A focal point for flourishing

AGRICULTURAL
Shimu Begum story

Support and training can open the door to better employment and greater empowerment – and this is as true for women as men. Here is the story of Shimu Begum and a Farmers’ Hub in Bangladesh.

On finishing her education, Shimu Begum heard that her family had found a man to marry. But Shimu had other ideas – she instead married Mejba Uddin, a boy she had known from school. Because the couple had gone against their wishes, both her and her new husband’s families refused to acknowledge their marriage or take them into their homes.

With nowhere to live and little to live on, Shimu and Mejba moved to the capital, Dhaka. Mejba found work in a garment factory. But the wages he received were not enough to live on. Every month, the couple was obliged to borrow from a relative.

Eventually, Shimu suggested that they return to their home village. Her husband began work as a laborer in a nearby nursery. Shimu’s father-in-law still refused to take any responsibility for them. Their first child was born, and Shimu recalls being sad that there was hardly ever enough money for treats. Husband and wife knew they wanted more from life, but not how to change their situation.

One day, Mejba came home to share with Shimu his news that a Farmers’ Hub (FH) was being established in the village. He had learned through staff at our partner GBK that it was possible to train as an FH entrepreneur. Was this the opportunity that the couple was looking for? Mejba enrolled for training at Habra, Parbatipur, with Shahinur Islam from our Bangladesh team. After qualifying, he was determined to make a success of his training. But how could he and Shimu find the capital to launch their business?

Entrepreneurs need both training and capital

Shimu appealed to her father, but with no success. Our Foundation encouraged Mejba’s parents to invest some of their savings. Mejba sold a cow and mortgaged some land. Together that provided enough capital for Shimu and Mejba to have the confidence to attend a three-day residential course. Organized by Syngenta Foundation Bangladesh, this training is for entrepreneurs planning to start Farmers’ Hubs.

Today, twenty-nine-year-old Shimu and her husband are responsible for the Milonpur FH at Pirganj, Rangpur. Mejba is the owner, Shimu is the day-to-day operator. Since they first took on the Hub, they have expanded into three new branches and now employ six female and two male workers. The profits have let them get more land to produce vegetable seeds, which they sell grow through their Hub.

As an FH entrepreneur, Shimu not only sells products, but also provides other farmers with advice on crop cultivation, crop care, and harvesting, including the safe use of crop protection products. She anticipates that one day their son will take over the business after finishing his studies. In the meantime, Shimu is ambitious for its continuing success.

Being responsible for an FH has also given her the opportunity to reflect on the importance of income for the empowerment of women: “I want to develop my Farmers’ Hub as a business that helps create more employment for women,” Shimu says. From her own experience, she knows that: “Women have the capability to establish new ideas and can contribute to operating an enterprise.”