Empowering women with chilli peppers - Oxfam offers a sustainable solution to poverty. #WithOxfam

Everyone has heard that saying that you can give a man a fish and he will eat for a day, but give him the means to catch fish and he will eat every day. But have you heard the one about the woman and chillis?

Oxfam support chilli famers

 Chillis come in many different varieties of course and can be used in so many recipes from so many different cultures. To be honest I've never really stopped to wonder where they come from.

Actually many of them come from Bangladesh, a region frequently hit by natural disasters like floods and cyclones and where many people live in extreme poverty.

Communities on the shifting river islands known as "chars" are particularly vulnerable. Every year in the dry months before the monsoon there is little work and people go hungry. And not just, "ooh I fancy a chocolate bar" hungry but desperately, painfully hungry.

During these months farmers struggle to feed their families and stay free of disease. Crops, cattle and houses might be washed away in the frequent floods. Many women are left to fend for themselves and their families as the men move to the cities to look for labouring work.

Thankfully Oxfam has stepped in to help these people to help themselves.

Oxfam is working with local partners to help farmers, particularly women, to earn an income through growing chillies, so they are better able to deal with problems they face. 

This area in Bangladesh is now famous for producing chillies of the right colour, taste, heat and size for many Bangladeshis across the country.

Chilli farmer in Bangladesh

Oxfam has helped the farmers to form producer groups which pool their resources (such as labour and land), and their chillies. Oxfam is helping these producer groups get special loans from banks to invest in their chilli business. The money is spent on mats to dry the chillies on, or on hiring a water pump to irrigate their land,. The loans are only repayable when the harvest comes in.

Oxfam is also helping the producers to draw up business plans, make group savings so there is money put aside for the hunger periods, and access support from the government, in the form of subsidies for fertiliser or pesticides.

Most significantly, Oxfam has helped to set up a trading relationship between these chilli producers and a large Bangladeshi food processing company, PRAN. 

Let me tell you about Joygun, the chilli farmer. In this week when we celebrate International Women's Day this woman is an inspiration.

Joy gun the Baldgladeshi chilli farmer Oxfam

Joygun is a member of the chilli producer group, and has received training on growing and selling chillies.

Farming chillies have given her confidence and self-belief and her husband recognises the important contribution she makes to the household income.

She is a vice president of the local CBO (community-based organisation), and here she shares her thoughts and ideas on how chilli production and teaching sessions improves life in her village. 

“I’ve been vice president of the CBO for two years and I enjoy it. In the meetings we learn things, like how to grow more chillies or how to make our cows fatter."

“I’ve benefited a lot from growing chillies. I now eat better than I used to before. I wouldn’t be able to eat before but I’m getting good quality food now. I now have some disposable income to spend on things like chicken and fish.” 

Isn't that awesome? She has respect from her family, and as vice president of the CBO I'm guessing she is respected in the village. She has an income which allows her to provide a more varied and better quality diet for her family and she's learning about how to make their farming even more productive and learning good business practice.

Bangladesh Oxfam appeal

She is empowered and the amazing thing is, it doesn't cost a lot of money to help Oxfam share these skills and empower other women.

What a Regular Donation Can Do

£5 can provide 20 Oxfam buckets with a tap to provide fresh water.

£9 can provide a family with manure, organic fertiliser and training in eco-friendly farming techniques.

£24 can provide a family with the tools, seeds and training to set up an allotment, helping them to feed themselves.

Empowering people to help themselves is key to a sustained solution. Women like Joygun can now give their children nutritious food and prepare for future disasters. All for the price of a takeaway containing chillis she may have grown.

OK so a one-off donation is great but to make a real difference why not think about  regular giving?

Why Is Regular Giving Important? Oxfam explains:

"Last year, Oxfam helped 11.8 million people. Donations, from people like you, are vital to our work.
Giving monthly gives allows us to respond in emergencies and stay to help people rebuild their lives. We work on the root causes of poverty too, and that takes time and effort, but it is so worth it!

We all have vital needs, but also hopes and dreams. Oxfam’s work saves lives and helps people to change their lives and build happier, healthier futures."

A regular gift to Oxfam changes lives around the world. By giving a monthly donation you can help transform whole communities, for good. 

Whatever you can give HERE will be gratefully received. Think about women like Joygun and remember that all she wants is the same things we want - a happy, healthy life for her and and family.

Bangladeshi farmer

Disclaimer: I made no charge to write about this appeal for Oxfam.#WithOxfam