FAO and the Government of Japan have provided emergency assistance to highly vulnerable Haor wetland communities in Bangladesh affected by the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. The support will contribute to the wider food security of the country by boosting agricultural productivity while safeguarding the health of key agricultural workers against infection from COVID-19. The two Haor districts targeted are the least developed in Bangladesh. Among the thousands of direct beneficiaries, 31 people were provided with street food carts and received food hygiene and safety training.
‘They let me dream’. Father-of-two with disabilities, Momin Mia, life will be transformed by his new street food cart.
After he had a bad accident whilst loading timber on to a truck, Momin Mia survived by selling street food. But he could only afford the most basic and smallest of carts. Many people were worried about catching COVID-19 and business was poor. Momin lived hand-to-mouth, struggling to earn enough to feed his family.
He described his new cart as a ‘dream’ that will be life-changing. He now expects to be able to comfortably earn enough to pay the rent for his home and afford food and new clothes for his family, including his two sons, one of whom is three years old and the youngest one year. His biggest ambitions are to buy some land and educate his sons.
“Receiving this cart is like a dream to me. I never thought that I would receive this big cart,” he said. “This cart will change my life, allowing me to move forward and earn income. Before, I used to sit here and there. But when the UN people and Japanese supported me so that I can sit on this centre place and have this big cart, so much good fortune came into my life.”
Six years ago, Momin Mia had his own timber business, employing a dozen youth apprentices. “I used to cut big trees that were difficult for others. One day my students were loading timber in the truck when I saw that the rope was breaking. They didn’t see it coming. I jumped from the truck to save my three students. I was able to save them, but I was the one who was trapped under the tree and broke my pelvic bone,” he said.
“My students, whom I helped, supported me like a member of their own families. Other timber business colleagues, relatives and friends also helped me a lot during that time. Because of them, I was alive and able to eat.”
Momin Mia, who is from Netrokona, has made a decent recovery but is unable to walk on rough ground and suffers from sleep problems. After the accident he went to India where he learned how to cook street food. When he returned to Bangladesh and bought his first cart, he sold beguni (eggplant fritters) and shrimp, chicken, and egg chops. With his new cart, he plans to sell fuska, chotpoti, and other fried snacks.
“My first dream is to bury my father in my own land. My second dream is to raise my children well. And my last dream is the cart given by the Japan government.
“Now it is very difficult for me to pay the home rent and to provide food for my family. I cannot provide enough food for my parents or sons. If my son asks me for something, I do not have the ability to give that – I can’t even provide food for them.
“So now, with your support, I will do good business from that cart. I will then be able to feed them enough and I dream to buy land and build my own home. As I did not have the opportunity to study, my dream is that I will raise my sons and educate them. They will be successful as human beings when they will grow up.
Momin expressed his gratitude to the Government of Japan and FAO. He said: “I came to know about the UN and Government of Japan. Before that, I only knew about the Government of Bangladesh. If they did not support me, I would have been staying still in the road now. They let me dream.
Hares Mia is another beneficiary. He previously had a basic cart, earning between BDT 500 to 1 000 a day (USD 6 to 12). But with the new cart, he earns between BDT 2 000 and 3 000 (USD 24 to 35) most days, and sometimes as much as BDT 4 000 (USD 47).
Customers much prefer his new cart which is easier to keep clean and offers protection from COVID-19. He said: “It has glass which is attractive to customers, whereas my old cart didn’t. That’s why they come and eat and I can sell more. Before, my cart was open. I could do little business with that cart. After receiving this cart, I am doing good business. I have more customers. I sell more because it looks clean.”
Hares Mia, who is also from Netrokona, has a 14-year-old daughter, plus four grown-up sons who are shopkeepers. He has been working as a street food vendor for 14 years.
He will spend the extra income on his family. “I received the cart from the Japan Government to help me to do my business better. I am a poor man. They helped me and because of this I can do better business, eat good food, and take care my family better.”
Hares Mia said he will save up with his sons to eventually buy some land to grow rice and mustard seed, and build their own house together.
Source : Fao