayakrishi rally: "Sisters, keep the seeds in your hands!" Central to the movement is the Nayakrishi Seed Network (NSN)--a web of household, and community seed huts and 'wealth centres'. …

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