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Participation of char women in Income Generating Activities (IGAs) for maintaining sustainable livelihood in Bangladesh.

Short title: Participation of Char Women in IGAs


For the correct understanding of the reader, it is necessary to include the following definitions:

Char: Char is a tract of land surrounded by waters of an ocean, sea, lake or stream or pieces of land resulting from the accretion of silt in river channels. Chars are the areas of new lands formed through the continual process of erosion and deposition in the major rivers and coastal areas of Bangladesh. In Bangladesh, there are two different types of chars; islands chars and attached chars. Island chars, which are surrounded by water year round and can be reached from the main land by crossing a main channel. Attached chars, which are connected to the mainland and accessible without crossing a main channel during the dry season, yet is inundated or surrounded by water during the peak of a normal flood (normal monsoon). The islands chars are found to be flooded more extensively than attached chars. In Bangladesh, 5% to 7% of total population lives in char areas.

Char women: The women who lived in char areas are called char women.

Income generating activities (IGAs): Income generating activities refers to those activities through which a women earn directly by producing, making and selling the products.

Sustainable livelihood: Sustainable Livelihood is one that can be carried on now and in the future without depleting the resources it depends on and without depriving other people of a livelihood.

1. Introduction

Women are playing pivotal roles to make their livelihoods sustainable in Bangladesh. They are working for providing not only family's own consumption but also their other requirements. Women's role as the principle labour force has the prime importance for the resource poor household to survive. Rural women of Bangladesh are employed in a broad range of agricultural activities such as post harvest operation, kitchen gardening, caring animals, raising poultry, rice husking etc (Jaim and Rahman, 1988). Samantha (2005) stated that the contribution of rural women in agriculture and homestead was huge both quantitatively and qualitatively. Without this on average rural women spend 40.4% and 15.4% time in home and farm related activities respectively. Although day to day life of rural women had been full of hardship, deprivation and struggle to survive. Women supplement family income by undertaking different income generating activities (Rahman, 1996). They earn money by working in different small-scale industries such as cottage industry, food-processing industry, tobacco industry etc. They involve in different income generating activities like sewing dress, making baskets, papers, flower bases, rearing of poultry, livestock, bee, mushroom production etc. They also involve in different small-scale business like selling fertilizer, seed and packaging products. Women in some areas are also involved in processing jute for the market (Abdullah and Zeidenstein, 1982). Women work as wage earners in different domestic services and crop processing activities. Landless females are more involved with agricultural activities for earning direct income (Ahsan, 1986). Women in Bangladesh have diversified roles in fisheries, with substantial participation in small-scale fisheries. In some NGO and government programme, women from landless households cultivate fish individually or jointly in leased ponds, either or near the homestead (Jahan, 1990). Women in south-eastern part of Bangladesh are found engaged in making and repairing nets, collection of prawn seeds or fish seeds from brackish waters to supply fish farmers; work as labour force in shrimp processing firms; dry and salt fish. The majority of the employees in shrimp processing plants in Chittagong and Khulna are women. Women are also predominately involved in net marketing, the main income generating occupation in many families and fresh water fish farming (FAO, 1996). Women's role becomes limited and undermined because of their less access to social capital. Social capital is the most intimately connected to transforming structure and process. Social institutions, organizations, policies and legislation hinder women roles in development activities. One reason for this is that much of what women do is labeled as 'domestic', which is probably of lower status and less visible to the causal (male) observer. A second reason is that very few women are involved in decision making, different services, technical development and formal research.

Agriculture policies on the whole still do not address the needs of women farmers adequately. While the roles and needs of women farmers are recognized in policy, this tends not to be adequately translated into practice in agricultural development. Some of the major causes of women's unequal participation in education are their lack of time due to less availability of educational structures, drudgery in the household activities, less value placed by customs, traditions and attitudes on their education, cycle of poverty etc. In the context of Bangladesh women are performing different kinds of role in different sector which is shown in Table 1.

Keeping the above discussion, the present study has been undertaken with the following objectives: i) to determine the participation of char women in income generating activities for a sustainable livelihood, and ii) to determine the characteristics of char women and explore the relationship between the extent of participation in income generating activities for sustainable livelihood by char women and their selected characteristics.

2. Methodology

2.1. Locale of the study

Two upazila (administrative unit), namely Islampur and Dewanganj, were selected randomly from Jamalpur district in Bangladesh for the study. From each of the two upazilas, one union namely Belgacha of Islampur upazila and Chukaibari union of Dewanganj upazila were purposively selected for the study. Because these two unions fully consider as char area relatively than others. Village Munniar char and Ghunapara from Belgacha union of Islampur upazila, village Halkerchar and Balugram from Chukaibari union of Dewanganj upazila were randomly selected. The geographical location of Islampur upazila is at 25[degrees]00' to 25[degrees]10' north latitude and 89[degrees]40' to 89[degrees]52' east longitude and the geographical location of Dewanganj upazila is at 25[degrees]10' to 25[degrees]26' north latitude and 89[degrees]40' to 89[degrees]48' east longitude. A map of Jamalpur district with study area in Islampur and Dewanganj upazilas has been presented in Figure 1, 2 and 3 respectively.

2.2. Population and sample of the study

The total number of housewives of the households of four villages namely Munniar char, Ghunapara, Halkerchar and Balugram was the population. A total of 10% women of this population were randomly selected as sample by using simple random sampling method. Thus, the total sample size was 200.

2.3. Measurement of dependent variable

The dependent variable of this study was the participation in IGA for sustainable livelihood by the char woman. It was measured by computing an 'IGA score' on the basis of her extent of participation in selected IGAs related to char livelihoods. For computing this variable, five (5) major aspects of IGAs were selected these were: crop production (planting, weeding, fertilization, irrigation, harvesting, carrying, winnowing, cleaning, threshing, drying etc.), vegetables production (pit/heap preparation, sowing/planting, fencing, mulching, irrigation, harvesting, marketing etc.) livestock production (poultry, sheep, goat, cattle etc. rearing), fish culture (feed, net preparation etc.) and other non-agricultural activities (handicraft, tailoring, small business, selling labour etc.). Under each of the aspects, four specific activities were selected. For each of the specific activities a respondent was asked to indicate what extent she participated along a 4point scale. These were 'always', 'sometime' 'rarely' and not at all'. Zero was assigned for not at all participation, 1 for rarely participation, 2 for sometimes participation and 3 for always participation for activity. Thus, the participation in IGA score of a char woman was calculated by summing together her participation for all the 20 activities. The participation in IGA score of the char women could range from 0 to 60, where zero indicated no participation and 60 indicated very high participation in different IGAs.

2.4. Measurement of independent variable

The independent variables such as age, education, family size and farm size were measured by using the measuring units of year, year of schooling, number of members and hectare respectively. The annual income was measured on the basis of total earning annually by all the members of the family and expressed in Taka. In order to know the level of knowledge of a respondent for each of the six technical aspects as variety and its attributes; time of transplanting and spacing; fertilizer management; weeding and irrigation; plant protection measures; and environment and ecology. A total number of 36 (6x6) questions for the above mentioned six technical aspects with six level of cognitive behaviour were furnished in the questionnaire to represent the knowledge on vegetable cultivation. The total credit for the 36 questions was 60. Full score was given to a respondent for correct answer and zero for wrong answer. For partially correct answer proportionate/ partial score was given on the basis of degree of correctness of answers. In calculating the social participation score two dimensions namely, extent of participation and nature of participation in social activities were considered. Scoring for extent of participation was '0' for not at all participation, '1' for low participation, '2' for moderate participation and '3' for regular participation. The scoring for nature of participation was '1' for indirect participation and '2' for direct participation. The social participation score was computed for each of the social activities by multiplying the score obtained from extent of participation with its corresponding scores from nature of participation. The scores for all the items were added together to have the total score of social participation of a char woman. Organizational participation, innovativeness, cosmopoliteness and extension media contact were measured by as usual methods which are exiting in social science.

3. Results and discussion

3.1. Participation in income generating activities

The traditional gender relations with women's involvement in post-harvest work and men's in fieldwork have not remained static over time. Presently, due to extreme poverty and a food crisis, social norms and traditions are changing and women are appearing in the field as well different kind of activities related to agriculture and non-agriculture for earning money (Shirin, 1995). But, male are always dominant for taking decision and expenditure for domestic activities. So, women have no choice and control over their income. From the study it has been observed that majority (39.36%) of the char women were involved in homestead vegetables production, secondly, 31.17 percent char women were involved in livestock production, thirdly, 19.71 percent char women were involved in crop production activities, 7.99 percent char women were involved in different non agriculture related activities (others) and few (2.34%) respondents were involved in fish culture to earn more income. The involvement of the char women in different IGAs are presented in Figure 4.

In char area, it was found that the participation of women in vegetables (39.36%) and livestock production (31.17%) was comparatively higher. Women are the custodians of homestead activities. Women dominate home garden production thus improving the variety and quality of the family diet. They are closely involved with homestead area for vegetable cultivation and livestock rearing. Airun (1992) in her study identified women's contribution more than male in homestead farming. Beside household activities they spent time for increasing income through above activities for their families. There is less feasibility for fish culture in char area because it is not possible to dig the pond due to sandy soil and women have no access into deep river for fish collection in night time. Only women are involved to prepare fish collection net but male are in some extent for catching fish from the river and marketing. This is why char women are less involved in fish cultivation.

The participation in IGAs scores of the char women ranged from 0 to 24 against the possible range of 0 to 60. The mean and coefficient of variation were 12.15 and 37.28%, respectively. Based on their participation in IGAs scores, the char women were classified into three categories: 'low participation' (0-20); 'medium participation' (21-40) and 'high participation' (41-60). The percentage distribution of the char women are shown in Table 2.

The majority (95.5%) of the respondents in the study area had low participation of IGAs compared to 4.5% having medium participation and nobody of the respondents had high participation in IGAs. Char women are living with flood, overflow, cyclone, soil erosion, etc. Always they try to survive against these adverse situations. Beside these situations, they are also marginal farmers (average farm size is 0.09 ha, Table 3), no training experience, more than ninety percent have low extension contact (Table, 3) and no credit facility due to adverse geographical conditions. This is why, low participation is highest proportion in IGA in the study area. Rahman (1996) reported that a direct consequence is their lack of access to credit, social and religious norms and illiteracy are the main hindrances of women's participation in development efforts. Sulaiman et al. (2005) reported that opportunity of sources of credit, skill for establishing enterprises etc. should be improved for increasing participation in IGAs by women. Islam (2002) performed a study on poverty alleviation of the rural women through some of the selected activities of Grameen Bank in Bangladesh. He found that there was a highly significant positive relationship between participation in income generating activities (IGAs) of the beneficiaries of Grameen Bank and their living status.

3.2. Selected characteristics of the char women

The selected characteristics of the char women in the study area are described in this section and a summary profile of these characteristics are presented in the Table 3, which indicate that the half proportion (50.0%) of the women were middle-aged (36-50 years) categories then young categories (48.5%). As regards level of education, slightly less than half proportion (48.0%) of the char women able to sign their name only compared to 18 percent with primary level of education and 8.5 percent with secondary level of education. More than half (54.0%) of the char women had small family size (uto 4) compared to 35.5 percent having medium (5-6) and only 10.5 percent having large family (above 7) of them medium farmers. Majority (57.5%) of the char women belonged to marginal farmer while one-third (33%) of them were landless. Majority (98.5%) of the respondents of char area belonged to low to medium income categories. It was found that, similar proportion (35.5%) of char women had low and medium social participation in various social events and activities. More than half (50.1%) of char women had low agricultural knowledge compared to 47.5 percent having medium and very poor proportion (2%) having high agricultural knowledge on various aspects of agriculture. More than three-fifths (62%) of the char women had low organizational participation compared to 20 percent of them having no organizational participation, 17.5 percent having medium organizational participation and negligible proportion 0.5 percent having high organizational participation. Majority (85%) of the char women had no innovativeness while 5% of the char women were very low innovativeness and 10% char women had low innovativeness. A large proportion (98.5%) of char women had low cosmopoliteness. Majority (95.5%) of the char women having low media contact compared to 4.5% having medium extension contact and nobody had high media contact with various extension media.

3.3. Relationship between the selected characteristics of char women and extent their participation in IGA for sustainable livelihood

The summary of the results as correlation coefficient for the relationships between the selected characteristics of the respondent char women and extent their participation in IGA for sustainable livelihood is shown in the Table 4.

The findings revealed that social participation, agricultural knowledge, organizational participation, innovativeness, cosmopoliteness, and extension contact of char women were found positively correlated with their extent of participation in IGAs for sustainable livelihood. Social participation had significant contribution to 'participation in IGAs for sustainable livelihood' of char women. It means that a person having more social participation would perform better role in strengthening her livelihoods. Social participation is an important event where women can share information with each other. Through agricultural knowledge an individual char becomes aware of the recent information on various aspects of modern cultivation. This means that high agricultural knowledge level among char women might have influence for the high participation in IGAs for sustainable livelihood. More social participation could create coordination capability and capacity to adopt improved technology. Respondents can increase sharing, of information, views, opinion and knowledge through organizational participation. It is also related to the change of the farmer's behaviour. To become innovative the women must know her cause and effect relationship of the innovation and so on. The women of high innovativeness had the tendency for increasing their extent of participation in IGAs for sustainable livelihood. Individuals who are cosmopolite frequently come in contact with new people, new things and new ideas. Cosmopoliteness thus can change the mental up of the people and make them more participation in IGAs. IT also related to the change of the respondent behaviour. The women with high cosmopoliteness always possess a positive outlook to involve in IGAs for increasing their living condition. Extension contact is more important for the spread of the knowledge or other things which is favourable for participation in IGAs. Five characteristics of the char women like age, education, family size, farm size annual income showed no relationship with their participation in IGAs for sustainable livelihood

4. Conclusions

From the preceding discussion, it appears that the level of participation in IGAs is not satisfactory level, which is not enough to improve the present status of livelihoods. Involvement of women in vegetables and livestock production proportionally highest compared to others IGAs to reduce the level of poverty, increasing economic solvency. There is more scope to involve in others IGA. Socio economic characteristics of char women are not also acceptable level. Most of cases they are in very below standard. The findings revealed that social participation, agricultural knowledge, organizational participation, innovativeness, cosmopoliteness and extension contact of char women were found positively correlated with their extent of participation in IGAs for sustainable livelihood. Considering these factors, government officials should come forward to launch various income-generating activities for char women for increasing their living condition. Naturally char areas are disaster prone area. Every year different kinds of climatic hazards occur in this area and the char people become vulnerable in every year. Fighting with the flood and river erosion is a common phenomenon in char area. In this view, with the available resources the GO and NGOs are providing support and services for increasing the participation of char women into all kinds of IGAs to improve their sustainable livelihood status.




DOI: 10.5261/2011.GEN3.01

Received: 17 April 2011

Accepted: 08 June 2011


The author is grateful to Dr. Abul Kashem and Dr. Zulfikar Rahman, Professor of Agricultural Extension Education, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh.


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Airun, S.Q., 1992. An Economic Analysis of Women's Work in Homestead Farming in a Selected Area of Bangladesh. M.Sc. Thesis, Dept. of Agricultural Economics, Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensingh, Bangladesh.

Ahsan, R.M., 1986. Proceeding of the workshop on Women in Agriculture. Comilla: Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development, 24-25 March.

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ESCAPE, 1995. Women of Bangladesh: A Country Profile, United Nations, New York. In: Anonymous.1983. Women in Agriculture; Gender Issue in South Asian Countries. Dhaka: SAIC.

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Al-Amin, S. (1), Rahman, M.M. (2) *, Miah, M.A.M. (3)

(1) Senior Programme Officer, Gono Kollayan Trust, Shamolli, Dhaka, Bangladesh

(2) Associate Professor, Department of Agronomy and Agricultural Extension, University of Rajshahi, Rajshahi-6205, Bangladesh

(3) Professor, Department Agricultural Extension Education Bangladesh Agricultural University, Mymensing-2202, Bangladesh.

* Corresponding author:
Table 1. Role performances of women in different sectors of development

Sl.    Role performed by the women in   % involvement of women in
No.    different sectors                    different activities

1      Share in the total economy                    39
2      Share of earned income                       23.1

3      Total employment in                65 (both men and women)
       agriculture and related
       industrial activities

4      Involvement in agricultural                  71.5
       and industrial activities

5      Unpaid family workers but                    45.6
       employed in agriculture

6      Engaged in manufacturing                     21.6

7      Engaged in food, beverage and                 64
       tobacco industries

8      Total labour force                            65

Source: BBS (1995), ESCAP (1995)

Table 2. Distribution of char women according to
their participation in IGA

Categories of the        Respondents      Range   Mean     CV
char women             Number   Percent                    (%)

Low participation       191      95.5
Medium participation     9        4.5     0-24    12.15   37.28
High participation       0         0

Table 3. Women's characteristics profile

Characteristics   Measuring unit   Possible    Computed    Categories

Age                    Year           --        18-55        Middle

Education             Scores                   0.00-10     Signature

Family size           Number          --         2-8         Medium

Farm size            Hectares                   0-2.90      Marginal

Annual income     Thousand Taka       --      5.5-100.37     Medium

Social                Scores         0-36        1-19        Medium

Agricultural                                                  Low
                      Scores        0-100%      20.56        Medium

Organizational        Scores                     0-6          Low
                                      --                     Medium

Innovativeness        Scores         0-50        0-5        Very low

Cosmopoliteness       Scores         0-32        0-11         Low

Extension             Scores         0-64        2-33        Medium
contact                                                       High

Characteristics   Number   Percent   Mean     (%)

                    97      48.5
Age                100      50.0     37.1    21.34
                    3        1.5

                    51      25.5
Education           96      48.0     1.415   164.5
                    36      18.0
                    17       8.5

                   108      54.0
Family size         71      35.5     4.50    32.78
                    21      10.5

                    66      33.0
Farm size          115      57.5     0.09    251.1
                    18       9.0
                    1       0.50

                    84      42.0
Annual income      113      56.5     30.52   48.78
                    3        1.5

                    71      35.5
Social              71      35.5     6.09    54.96
                    58      29.0

Agricultural       101      50.1
                    95      47.5     35.67   16.48
                    4         2

                    40      20.0
Organizational     124      62.0     1.31    78.93
                    35      17.5
                    1        0.5

                   170      85.0
Innovativeness      10       5.0     0.54     257
                    20      10.0

                    2         1
Cosmopoliteness    197      98.5     2.43    66.25
                    1        0.5

                   191      95.5
Extension           9        4.5     13.4    33.13
contact             0         0

Table 4. Coefficient of correlation between the selected
characteristics of respondent char women and extent their
participation in IGA for sustainable livelihood

                                                        Table value of
Dependent          Independent variable     Computed    'r' at 198 df
variable                                    'r' value   0.05    0.01

Participation in   Age                       0.127 NS
IGAs for           Education                -0.009 NS
sustainable        Family size               0.098 NS
livelihood         Farm size                 0.055 NS
                   Annual income             0.007 NS
                   Social participation      0.417 **   0.138   0.182
                   Agricultural knowledge    0.212 **
                   Organizational            0.279 **
                   Innovativeness            0.311 **
                   Cosmopoliteness           0.241 **
                   Extension contact         0.180 *

Figure 4. Participation of women in different income
generating activities

Participation in       % of involvement
income generating

Crop production              19.71
Vegetable production         39.36
Livestock production         31.17
Fish culture                  2.34
Others                        7.99

Note: Table made from bar graph.
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Author:Al-Amin, S.; Rahman, M.M.; Miah, M.A.M.
Publication:Spanish Journal of Rural Development
Date:Jul 1, 2011
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