Afia’s tale of pride in Potato cultivation
The red sun of the day-end was about to set on the other side of the huge potato field at Mridhabari village, Chandina, Comilla.
“This season I engaged more labors, bought some new land also”, said Afia Begum (48), the secretary of the Tatera working women group, Chandina, Comilla, presently a successful potato cultivator.
The moment she saw us from the potato field, with clay mix hand, she came closer. Her family condition a few years back was not so much comfortable as of today. In fact, the hostile situation always teaches the human-being how to accept the life and prepare oneself to live in it with courage and dignity. Those who never admit defeat against all the ups and downs of life, they can be real worthy of being the controller and modifier of the society. And in case, if it is a woman, inevitably it can be regarded as an unforgettable milestone for the society like us. In her life, the fire was ignited with the logs of plans for changing life. There lies the tale of struggles for diligent Afia Begum, to shun of those disgracing days full of distress and remorse.
The 7-member family of Afia, consisting of her husband, 2 daughters and 3 sons along with herself, used lead their day to day life with much hardship. Besides the only home-stead (vita), they had no land, no property. Her husband was the only earning member of this poor family. He merely could afford the required daily food for the children through the earning what he used to get by cultivating rice, wheat in the others land like a day laborer. The initiative of education for the children remained always a dream to the family. Afia Begum, as such, was compelled to send her eldest son to Dhaka to work as mechanic so that their daily life could have slightly been quenched. Poverty was all around the family. It was quite often seen that at the end of every month, they had to borrow money from others to run the family. All these, made Afia to think continuously for a way-out for her family from this unbearable circumstances. She was restless in search of means to blow the gentle breeze of solvency and flexibility, by removing the poverty.
In the way, she observed that many of her neighbors are cultivating winter vegetables and potherb taking loan from the micro-finance institutions and thereby trying to increase their family income.
The area was renowned for winter vegetable cultivation from long before. Afia was delighted with the idea of doing something unique by her-self in the process of becoming self-reliant. With the energized spirit, she then communicated to the Micro Finance Institution (MFI) Tatera Working Women group society of “DISA”, which is situated at Chandina Thana. The manager of the branch of ‘DISA’ provided the first installment of 10 thousand taka as loan, delivered required information about potato-cultivation and inspired a lot to go forth as well.
Having the first installment of 10 thousand taka, she added more amounts from her own personal savings and arrangements, Afia started potato cultivation for the first time, in 2010. She took few satak land of a neighbor in lease for 2 years. Her first investment in this business was about total Tk. 50 thousand. The return was significant.
Gradually her profit in the business started expanding. Paying back her past loan, she took loan again from ‘DISA’, bought own land so that she could cultivate potato in bigger scale. Afia begum has received the loan facility overall for 6 times from (MFI) ‘DISA’ in the last 6 years. About Tk. 55 thousand is currently running in her business. They can manage the required preparatory & maintenance jobs in the other time of a year by themselves, but during the season of potato cultivation & collection, they need to hire 4-6 workers on per day basis. Keeping aside all the expenses her net monthly income is about 20-25 thousand taka. Her total volume of property presently includes land of 13 satak and a pond of 19 satak, bought by the profit money from potato cultivation. She is at present is the Secretary of Tatera Working Women Co-operative society of “DISA”.
“...now we don’t have to go for loan of money to run the family. We are being able to educate our (my) children, arranged marriage for my eldest daughter. When the old days are reminded of, it seems a nightmare to me....I can’t help thinking of it.” said Afia wiping tears of her eyes with the loose end of her sari. Now her family has got no scarcity, no regret, repentance or lamentation. Now Afia plans for a new fish cultivation activities commercially in her own pond taking large scale loan from ‘DISA’. “...on that moment if the sisters and staffs of DISA would not have stood beside me, coming to this stage had not surely be possible for us.” Afia added more by herself.
Today at the backyard of her house when the gentle breeze blows over the potato field, it reminds us of her soft smiling face. Afia’s bold determination to eradicate poverty from her life with the assistance of ‘DISA’ has proved that there are ways to overcome all the obstacles of life to achieve happiness. That is why she is not merely a housewife, but an icon of struggling soul in this village.