RANGPUR: After winning extreme poverty with assistance of the Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra-poor (SETU) project, 45,000 households are now on way to attain sustainable development in greater Rangpur.
With multidimensional interventions of the seven-year term (2009-2016) project, average incomes of the beneficiary households in Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and Gaibandha districts have increased by eight times.
"The project has increased monthly average household incomes from Taka. 1,286 to Taka. 10,374, graduated 95 percent of beneficiaries from extreme poverty freeing 25 percent from poverty," said former Team Leader of SETU project Abdul Matin Shardar.
This impressive rise in living standards of the extreme poor households became possible through diversifying income sources, promoting social inclusion and enhancing pro-poor governance, improving nutritional awareness and practices and developing as communities rather than individuals.
"These households have 4-5 different income sources like livestock and poultry rearing, vegetable production, small business, handicrafts to earn consistent incomes through community engagement in groups round the year," Shardar added.
Talking to BSS, SETU project beneficiaries of Gangadas Baraipara village under Sadar upazila in Rangpur and Sarkerpara village under Sadar upazila in Nilphamari narrated their success stories.
The successful villagers, who were earlier trapped in the vicious cycle of generational poverty, have become self-reliant and empowered now making a transformational change in their lives.
They have achieved the success through community solidarity and action groups, collective actions, engagement in income generating activities (IGAs), mainly off-farm, and with local union parishads in particular.
"We began our journey through identifying our problems first and took collective decision to address those," said President Sufia Begum of the Para Unnayan Committee of village Sarkerpara.
"We identified open defecation practice as a major reason for frequent diarrhea and dysentery and ensured cent percent sanitation for all 116 households in a month under leadership of natural leader of our village Anufa Begum," she added.
The 25-member female forum 'EKATA' made the village free from child marriage, malnutrition, illiteracy and violence against women. The able couples, pregnant women and adolescent are now aware of health, hygiene and nutrition.
The villagers formed community based 'Sarkerpara Women Savings Group (SWSG)' with 32 members with Anufa as its Secretary to cope with lean season as they had to sale labour in advance and household goods earlier.
They started with saving fistful rice. With increase in earning for engagement in IGAs, they turned it into cash group raising capital to Taka 18,000 early last year.
The SETU project then added Taka 20,000 as grant to the savings group to raise its capital when it started providing loans up to Taka 8,000 among its members for IGAs.
SETU project beneficiaries Tahuza Begum and Sufia Begum said they have taken Taka 7,500 to 8,000 each as interest free loans from the group and invested in off-farm businesses.
"Every family is now earning well, our children are going to schools and our members are depositing Taka 20 weekly," said Anufa. Similarly, President of 'Baraipara Women Savings Group (BWSG)' Moyna Rani said they formed the group with 37 members and women forum 'EKATA' with 25 volunteers in the village with 62 households.
"Our village is now free from water-borne diseases, child marriage, malnutrition, illiteracy, repression and able couples, pregnant women and adolescents have knowledge about health and hygiene," said volunteer of the 'EKATA' forum Pompa Rani.
SETU project beneficiaries Jamuna Rani and widow Shanti Rani said they have taken Taka 8,000 each as interest free loans from BWSG and invested in different businesses and income generation activities.
"Our members are depositing Taka 20 weekly with the group savings, every family is now earning well to lead better life and our children are going to schools," said General Secretary of BWSG Bharoti Rani.
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