I hadn’t really thought about how many chilli products I had in the kitchen until I started to write today and took a quick look. There is Mr Vikkis chilli jam, chilli powder, chilli flakes, a chilli, garlic and salt grinder, hot sauce, chilli in my curry paste and even a chilli chocolate in with my easter egg (I may be the only person in the world not to like chilli chocolate so I will give that to my hubby). Chillis are so ubiquitous that I’ve never given much thought to where they come from until Oxfam got in touch about the work they are doing to improve the lives of women and their families in Bangladesh.
Nestled between Burma and India, Bangladesh is a low lying country with a patchwork of rivers across the southern end which lead out into the Bay of Bengal. With so many rivers, the country is extremely vulnerable to flooding during the rainy season which regularly washes away crops and livestock. With men working away in order to earn money, it is often left to the women to farm the land and+ deal with the cycle of low employment opportunities and hunger during dry months and lost assets and disease during the rainy season.
Oxfam has engaged with farmers, mainly women who live on the rivers in the poorest regions; and, working with local partners, has been helping to change lives with chillis. They have worked with these farmers to form trading groups. These groups pool their resources meaning that they can share labour and equipment, and Oxfam is helping them with business plans and loans. Most significantly they have set up a trading agreement with a major food processing company, meaning that there is a secure market for their chilli crops.
Joygun Islam is a chilli farmer who has been supported by the Oxfam project and is now vice president of the local community based organisation (CBO).
We mostly eat dried food, and we try to save some rice if we know the flood is coming. Sometimes we have two meals a day, but some days we only have one meal.
I’ve benefited a lot from growing chillies. 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.
It’s all definite food for thought, and I for one will no longer take it for granted when I am reaching for the chillis to make my dinner. And I will certainly not let chills wither in the bottom of the fridge like a throw-away commodity. It’s also worth remember that when you support Oxfam, be it through monetary donations, taking your old stuff to their shops like I do or, buying from their stores or website, you are helping women like Joygun to put food on the table and giving them hope for the future.