The world market for daily necessities is instable since few years. This incident has created negative impacts on poor countries like Bangladesh. Price instability and fluctuations on the goods of daily necessity market make the people’s life vulnerable and troublesome. In this circumstance, Development research Initiative (DRI), a research organization of Bangladesh and Institute of Development Studies (IDS) of Sussex University, England jointly organized a research program to inquire the cause of the crisis (fluctuations for food prices), affect and its adaptation. Both IDS of Sussex University and DRI of Bangladesh tends to inquire on a process to alleviate the misery of the poor people existing in Bangladesh. They have been worked continuously for three years of 2012, 2013 and 2014. To conduct the study, it is taken Kalyanpur slum of Dhaka, Dhamurhat upazila of Naogaon and Koyra upazila of Khulna as study area. The information for researching the study has been collected through both individual and group discussions. After analyzing the information collected, the outcome of the study presented, shared and exchanged at Dhamurhat upazila as the first study area among the three. For this initiative, a Work Shop has been organized titling ‘Food Price Fluctuations: Living with Crisis’ on 5th of March (Saturday), 2016 at Koyra Govt. Primary School cum cyclone shelter centre situated at No. 3 Jahanpur union under Koyra Upazila of Khulna district.
Before organizing this work opinions from the respondents of the study have been taken regarding the venue of the program. They were asked about their convenient place of the workshop so that they can be able to attend the program. Most of them said, ‘if you want to ensure maximum women participation, you need to choose a place in the middle of the area so that both men and women would present there. They said to us that if you organize the workshop at Koyra union council hall room or at upazila council, then the participation woud be less due to transportation cost and time consumed from the participants. Besides, Jamat-E-Islami has more influence in this area which attributed some religious conservativeness and the people living in this are also little bit conservative as well. For this reason, going outside home is not regarded well in the society. So, if you organize the workshop at the educational institution or cyclone shelter centre, then both male and female would participate, we considered their opinion and with the permission from the community people, we decided to organize the workshop at no.3 Koyra Govt. Primary School cum cyclone shelter centre.
The discussion, suggestion and opinion of the workshop on exchange of outcome of the research held on 5th March at Koyra Govt. Primary School situated at No. 3 Koyra sadar union under Koyra upazila of Khulna district are arranged below:
In the workshop, the outcome from the study for three years (2012 to 2014) is presented by Development Research Initiative’s (DRI) researcher Shameem Reza Khan. In this workshop, the chairman of Koyra union council Shafikul Islam, union council member Shorifa Khatun, former union council member Md. Rukonuzzaman and other renowned person, teachers, imam, NGO worker, member of bazaar committee, the President and Secretary of Koyra Upazila Press Club and other journalists, members from civil society and various low income people were participated. Besides, the respondents of the study for last three years also attended at the program. The discussion, opinion and suggestion part started after presenting research methodology and outcomes of the study.
To opine at the workshop, the Chairman of Koyra sadar union council Shafikul Islam said, Koyra union of Koyra upazila is situated at near Sundarbans in the south of Bangladesh. The low income people in this union are disturbed by the fluctuation of food prices. The researchers from Development Research Initiative (DRI) studied the crisis of the people’s life and livelihood due to volatile food prices in market. They also studied same type of research at Dhamurhat upazila in the northern part of Bangladesh. I think research differ locally as well as its outcome of research from Koyra need to be presented specifically rather overall outcome, so that the research outcome would be fruitful and effective. In the past we saw that prices of rice suddenly rose from 10 taka to 40 taka but the wage only increased from 10 taka (per time) to 120 taka. It is very difficult for us to manage when price of rice increases four times higher within a sudden period. How people can survive? Sometimes, though rice price is stable other commodities like vegetables, education children, health service price are increasing very highly. Within small income, it is very difficult for low earning people to manage their livelihoods. They have to provide not only the tuition fees of their children but also to arrange private tutors. At present, the parents are very serious about their children’s education so that they arrange 2/3 private tutors for them. Parents always think about children’s good results in school so that they can go their destination. In this circumstance, the expenditure must increase. It is needed 600 taka to 1000 taka for one subject tuition for three days a week. So, they need 1500 taka to 2000 taka to provide tutoring their children for three subjects.
What is the income of a labor per day? If he earns 200 taka per day then income would be 6000 taka. Besides, he cannot work all days of month for health or other familial problems. In this circumstance, the situation of a low income people becomes very miserable and difficult to cope with. We hope, the situation is properly presented and addressed by the researchers.
As we have many problems, so we have to solve these problems by living with this we have to go forward. At present, along with government many NGOs have been arranged training programs for increasing their income. I’m President of one of the CMS at Dakop-Koyra of Sundarnbans. We discussed with many people and provided suggestion to them. We saw that those who depend on Sundarbans for their livelihood spend more on protecting themselves from pirates at the forest than their income. Either they starve or they become owed with debt. So, it is needed to be arranged substitute employment for them. At present, the main earning member earn only earn 200 to 300 taka. With this money, he has to cope with maintaining food expenditure, educational cost for children, health services cost which is very difficult. It is not possible for me to manage to family. So we have to discuss about alternative income sources form the female members of the family. They can involve in tailoring or other hand work through which income of family would increase. With this income they can support their children’s education or treatment of any family member etc. I think we have nothing to fear. I an owner of a family if I only earn and rest of the family depend on me then we cannot develop ourselves. Other members of the family should come forward and think about how they can contribute to family income so that our family can increase its income. Finally, I would say to attain government objective it is needed to ensure the right of both vote and food.
At the open discussion, former Headmaster and the Chairman of Anti Corruption Committee of Koyra Upazila said, they have presented the outcomes of their study. We can give our opinion through joining with them. We can present new things existed in our area so that it can be included in new research study. Through research we can understand the practical scenario where people have right to express their views. People cannot die from hunger rather they get pain from it. During ‘Aila’ people suffer a lot for lack of water and they have to struggle against nature. They are trying to combat against natural disaster. After ‘Aila’ government has helped us in many ways. A friend in is a friend indeed. No one died without food due to ‘Aila’ so that government can get the credit. At present the main problem in this area is lack of availability of drinking water. So, through this workshop I urge all of you to present this problem to the concerned authorities of the government. I am thanking to all the organizations who studied regarding ‘Food Price Fluctuations: Living with Crisis’. We hope to get an idea to develop our living standards through this tiring research by taking information from the respondents and evaluate the livelihood of the area.
Among the participants village doctor Kamruzzaman said, at present the main problem in our area is lack of availability of drinking and cultivable water. To solve the problem of drinking water, it is needed to establish a deep tube-well of about 1200 feet which needs about 50 thousand to 60 thousand taka. Earlier, government allocated deep tube-well but now it has been postponed. Another problem in this area that people cultivate crops here for only one season due to lack of water. Besides, many people uses water form pods and canals but these are also scarce day by day so it will be difficult for farmers to cultivate crops in future. For the solution, good quality shallow machines are needed. Accepting his argument former union council member Md. Rukonuzzaman said, while you were coming here you saw thousand acres of barren land. If those lands are to be cultivated in another season during Aman season at the month of Ashar then people have no starvation in this area. Lack of water causes this incident of barren land. Many people try establish shallow machine but only the successful ones get water layer at 300/400 feet and some needs to go up to 1000/1200 feet to get a good flow of water. However, as most people in our locality are poor and they don’t have enough money to arrange a shallow machine so that they cannot cultivate though shallow machine. Government also doesn’t take any initiative to provide shallow machines or deep tube-wells. He thinks that if people can cultivate during dry season people have no scarcity of food in this area. For this, government should come forward. He also said, if any organization come forward to establish a deep tube well then we can cultivate 50 to 100 bighas of land which can help to cultivate crops for two season and improve the economic condition of the people of this area. At present, the price of rice is higher in our area. The immediate years after Sidr and Aila the cultivation of paddy was bumper so that rice price is relatively low now. When crops cultivated abundantly then the price remains relatively low and vice-versa. Again, there are some businessman who stock crops and sell at higher price which market supply is relatively low and in this circumstance government also doesn’t take any initiative against market manipulation. Government should check the matter that why a price suddenly jump to 1500 taka from 1000 taka within a day? If supply remains low then price would increase but why it occurred suddenly? The reason is the corrupt businessman do this. Low income people are mostly affected by this phenomenon though the middle class people also get affected. Among the participants Chanchal Mondol said, Bangladesh is a land of agriculture. The farmer of Koyra face problems in transporting their goods to market as the transportation system is not good here. At present the production is huge. For instance, earlier if a farmer grew 10 kg of Brinjal in a certain piece of land but now the production increased to 100 kg. But the problem is we cannot take our crops to market for bad transportation system so that we do not get proper price. When we sell four taka per kg, at Paikgacha the price is 20 taka and at Kaliganj the price is 30 taka. Only transportation causes this problem. We cannot transport our goods to nearest market and the there is no environment of importing and exporting goods. We have to notice that farmers have to provide 200/250 taka for a labor per day while per sack of paddy costs only 800 taka. I expense 3000 taka in my one bigha land but I sell the produce with only 2500 taka. So, how can farmers survive as they are deprived from fair prices? He also pointed out another problem which is pesticides. Government has taken initiative to produce pesticide-free crops but the implementation of the policy is ours. If government provides us trainings regarding this then we can get benefit from this. We need 100 taka to buy a sample of pesticide while we sell Brinjal for only 50 taka. Government should come forward to produce pesticide-free crops, though the training is available at Dakop, Paikgacha, Dumuria, but not at Koyra. About the matter Rukonuzzaman said, the main problems faced by the farmers in this area are fertilizer, water and pesticides. As the price of fertilizer and pesticides increased people are getting deprived of by selling their crops. To solve this problem government should take initiatives to reduce the price of fertilizer and pesticides so the production cost would reduce and the farmer get benefit from this.
Among the discussants, Dipankar Baidya said, in our area the day laboring wage is 200 taka. When there is lack of work then it reduced to 120 taka which rendered a great problem to the labor. Sometimes, the price is getting increased but labor get only 120 taka. Another problem is our area is water-logging. During rainy season water logged in different places as there is no proper canal system in our area. We urge government to solve these issues. If government can introduce a uniform wage rate in our area so that the labor people get benefited from this.
Female member Sharifa Khatun said, many females are remained unemployed in our Koyra region. In many places both government and non-government organizations take initiatives to increase employment opportunity which is absent in our area. If the females of our area can be provided training on stitching, making mats, rearing chickens and ducks, fish cultivation etc, they can participate in family income which can help to improve their condition. Replying to her answer, an official from NGO ‘Prodipon’ Debashish Mondol said, Koyra and Dakop upazila of Khulna are two of the risky littoral areas of Bangladesh. In this upazila about 15 to 20 percent women face domestic violence and approximately 30 percent females cannot go outside without the permission of male members in the family. In this area, Prodipon, with SHIRI project, provided trainings on stitching and raw materials selling to the females. The main objective of the project is to make the females an efficient and successful entrepreneur. Besides this, another objective of the project is to increase awareness about nutrition among the women and children of the region.
Former union council member Md. Rukonuzzaman said, few types of people like labor, destitute, low income people, want to reduce the price of rice and these people also wants the increase of labor price. Again, farmers who have 2/5 bighas of land want increase of rice and vegetable price so that they can get good profit. To keep people good condition, it is needed to reduce prices of the commodities. But, the farmers bear the loss because the cost of fertilizer and pesticides are high which increase the production cost of crops. Many people have not cultivated rice this year due to its low price of only 800 taka per sac. They cannot earn profit after paying all the cost of fertilizer, pesticides, labor, irrigation etc. But, if the prices of crops increase then people will fall into trouble again. So, if government reduces the prices of fertilizer and pesticides then all people can get the benefit. Now our country can fulfill its own demand and in the first time Bangladesh exported 50,000 metric tons of rice to Sri Lanka. Previous year, Bangladesh exported potato to China.
About the matter, pointing to the female participants of the workshop, Researcher Shameem Reza Khan asked about the nutritional matter of families? Answering the question former union council member Md. Rukonuzzan said, when the people in this region got any trouble they marry off their daughter in a very early age so that the child marriage incident is very high in this region and they became pregnant at early age. Then, as they are not aware of the nutritional matter, the pregnant women get affected by malnutrition. Thus, death rate among pregnant women increased. Again, child from a young mother also get affected by malnutrition. Among the participants, newly married housewife Rafia Begum said, during pregnancy many elderly people said that ‘if you eat egg then the child will be a fool or if you eat fruit then the belly will be unnecessarily big’ etc. She also said, children are the future of the country so it is needed to remove superstition existed from the elderly people of our society. We have to aware people surrounding us. And, we have to build a child marriage free society.