Deep Roots

How women entrepreneurs are transforming food security in Bangladesh

Agriculture has deep roots for Ratna Biswas.

For generations her family has engaged in agriculture in the Jashore region of Bangladesh where the fertile land is ideal crops. She mostly cultivates rice and an assortment of vegetables, including eggplant, or brinjal as its known in Bangladesh. Her farming support the diet of her family of four, which includes her husband, son, and mother-in-law.

When an opportunity came around to start her own agricultural business, she grasped at the possibility.

“Agriculture has always been at the core of our family’s heritage. For me, starting my own agricultural business was an empowering opportunity I couldn’t let slip away,” Ratna shares with enthusiasm.

Through an initiative from the Feed the Future Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership aiming to catalyze food and economic security in Bangladesh and to support women entrepreneurs in the process, Ratna saw her opportunity. In September 2022 she became one of the first 19 women selected to start her own plant nursery. The project provided the resources to build the nursery and training to make the business a success. And for Ratna, it was the first time the 37-year-old would own the economic benefits from her agricultural endeavors.

Ratna Biswas

Ratna Biswas
Natuapara Jashore Sadar, Jashore

“I am extremely grateful for the constant support I received from the project. It has been the key factor that motivated me and helped me move ahead on my journey,” Ratna expresses with deep appreciation. ‘’It meant that for the first time, at the age of 37, I could earn money from my farming work.’’ 

At her nursery she sells pesticide-free seeds and seedlings of Bt brinjal bioengineered to resist the Eggplant Fruit and Shoot Borer (EFSB) without the need for pesticide. She first learned about Bt brinjal seeds from Upazila agriculture officers who regularly visit her village. Those extension specialists explained the benefits that Bt brinjal offers farmers and consumers.

Bt brinjal is not only a healthier option for the people who grow and eat it, but it’s also better for the environment, Ratna says. Bt brinjal eliminates the need to spray pesticides against the EFSB. That means reduced exposure to chemicals for farmers, and pesticide-free vegetables for those who purchase Bt brinjal.

“I’m proud of what my nursery business has achieved. It has not only helped my family earn money and become financially stable, but it has also made farming and eating healthier,” Ratna says, emphasizing the importance of sustainable agriculture and the positive difference she has made.

Discover more about other women entrepreneurs involved in the Feed the Future Insect-Resistant Eggplant Partnership