Small Businesses Help Bangladeshis Rise Out of Poverty

Tarango Rani crafting bamboo baskets with her husband
Tarango Rani crafts bamboo baskets with her husband.
Save the Children
Microenterprise training and loans feed families and build savings
“Not having enough food to eat and the resultant suffering is the main misery and unhappiness for me and my family.”
For families living in Bangladesh, putting enough food on the table can be a daily struggle. Natural disasters, poor health and hygiene services, and high unemployment are just some of the issues facing the 37 million Bangladeshis considered to be food insecure.
As part of a larger, nationwide effort to reduce chronic food insecurity, USAID’s Nobo Jibon, or "New Life," program aims to reduce the food insecurity and vulnerability of 191,000 households in 10 upazilas, or subdistricts, in southern Bangladesh. To increase microenterprise productivity and profitability, the program, implemented by Save the Children, works directly with individuals and groups to strengthen production and marketing skills. 
Village Development Committees (VDCs), comprised of 10-15 community leaders, many of them women, collaborate with government and donor agencies to oversee small community-led initiatives and microenterprises that are both useful and sustainable. Nobo Jibon partners with the VDCs to identify and select candidates for entry into practical small-business trainings. The participants are given the skills and capital they need to start and manage their own small business. 
Tarango Rani  and her husband, Kalu Majhi, are just one of the many food insecure families that struggled to feed their children. For Rani, cooking three meals a day for her family of six was a near impossible task. Her family depended entirely on the income of Majhi, an agricultural laborer, to cover daily expenses.
“Not having enough food to eat and the resultant suffering is the main misery and unhappiness for me and my family,” said Rani. “I want to put an end to it.” 
In April 2012, Nobo Jibon and the VDC of the small village of Purbolaxmipur in southern Bangladesh selected Rani for the small-business training program. She had some skill in bamboo crafting, but not the capital nor the training to start her own business. Nobo Jibon provided Rani with about $30 (2,400 takas) as start-up capital to begin her bamboo-crafting business. This capital helped her cover the cost for basic materials such as a saw, an axe, a knife and multiple pieces of bamboo as well as trainings in conducting cost benefit analyses and bamboo craft design. 
She used this initial capital to weave assorted bamboo products including baskets, fish traps, fans and jars. Her first round of sales earned her about $70 (5,400 takas) over one month. The profit from her sales was enough to expand Rani's business for another round of production. Today, her business proceeds enable her to purchase nearly four times the original amount of bamboo material, with weekly profits at $26-$32 (2,000-2,500 takas). Her business growth has even linked her with two local traders who place advanced orders for various products. 
Since starting her business, Rani has saved a portion of her profits and invested them for the future of her family. She has been able to repair her home and start a milk business by purchasing a cow.  
Nobo Jibon, which runs from 2010-2015, works with more than 1,156 VDCs in Bangladesh to identify and provide individuals like Rani with the basic assets needed to start a business and escape poverty.
Grateful for the new life that Nobo Jibon has given her, Rani's future plans include building a shed for warehousing, construction of a brick home for her family and, perhaps most important, funding for her children's education. “I am now able to provide meals to all, and I started creating assets for the future,” she says smiling.