Wetenschap - 28 maart 1996

Foundation

Foundation

Staff members of the Grameen Krishi Foundation (GKF) in Bangladesh wondered what was so special about the programme for women in irrigation, since women participate in the same activities as men! Making people of aware of this was precisely the main objective of my work," says Eva Jordans.

Wednesday March 20 Jordans gave a lecture at the Department of Gender Studies in Agriculture about her work with GKF. Grameen means from the village and krishi is the word for agriculture. The Foundation, established in 1991, grew out of the work of the famous Grameen Bank. The Grameen Bank was started in the mid 1970's as a piece of action research carried out by economics professor Muhammad Yunus. The bank provides loans to the poorest in Bangladesh: people unable to provide collateral, such as the landless and farmers with less than half an acre of land. The rate of repayment is about 95%, which is high, especially when compared with the average repayment rate of commercial banks, which is only about 30%. One explanation is that, although individuals apply for loans, they have to be organised in small groups. All members are collectively responsible for repayment of each other's loans.

Ninety five percent of the bank's clients are women. Research showed that money entering a household through a female member brought more benefits to the household than money entering the household through a man. At present the bank's services reach about half of the villages in Bangladesh, in total some 1.6 million clients.

In the course of time it was decided to expand and diversify the bank's activities and the result was the Grameen Krishi Foundation. Jordans explains that GKF focuses on agriculture, providing loans to groups of farmers owning between 0.5 and 3 acres of land. Deep tubewells are also managed by GKF, providing irrigation to the farmers. Jordans work with GKF was twofold. She was involved in the implementation of irrigation activities, and also looked at the participation of women in irrigation practices. Although irrigation practices are traditionally regarded, by both men and women, as a male activity, her research shows that 39% of the actual irrigation work is done by women. In the Foundation's programmes on irrigation, women are not seen as a separate category, but are rightfully approached as farmers," concludes Jordans.

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