Asarunnessa’s story of being left behind
Asarunnessa, 46, has resided in Modhabpur village, Sylhet her entire life. She lives together with her husband, and two sons and two daughters, all between the ages of 12 to 25. Her oldest daughter who was married off early as a teenager lives in her husband’s house. Both Asaraunnessa’s sons are working members of the family. One is a CNG driver, and the other works for the Akij company (one of the largest Bangladeshi industrial conglomerates). The money they earn helps to pay for groceries and other expenses in the house.
Her husband is a fisherman and catches fish in the nearby river. He does not often have luck in this venture, and without a team of fishermen working alongside him, he is unable to bring home a steady source of income. Asarunnessa brings in some additional income for the family by growing and selling vegetables and rearing chickens.
Asarunnessa mentioned that her family does not receive support from the government to prepare for and manage the various disasters that affect her community.
The coronavirus lockdowns had a devastating impact on the family. Both of the sons were forced out of work. One returned to work within weeks, and the other has only recently returned after a long hiatus of five months. During that period of uncertainty when the family’s income dropped steeply, the training and support Asarunnessa received in homestead food production (HFP) from the Suchana programme became a lifeline.
Asarunnessa first heard about Suchana when they were in her area on an initiative giving roosters to members of the community. While her neighbours received between 8 and 10 roosters each, Asarunnessa did not get any, instead receiving input funds to buy chickens.
Suchana determined that Asarunnessa was eligible to attend their ‘HFP poultry’ sessions. She admits she did not understand many things due to her lack of education, but still found the sessions very informative. In addition to learning how to take care of chickens, Asarunnessa also learned about what to do if they become ill, poultry vaccination, and how to sell eggs and chickens. She also learned how to make hazals for the chickens (a type of earthenware bowl-shaped seat for chickens to sit in and brood their eggs, common in Bangladesh). Suchana’s programme also included training sessions on homestead vegetable gardening.
Asarunnessa was also part of Suchana’s Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA). Suchana informs its beneficiaries on how to form and operate community-based, small-scale savings groups who manage the inflow and outflow of ‘rainy day funds’ for their members. Asarunnessa was a member of such a VSLA for a short time before the group disbanded and the members received their savings and share of funds after maturity.
With the input funds from Suchana, Asarunnessa initially bought 12 roosters. The family ate some of the roosters and sold the rest. She also received training on how to build safe and hygienic homes for her chickens, and how to care for their health. Currently, Asarunnessa has five chickens (including two chicks). The chickens lay eggs, too, which are either eaten or kept to hatch. Asarunnessa plans to sell the chicks once they are old enough to start laying eggs (when they are about 3 to 4 months old). Recently, some of her chickens fell ill, and the pandemic brought vaccinations to a halt. Asarunnessa fortunately knew how to nurse the chickens back to health, because of the training she had received from Suchana. At one point, floodwater destroyed Asarunnessa’s hazals and chicken coops. She adapted and created makeshift nests for her poultry using sacks, sand, and water. Suchana’s technical training had included training beneficiaries on building these nests. The programme also trained her on how to start and maintain a homestead vegetable garden, which included lessons on the use of fertiliser, soil cultivation, seed plantation, and types of seeds. Asarunnessa normally plants and grows kakrol. She now plans to plant and grow red spinach, dengal, and lai spinach in the winter.
From nutrition to homestead food production training, Asarunnessa has successfully improved her family’s wellbeing with a more nutritional and diversified diet. Overall, Suchana had a great, positive impact on her family. Asarunnessa believes that with hard work and God’s blessings, her life will improve.
Suchana’s graduation model takes into account the overall, sustained improvement in the lives of beneficiaries in terms of improved nutritional practices, improved access to or production of nutritious food, and increased incomes to ensure sustainable development. Fahima was unable to improve much in any of these criteria for the following reasons:
Suchana: Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh is a multisectoral nutrition programme which aims to reduce chronic undernutrition leading to stunting among children under two years of age in 235,500 poor and very poor households in the Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts of Bangladesh.
The programme adopts an integrated approach to nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions and generates a sustainable and replicable model that can be scaled. Suchana is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the EU, and is implemented by a consortium of 8 different development organisations and research agencies: Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS), Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Helen Keller International, icddr,b, iDE, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), Save the Children, and WorldFish.
The consortium is led by Save the Children.