Feature Story | 7-Mar-2024

Women eggplant entrepreneurs target food insecurity in Bangladesh

Cornell University

ITHACA, N.Y. –  An initiative by the Feed the Future Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership (IREP) is pioneering plant nurseries as a catalytic resource for food and economic security in Bangladesh, which is in turn supporting women entrepreneurs. Farmers rely on nurseries to build flexibility into their cropping seasonal planning and deal with unpredictable rains. The nurseries are part of an IREP effort to increase access to Bt eggplant, a USAID-supported biotechnology crop that improves the health and socio-economic well-being of farmers and protects the environment.

The plant nursery program is laying a pathway for improved social status of women and increased control over resources, said Maricelis Acevedo, IREP director and research professor in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences.

“Women-led nurseries have demonstrated that income-generating activities can have a ripple effect in accelerating gender equality, enhancing women's capabilities and enabling them to make informed choices regarding their personal, social and financial well-being,” Acevedo said.

IREP established the first 19 nurseries in late 2022, with project specialists offering training in crop loss mitigation, marketing strategies, efficient nursery management, and gender to ensure greater women participation.

The experience of the women in the program demonstrates what country-level data has consistently shown: Empowered women lift their families and communities. Individually, women who have control of their own money reinvest more into household nutrition, health and education than men do. Collectively, women are key to solving hunger: when allowed equal access to land and other inputs, their agricultural yields can increase by 20-30% – the equivalent of feeding up to 150 million more people globally, according to a United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization report.

“Advancing gender equality and women’s empowerment is leading to transformations in global food systems,” Acevedo said. “The women taking the lead now in Bangladesh are creating a future where secure, sustainable and equitable food systems are the norm.”

For additional information and an example of the impact this program had on one participant, see this Cornell Chronicle story.

Cornell University has dedicated television and audio studios available for media interviews.


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