Fellow Since 1992
Association for Community Development (ACD)
This profile was prepared when Salima Sarwar was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1992.
The New Idea
Property, historically a virtual male monopoly in Bangladesh, can be a powerful liberating force once women begin to utilize it. Recognizing that redistributing agricultural land is unlikely on any significant scale soon, Salima has found a practical, conflict-free, affordable alternative - trees. Women can grow trees inside the village proper without taking anything away from the men. They also may be able to do so along the edges or scattered in the middle of fields in ways that do not hinder crop growth.Once these trees mature, the women who planted and cared for them will benefit as the trees provide a stream of salable products. As soon as a tree matures, moreover, it becomes valuable property, property its owner can use as collateral for loans to plant more trees or to start other ventures.Such new income and capital ownership will subtly strengthen these women's position in their families, making it far more likely that they will be able to express their opinions and participate in decisionmaking.Salima encourages the women to form tree care groups through which they obtain training in this new agroforestry role. She backs these groups up with local area nurseries that, in their initial years, have a local area franchise monopoly. These tree care groups also become bridges to other services like medical and reproductive health care, literacy training, learning problem-solving skills, and group support.As her women clients prosper, naturally so does the local economy and the region's environment.