Alumna promoting agricultural technologies among rural women
Posted: 2 October 2023
Rural women in Bangladesh traditionally work in local agricultural activities that contribute significantly to rural economies and play an important role in conserving biodiversity and the environment for future generations. Empowering rural women is essential for achieving food security, good nutrition and United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
To mark International Day of Rural Women on 15 October, we celebrate the work of Australia Awards alumna Mst Irin Parvin from Bangladesh, who has taken great strides in supporting rural women farmers to be resilient to climate change, use modern production technology and be involved in work that generates an income. She is an agriculturist who works in the Department of Agricultural Extension (DAE) under the Ministry of Agriculture of the Bangladesh Government.
Irin completed a Master of Science at James Cook University in 2020 with the support of an Australia Awards Scholarship.
‘The journey of the Australia Awards Scholarship has contributed immensely as I pursued my passion for sustainable rural development focusing on women,’ says Irin. ‘It helped me understand the state-of-the-art technology such as floriculture as an emerging tool and means for sustainable livelihood and income generation for rural women in Bangladesh.’
To empower rural women and help them contribute to economic growth, she applied for the Australia Awards alumni support grant this year. With this grant, she trained women in floriculture, supporting them to adopt modern technologies and ensuring the best post-harvest management practices for value-addition in flowers grown in rural areas across the country. She also ensured that they had access to the technology needed for sustainable cultivation, pest management and post-harvest management of flower plants.
‘This alumni support grant has helped me reach out to women farmers and disseminate information on climate-smart agriculture. As an agriculturist, it gives me a sense of satisfaction to promote improved agricultural technologies and strengthen rural women’s entrepreneurship,’ says Irin.
On 25 May 2023, Irin arranged a one-day hands-on training for 50 farmers (35 women and 15 men) at Savar Upazila’s training centre. The training was provided by floriculture experts working at the Floriculture division of the Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, and senior experts working at DAE. With this training, the farmers learnt about scientific methods of flower production, including flower bed preparation/renovation, pruning unwanted parts of the plants with pruning shears, and application of fertilisers, pesticides and irrigation water at the right times in the right quantities.
Irin also provided training to the 50 flower farmers on how to use rechargeable agricultural power sprayer machines to increase efficiency. In addition, they were each given a rechargeable knapsack power sprayer to support efficient spraying of pesticides and micronutrient-enriched fertilisers. The introduction of such farming machinery will assist them to quickly respond to challenges, especially those caused by climate change.
The hands-on training also assisted the rural entrepreneurs to learn about identification of important commercial varieties of flowering plants. Participants found all the training immensely beneficial.
From her workplace at DAE, Irin is now developing different projects to mainstream women in agriculture. These projects include aiming to increase participation of women in agricultural activities by establishing women-farmers groups. She is also focusing on encouraging women in small-to-medium enterprise development in agri-businesses such as seed production and vermicompost production, which will facilitate their growth and social acceptance as decision-makers.
Additionally, Irin is ensuring effective implementation of government policies specific to the agricultural sector. She works with all stakeholders, especially rural communities, agricultural producers, government counterparts and rural women, to provide efficient services in implementing DAE projects that complement and reinforce efforts to increase the efficiency and productivity of agriculture in Bangladesh. She also collaborates with other implementing agencies and strategic partners in the creation of agricultural development strategies that focus on gender equality in particular.
Irin has also emphasised home gardening programs and implemented integrated crop management project activities to successfully increase cost-effectiveness and decrease environmental footprint. Along with her team at DAE, she implemented a collaborative model in three upazilas called the ‘Kalikapur model of homestead gardening’. This model, adapted to local conditions, promotes easy cultivation of 15 types of vegetables in home gardens. Because women are usually the main caretakers of home gardens, such programs encourage them to increase household production and consumption of nutritious foods, thereby increasing family income and welfare.
‘My Australian experience has improved my level of confidence to advance my professional career in agricultural science,’ Irin says. ‘As I have the privilege to work in the agriculture sector, I am committed to working to empower women by providing equal access to the resources and opportunities in the agricultural workforce.