Sima is a chairperson of Ghoryan Women Saffron Association. Her association was formed by the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) and received a small grant to help improve their post-harvest processing. The women purchased a saffron drier and learned post-harvest processing, including hygiene, grading, sorting, and packaging. They identified two women trainers to ensure quality control. In 2010, the association doubled saffron production, and the sales price increased by almost 110 percent. From the user fee, the women saved Af 108,700 (approximately US$ 2,100) and plan to buy another drier. “Men now make tea for their wives, when we are busy during the saffron season,” Sima says.
Communities and Human Settlements
Farmers in Bangladesh adapting to increased soil salinity and climate change.
Barguna is at the very southern end of Bangladesh and looks nothing like the rest of the country.
Bangladesh is very green – driving through you can see the luxuriant green rice fields stretching out endlessly, the spread interrupted only by clusters of dark trees surrounding a small village, and sometimes by the yellow patches of mustard fields. But Barguna is not green and vibrant - it has now become drab brown.
Stepping onto the soil of Barguna, one is reminded of a parched desert. The ground is rock-hard, cracked and mostly barren. I was careful, threading lightly - afraid of stepping too hard in case the ground suddenly gave away.
The district wasn’t always this desolate. But devastated by repeated cyclones, erratic weather patterns and saline intrusion along the coast, farmers in these coastal communities have seen their lands yield less and less with the passing years.
Recently, I read a blog post by a young Nepalese delegate that attended the World Bank’s Annual Meetings in Washington and thought (at the time) that he summarized an issue which was at the heart of a majority (if not all) youth in South Asia. In his own words, he says “Let’s be honest. As a youth growing up in Nepal, it is sometimes very hard to get people – and by people I mean seniors in decision-making positions - to take you seriously. It is even more difficult to get them to listen to your ideas or acknowledge you as an important demographic, capable of more than burning tires and picketing politicians”. It made me wonder if this was indeed the case with youth in Sri Lanka.
As far as I know, youth in this country are by no means a ‘push over’. For example, since the defeat of terrorism in May 2009, the youth of this country has stepped up in a noticeable way to try and make a ‘new beginning’. A ‘youth open house’ held at the World Bank premises on 01 September saw the dynamism of a handful of such youth groups engaged in activities that ranged from peace and reconciliation to the promotion of ICT development to urban planning. The fact remains that the youth of this nation are taking matters to their own hands and it’s high time that the Government as well as the development partners ‘STOP’ and ‘LISTEN’ to what the youth of Sri Lanka has to offer!!
I admit when I started the whole idea of setting up a course on resettlement at a local Bangladeshi university I thought it was going to be a long shot in the dark. I had a gigantic portfolio to look after in terms of safeguards support, and that left little time to do anything else. I also it would be difficult to show results quickly and make a convincing argument that this was worth the effort. But stubbornness at times is a key ingredient to achievement, i.e. persistence and resilience.
The course (now known as MLARR – Management of Land Acquisition, Resettlement and Rehabilitation) started out as an effort to train of a cadre of professionals to better manage the social risks associated with land acquisition and resettlement in Bangladesh. Given the population density and land scarcity, resettlement in Bangladesh continues to be a huge challenge for its development, as virtually all infrastructure requires moving people. Supported by AusAID and DFID, The first course was designed and delivered in 2009. That was the beginning, and what I’d like to focus is how far we’ve come from that first shot in the dark:
Let’s be honest. As a youth growing up in Nepal, it is sometimes very hard to get people – and by people I mean seniors in decision-making positions - to take you seriously. It is even more difficult to get them to listen to your ideas or acknowledge you as an important demographic, capable of more than burning tires and picketing politicians.
In the one week I spent in Washington DC, at the World Bank and IMF annual meetings, rushing madly between meetings, presentations, discussion forums and Indian restaurants, I learnt that this deep-rooted attitude is changing. And fast.
Maybe it is the Arab Spring. Maybe it is the realization that without embracing youth into the South Asian market economy, we will have made zero progress in terms of development even ten years down the line. Or maybe, it just makes sense – maybe we are finally realizing the inherent interconnectedness in our world. Realizing that one project from a little village in Nepal is directly linked to the socio-economic structure of our communities, countries and regions.
Sometimes, the smallest of things can make a big difference in the way you think. It may be someone’s laughter, or someone’s tears, someone’s hopes, or someone’s fears. You can’t predict that moment, and that’s the best part about it. It’s the unpredictability that makes that moment better than anything else.
This past week, I’d been really low. Being a fresh graduate applying for higher studies, I was in the ultimate state of confusion and uncertainty that is part and parcel of post-grad life. I was unsure about my opportunities, worried about my future, and impatient about every little thing. Hence, I sought refuge in one of my favourite places in the world – the oncology ward at the Children’s Hospital in Lahore. I’d spent a lot of my time with children suffering from cancer, and they’d always given me inspiration and hope.
When we first discussed the prospects of inviting youth delegates from South Asia to attend the Annual Meetings, I must admit that I was initially ambivalent. However, the launch of More and Better Jobs in South Asia was imminent and it found that the region needs to create over one million new jobs a month over the next two decades to sustain employment for young people. How could we write about prospects for this group without hearing from them? With that in mind, we asked what More and Better Jobs mean to them and received an overwhelming response; over 11,000 application views and hundreds of exceptional applicants.
When the six delegates arrived, I was quickly struck by the intelligence, passion, and honesty that emanated from the group. Additional to the fresh, bold, and articulate ideas on employment themes such as equity, skills, and governance in their essays; they all took initiative for the betterment of their own communities with significant dedication and sacrifices.
Have you ever had the feeling of being overwhelmed because you got more, much, much more than what you were expecting? Well, I hadn’t, till I came for the World Bank and IMF Annual meetings.
Usually, any long, monotonous sessions would lull me to sleep, but somehow, I was wide awake in every session that I attended, despite being jet-lagged and sleep-deprived! Be it the youth capacity building session with the IMF officials, or getting a chance to mingle with the IMF sponsored youth leaders and CSOs, the learning only in the first 5 hours of the meetings was phenomenal. I must confess, my mind was boggled, and I felt a little dizzy, either due to sleep-deprivation or due to the information overload, I can’t truthfully say!
It wasn’t until the second day that things came back to normal. Maybe it was the jet lag wearing off; maybe it was the fact that all the other World Bank youth delegates had gelled in so well, as if we had known each other for ages, but there was something about the place that started feeling like home.
When 150 marriages are solemnized in a day within 60 minutes in the same venue, the challenges are not just with the brides and grooms to stick to their own soul mates, but also to the municipal authorities to keep track and issue marriage certificates in a reasonable time frame. As many Keralites located all over the world chooses Guruvayoor Temple for their marriage, delivering their marriage certificates adds to the troubles of a small municipality with less than 10 staff in the section.
On a recent visit to Kerala as part of the World Bank supported Kerala Local Government Service Delivery Project (KLGSDP), I found that in 2010 September, Guruvayoor Municipality solved the problems with marriage certificates, and opened a window of transparency and efficiency in its service delivery to the general public, through an e-governance platform. Meeting us in his current office in the Attingal Municipality, N Vijayakumar, former Municipal Secretary of Guruvayoor, took us through the journey he and a highly committed team made for bringing an e-revolution in the Municipality.