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LIFE AND LIVELIHOOD REALITIES OF RURAL

BANGLADESH

The village I visited was where my maternal grandparents and my forefathers once lived;
Garuikhali. The world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans at close quarters, Garuikhali Village
is located in the Garuikhali Union, Paikgacha Upazilla of Khulna District. The countrys notable
rivers, Shipsha and Minaj rivers are located within this village. The village is around 150
kilometers from Khulna City, a 3 hour drive, which can also be reached through launch or
motorbike. The village has an average population of around four to five thousand people with
mainly Muslim majority population. But the region is also a Hindu belt, thus a large Hindu
population resides in the area as well.
The last time I visited the village, I was just a small girl; about 10 years ago. A lot has changed
in the village since then. Economic, cultural, social, technological and political infrastructures of
the village have changed conspicuously in the last decade. After interviewing people from
different walks of life and from different social class, information about the life and livelihood of
the villagers has been gathered.
Livelihood: The lives of the people of the village have become much solvent today, than before.
The main income sources of the people are gher business, wood cutting in the Sundarbans, Gol
pata collection, paddy cultivation etc. Poverty has been more or less eradicated from the village.
Although, there still remains a few poor families.
Infrastructure: In terms of infrastructure the village has developed a lot. 15 years ago the
village did not have paka roads or buildings. Now the villagers claim that they travel on carpet
likeroads.
Besides, a new road is also being constructed within the village for peoples convenience.
This road is also a reason for employment of many day-laborers. Besides, now a lot more
pakka houses and office buildings can be seen within the village.

Businesses: Even 15 years ago the main livelihood or business of the people was rice/paddy
cultivation. But in the last 15 years this trend has shifted and given place to shrimp(baghda, galda
chingri) or fish cultivation or gher business. Currently both paddy and gher businesses are
prevalent within the village. Now new fertilizers and more efficient technology are used for
fish/shrimp-cultivation.
But many gher businessmen are not happy with their businesses today. They claim, now more
money has to be spent on gher than before. Before, no extra food was required for fish
cultivation. But due to variety of reasons today extra and artificial fish feed need to be used.
Besides fish cultivators and business men are now incurring losses in their business. Due to
spread of virus and unfriendly climate the fish/shrimps are dying, resulting in low yield.
Education: The present generation parents are very aware about sending their children to school.
Most of the families coming from all walks of life send their children to school irrespective of
gender. Ever since the government introduced scholarship in different levels, the number of
students attending schools and colleges also increased. Ironically enough, the number of girls
attending school is higher. Roughly 10% more female students attend school.
The village has two primary schools and a few schools of other levels. A teacher of Garuikhali
Alamchali Govt. School says that in her school this year there are 23 girls and 15 boys as S.S.C.
candidates. There is also a Degree College known as Shahid and Musa School Memorial Degree
College. This college has around 150 students graduating each year.
Around 60% of the students move on to acquire higher education. Among these students
majority migrate outside to Khulna and sometimes to Dhaka even.
NGO: NGOs have played a huge role in the development of the village in the last few years.
The NGOs currently active in the village are Prodipon, Grameen Bank, Brac and Asha. These
NGOs mainly work on solar power projects, bio-stove, micro credit and poverty alleviation
projects. Prodipon aids impoverished children, mainly child labors, school dropouts etc and help
them with education through community schooling. This community school has been in vogue
from 3 years back. Besides it also has a project which provides food, fishing equipment, cattle
for farming etc to improve their lives. They have also helped needy students with textbooks.
Thus in recent times the projects undertaken by NGOs have greatly changed peoples lives and
helped in removing poverty.
Power Generation: The entire village does not have any government provided electricity. Since
many years, the village has run on electricity provided by private generators. But recently with

the NGOs initiative solar electricity is produced using solar panels. This has, to some extent,
reduced the electricity crisis in the region.
Healthcare: Unfortunately, there is only one hospital in the entire region and not a single MBBS
doctor. Thus in terms of healthcare the villagers are still deprived. In case of serious medical
problems patients are taken to Paikgacha hospital for treatment. So, healthcare system has not
improved in the village.
Women Empowerment: Women empowerment is also a radical change that has taken place in
the village over time. Women now are more self-dependent than before. Many of them earn their
living through agricultural work. Besides, many also earn through handicrafts and doing sewing
or other arts and crafts. But as far as empowering is concerned the most phenomenal change has
come in education sector. Previously women in the family were not sent to school. Now female
dropouts are even decreasing. In elections now, male female both equally participate in voting.
Politics, Culture and Religion: The people of the village are very peaceful. Here, Hindus and
Muslims live very harmoniously. There is no religious hostility or extremism in the village.
During religious festivals such as Pooja, Eid etc people of all religions participate together and
help each other out. This harmony has not changed over the years.
When it comes to politics, as the region is a Hindu belt, since Independence the people are more
inclined towards Bangladesh Awami League. Apart from political leaders the big landlords
holding hundreds of bighas of land have good influence and are well respected in the village.
Also since Independence, patriotism among people has also remained intact.
Problems in the village: Despite so much development, there are still many unresolved
problems in the village which scar the daily lives of the villagers.

Water; what is sad but true is that for a village holding five thousand people there are

only two sweet water drinking pools from which the people can collect drinking water.
Besides this people also collect rain water for drinking. Very deep wells are required to
pull up water which is not contaminated by iron or arsenic. But such provisions are not
being undertaken by the government. But the NGOs are undertaking a program to
convert salt water to sweet water. One lady quoted in times of drought only God knows
what will happen to us
The village is very much vulnerable and intolerable to flood. In rainy season the river
Shipsha over flows and drowns the whole village. Yet no proper dams have been
constructed to prevent the losses of flood.

As there are no industries in the village, self employment if usually the only option for
the villagers. There are only a handful of jobs in the NGOs and schools. Industrialisation
is very important for rapid development of any area.

The socio-cultural scenario of Garuikhali village reflects a peaceful rustic image. Over the years
the livelihood, resources and mobility of the village have changed and modernized. More than
government, the people themselves have thrived to change their lives through education and
change of livelihood. Besides during the time spent in the village the simplicity, not only in the
lives, but also in the nature and behavior of the people of the village was very easily understood.
Many educated and well qualified villagers have chosen to spend their lives in the village instead
of moving to the cities. And these people along with the common farmers and logggers have
together brought about socio-economic development in the village.