Nothing can stop rising star Mollika Biswas, an award-winning farmer. The 17-year-old lives with her parents and her older brother in a small village in the Satkhira region of Bangladesh. Two years ago, Mollika embarked on a health and nutrition journey with Helen Keller Intl. Now, she’s winning competitions for her nutrition work.
Mollika, like many students in grade ten, spends her time studying and helping her mother – her idol – with housework, gardening, and poultry rearing. She also hangs out with friends and has good relationships with her neighbors.
An opportunity to improve their future
Mollika and her family worked hard in their garden. They grew a limited selection of traditionally cultivated vegetables, though which crops they planted each year was a bit random. This led to harvests with low yields and less usable vegetables.
When Mollika learned about Helen Keller’s adolescent health and nutrition opportunity, she saw an opportunity to improve her family’s harvest and health. Mollika learned about vegetable farming to improve the quality and quantity of crops and improved poultry care. After the training, she taught her family how to use the land in their garden best. This helped her and her family use their land better by diversifying crops to create bountiful year-round harvests.
“With the help of Helen Keller Intl, we grow vegetables throughout the year using the sack bag method and saline-tolerant varieties,” explained Mollika. “Mother and I work in the garden, and father and brother help in the garden as well as selling the production. We have earned USD 250 through the sale of vegetables from our garden and our poultry within the last three months.”
We have earned USD 250 through the sale of vegetables from our garden and our poultry within the last three months.Mollika Biswas
Mollika’s chickens are producing more too. Helen Keller helped Mollika improve the health, happiness, and yield of her chickens, by switching from a closed shed to a more open one with better ventilation and light, keeping the chickens healthy and free from disease. “Initially, we have hatched poultry in a traditional hatching, explained Mollika, “but after using the improved hatching pot, our hatching rate increased a lot — about 15 out of 16 eggs!” With all these methods, the family is able to produce and access more nutritious foods.
Empowering Mollika to lead
Mollika’s willingness to help others stood out when Helen Keller was looking for students to lead this work with other members of the community. She was elected as a Peer Leader Demonstration Farm farmer. She received additional training, including monthly sessions on food and nutrition, menstruation management, sexual and reproductive health, and the consequences of early marriage. Armed with this knowledge, Mollika shares what she learned with friends, family, and her community.
She talks to her community about preparing farms for vegetables and rotating crops to ensure the quality of the land — an agricultural practice called “fallow.” She said, “now, we know how to prepare the bed, use fallow land, and produce year-round diversified vegetables by using less land.”
Mollika: The Award-Winning Farmer
Recognizing her efforts and knowledge in farming, Helen Keller helped Mollika participate in the 2022 International Nutrition Olympiad in Dhaka, an annual competition that brings youth and adolescents together to improve their awareness, knowledge, and skills about nutrition. After becoming a finalist in the Nutri Garden event, she later won the competition and was declared the Champion.
Mollika said, “it is very encouraging to me to win such a competition. I had the confidence to win an award, but I never thought I would win this competition as a Champion.” When asked how she felt after being titled an award-winning farmer she shared, “I am very happy and feel proud to win this award. I am looking forward and confident to compete in other big competitions.” This is just Mollika’s first win of many more in her future.
After the win, Mollika’s community valued her opinion much more. She has become an ambassador of homestead food production by sharing her expertise and knowledge. Now more people in her community are learning about consuming nutritious vegetables.
Realizing her true potential
Mollika has no intentions of taking a break. She already has big plans: “in the future, I want to be an entrepreneur of a small-scale agricultural firm to produce nutritious, safe food.”
Creating opportunities for children and families is a cornerstone of Helen Keller Intl. by ensuring young leaders like Mollika have the tools they need to create lasting change in their own lives, and those of their neighbors.
These vegetables fulfilled the consumption and the demand of nutrition of our family and financial benefit from selling vegetables.
The impact of this work has been extraordinary for Mollika and her family. “These vegetables fulfilled the consumption and the demand of nutrition of our family and financial benefit from selling vegetables. We use this additional income on our education (like school dress and transportation costs) and the rest for our family expenses.”
When asked what inspires her, Mollika shared, “I am inspired by the life of Helen Keller and I would like to add the traits of optimism and courage to my life like she did.” No doubt, Helen Keller would be inspired by her too.
Help young people like Mollika lead lasting change in their own lives.