Shoma Khatun’s world came crashing down around her when her father died from a stroke three years ago.

The loss of the sole earner in the family left her two brothers and mother in a financial crisis. Shoma was in her first year of university and struggling to pay her tuition. But then she saw a job announcement that changed her life and ensured the welfare of her mother and brothers.

Shoma saw a recruitment notice from a Bengali NGO known as PRODIPAN calling for community nutrition scholars (CNS). PRODIPAN was collaborating with the International Potato Center in a project funded by German Corporation for International Cooperation (GIZ) to develop a cadre of CNS who could provide nutrition and hygiene education to mothers of small children. The project aimed to increase consumption of biofortified orange flesh sweetpotato (OFSP) and other nutritious vegetables to improve children’s nutrition.

“I was selected as a CNS and as a result I was able to work while I finished my university degree and help support my family,” said Shoma. “But the opportunity to work as a CNS has benefited me so much more than merely in wages.”

Portrait photo of Shoma Khatun. Photo: Farhana Ibrahim.

Prior to her work as a CNS, Shoma did not understand the importance of nutrition. Through the program she learned of nutritious vegetables and OFSP. “It is often assumed that we cannot afford to buy nutritious food, but with low cost and organic fertilizer we can now easily plant vegetables in our home garden which will provide nutrition for the family and some extra income,” said Shoma, who now grows OFSP in her home garden. As a CNS, Shoma can share her experiences with growing healthy foods to others in the community.

“I have learned how to communicate with mothers who are much older than me, make them listen to me and convince them,” said Shoma. “Now that I am a CNS, people in my community look up to me and that makes me proud to be part of such a beneficial program.”

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Feature photo: A community nutrition scholar delivers a session on nutrition, hygiene and agriculture including the nutritional benefits of orange fleshed sweetpotato-18. Photo by CIP Asia.
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