Today our group visited programs that generate hope and income for people in southwestern Bangladesh. In Khulna, we observed an avian influenza outbreak management training workshop for local veterinarians and health workers. As you can tell by the picture, one Bangladeshi reporter and I tested a few chickens ourselves and found out that it is as hot as an oven in the protective gear.
The USAID-sponsored training program shows strong U.S. support for the commitment of the local veterinary and scientific communities to prevent outbreaks from devastating the birds of Bangladesh. This technical approach to teaching professionals how to test chickens and control the spread of the virus should continue in light of the significance of the poultry population to food and economic security in this country.
We took a drive through forests of bamboo, coconut, and banana trees and fish and shrimp ponds in Bagerhat to reach a site where we assisted FAO in distributing seeds, rice, and cattle feed to local farmers and livestock owners. It was a moving experience for me. The sheer volume of people waiting in line signified that the distribution was of vital importance to helping them restore their community economically and resume their farming activities after the cyclone. The assistance is generating opportunity as well as sustainability.
Perhaps the most inspiring of all conversations on this trip so far is the one we had with Rheka Rali Dhali. She is a star poultry producer among dozens of female participants in the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development’s livelihood project in Gopalganj. Rheka raises enough chickens to earn more than $500 a month. She started out with a small loan and now employs community members in her homegrown entrepreneurial enterprise. The strength and energy of the women involved in the development of poultry sales and mini hatcheries in her village are the secret behind what looks to be a way to generate long term income. Women are a powerful influence for poverty alleviation in this region.
We head back to Dhaka in the morning and then catch a flight home. I look forward to taking these impressions that I have shared with you back to Rome where our stewardship of U.S. aid to hungry continues during challenging times of rising food and fuel prices.