Rayna Akter supports local businesses in Dhoradhor
Rayna, 26, is a mother of two, a wife, a Suchana graduate and a successful business entrepreneur. A few years ago, she began to feel that supporting a family solely on the income of her husband (at one time an employee at a shop, later a house painter) was going to be challenging. That’s why in 2018, when a stranger arrived unannounced at Rayna’s doorstep offering her a unique opportunity for business support and skills training, she took the bold decision to accept it.
Two years later, that decision has proved to be immensely beneficial for Rayna and her family. Rayna became a trained vaccinator who routinely conducts house visits within her community and farther away. She provides support to others as a Local business advisor (LBA), she rears poultry, and sells vegetables. In addition, Rayna’s husband is fully supportive of these endeavours. And the solid business reputation Rayna has established for herself, along with the additional income generated from these activities, has both Rayna and her husband feeling optimistic about the future.
The visitor to Rayna’s home in 2018 was an officer from the Suchana programme, carrying a list of candidates who qualified for Suchana’s on-farm Income generating activities (IGA) programme with them. Though Rayna was neither aware of Suchana, nor how she became eligible for the IGA programme, she agreed to take part.
Earlier, Rayna’s financial contribution to the house, when her unpaid service was not accounted for, was less than that of her husband’s. While her husband was making BDT 2,000 monthly, Rayna designed and sold nakshi kantha, a type of regional embroidered bed sheet or bed cover. Although nakshi kantha is a profitable business now, years ago, Rayna was selling her pieces for as little as BDT 300 to BDT 500. She was, however, able to make only one or two pieces a month on average, because of the amount of work she had at home. This amounted to an approximate addition of BDT 600 per month to her husband’s salary, to pay for the basic needs of a family of four. Rayna continues to make nakshi kantha.
Though she was enthusiastic about joining Suchana’s HFP-poultry rearing programme, Rayna presumed the way Suchana worked was they would provide loans and resources to her to start a business, which she would then have to pay back. Once it was revealed that this is not how the Suchana programme operates, her interest in participating grew stronger. Rayna received chicken rearing training, five chickens and two roosters. Within a year’s time, she expanded from seven chickens to 25. Rayna’s family could also eat the eggs the chickens produced, and Rayna could sell any eggs left over.
Rayna also received training from Suchana on nutrition and hygiene. She learned about the particularly high rate of malnutrition in Sylhet and Moulvibazar. In addition to learning about poultry rearing, Rayna also trained in vaccination, vegetable gardening, and becoming a Local Business Advisor.
Rayna credits her husband’s support for her success. Whenever she has to venture out to attend a Suchana meeting or vaccination trip, her husband would stay back home to look after their children and poultry. Not only her husband, but she also has her family’s support. Looking back, she is proud of the many things Suchana helped her to achieve, two of which are being able to fulfil the needs of her children and the financial ability to expand her home to more than one room.
When Rayna’s chicken farm grew from seven to 25, Suchana advised her to expand her sales beyond her neighbours. With knowledge picked up during her time training with Suchana, Rayna learned how to sell in the market via a wholesaler. Now, a wholesaler comes to Rayna’s house and buys chickens from Rayna to sell on her behalf. Another wholesaler comes by to buy the eggs, too. Currently, Rayna earns approximately BDT 12,000 from the combined sale of chicken and eggs in a six-month period.
Beyond poultry, Rayna has received sim (beans) and lal shaak (red spinach) seeds from Suchana four times to date, which has enabled her to grow these vegetables and sell them on her own.
There were 12-13 participants in Rayna’s vaccination courses at the start. Within a few days, many had left, citing the pressure to return to household work. Rayna was one of the few who stayed. Though she was already busy running a business and a household, she was determined to keep acquiring new skills and potential new sources of income.
During training, Rayna had an idea that wearing a uniform would help people to identify her as a professional and use her vaccination services. This proved to be right. Using her own money, she designed her own uniform. Rayna has become recognisable near and far not only for her services, but for the all-white uniform she wears.
Suchana Graduation Approach Households with women and adolescent girls of reproductive age Rayna believes that there is a lot of demand for poultry vaccination since almost every household has poultry these days. In some cases, she has vaccinated as many as 40 ducks in one household. Many people do not know much about vaccination. When Rayna gets called, she informs her customers, who listen to her talk about poultry vaccination with a lot of attention.
As part of vaccination training, Suchana took Rayna to different places to show her how vaccinators inject ducks and chickens, among other things. Suchana also helped Rayna to make connections with institutions, such as pet hospitals, pharmacies and the market, where vaccines need to be bought from. Rayna has been working as a vaccinator for one year now, and makes about BDT8,000-10,000 in profit from one vaccination camp.
Suchana trains beneficiaries who are interested in business to engage in different ways in the community and local market. LBAs train beneficiaries to engage with their local community and markets in the pursuit of common business interests. For instance, if someone has 4 eggs to sell, as an LBA, Rayna would seek out others who want to sell eggs, until there are a total of 15 eggs to sell. She can then connect this larger group to a wholesaler to sell the eggs at a better rate than had the group members tried to sell their eggs individually.
LBA training has made Rayna more businessminded. Now, when she ventures out to perform vaccinations, she sells handicrafts, too. In many cases, people buy because they do not have easy access to these types of items. In this way, Rayna can buy her manufacturing material for a cheap price in the market, then sell handicrafts for a small, but valuable extra bit of income.
When the country went into lockdown for coronavirus, and the calls for vaccinations dwindled, this particular strategy gave Rayna a business to fall back on.
Rayna believes she learned a lot from Suchana and that these lessons paved the way for her to establish a better living standard for her family and herself. The most valuable lessons had been nutrition, hygiene and women empowerment. She believes now, because of Suchana training, that women can do many things, if given the right tools and/or if the woman shows interest.
Suchana: Ending the cycle of undernutrition in Bangladesh is a multisectoral nutrition programme which aims to reduce chronic undernutrition leading to stunting among children under two years of age in 235,500 poor and very poor households in the Sylhet and Moulvibazar districts of Bangladesh.
The programme adopts an integrated approach to nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions and generates a sustainable and replicable model that can be scaled. Suchana is funded by the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) and the EU, and is implemented by a consortium of 8 different development organisations and research agencies: Center for Natural Resource Studies (CNRS), Friends in Village Development Bangladesh (FIVDB), Helen Keller International, icddr,b, iDE, Rangpur Dinajpur Rural Service (RDRS), Save the Children, and WorldFish.
The consortium is led by Save the Children.