Baisherchar Agricultural Cooperative Society Ltd

Pictured: Leadership team of the Baisherchar Agricultural Cooperative Society Ltd on their graduation day!

On my recent trip to Bangladesh, I had the privilege of attending four graduation ceremonies for Community Based Organisations that have grown from our work. Each ceremony was a distinctive as the group themselves but with a common theme of transformation that had occurred within their lives and families. 

In graduating, they are now able to demonstrate how they can operate independently as organisations registered with the Bangladesh government. Our commitment is to walk alongside each CBO (as desired) to help them achieve their aims.

The last graduation ceremony I attended was particularly memorable. It was for the Baisherchar Agricultural Cooperative Society Ltd.

Around 90 per cent of the CBOs have grown from women’s groups, but this one was formed from men’s and women’s groups in the area. They had combined to become one large group and their leadership team included not just one president but also a vice president. And under their leadership it was not registered with the Office of Women’s Affairs (as per our female groups) but through the agricultural agency.

As the men and women sat on opposite sides of the aisle, I was curious to understand how the group worked. So after the ceremony of speeches from the leadership and local dignitaries (and a CEO who was getting better at reading her scripted, yet assuredly “inspiring” speech in Bangla), I asked.

One female member assured me. “Oh, it works very well. They do not discriminate between women and men.” And another “There are no problems. In fact, my husband is the member, but I am his proxy while he is away”.

As I spoke with the president, Md. Shafiqul Islam, I could see he was a humble and good-hearted man. To even share the leadership with another speaks of his good nature.

The cooperative has 56 active loans for rearing cows, goats and other agricultural efforts, as well as 14 loans for vehicles. They operate as a kind of community bank, with only the cashier with more than a basic functional literacy. The ongoing cooperation with Symbiosis is an integral part of ensuring good financial practices are maintained.

As farmers are commonly known, Shafiqul and his group are “salt of the earth”. They have taken the tools learned through their involvement with Symbiosis and are creating a cooperative that is helping everyone grow by working together

As they gathered around to farewell us, I was again reminded how we are privileged to be a part of their story. And I extend my gratitude and respect to Mr Rashid, Project Manager, and the whole JSDP team for their dedication to such a life-giving work.

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