The 'Ekti Bari, Ekti Khamar (EBEK)' project is significantly changing living standard of thousands of poor people, and small and marginal farmers in rural areas of the district.
"So far 57,634 members, one from a family, were brought under the project, most of which became self-reliance through various income generating activities," said Deputy Director of Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB) Md Abdus Sabur.
The government launched the project in 2012 to assist rural poor come out of poverty by generating income through various activities under Village Development Samities (VDS).
Sixty families or members of a village have been brought under each of the 1,020 VDS. The families were given support for skill development and capital formation to set up and run family farms, business and other income generating activities.
"Each of the 60 members, including 40 females and 20 males of every VDS, deposited Taka 200 per month that generated a fund of Taka 2.88 lakh for the Samity in two years," Sabur said.
He said the government provided another Taka 2.88 lakh as welfare grant and another Taka 3 lakh as revolving loan to each of the VDSs, raising total fund of 1,020 VDS to around Taka 61 crore.
The VDS provides revolving loans up to Taka 30,000 to a member for income generation provided that the member paid back their previous loan installments regularly.
"After getting fund from the VDS, the families develop small farms including fisheries, livestock, poultry, nursery and vegetable gardening using whatever the land they have in their possession," Sabur said.
Zakia Begum, 36, member of Kursha Balorampur VDS under Mominpur union said she and her husband along with four children were in hardship only a few years ago.
"Thinks started to change after starting a small cattle farm by taking Taka 10,000 as revolving loan in 2012 and eventually obtaining another Taka 18,000 loan in 2014 to increase investment in the cattle business and start farming as sharecropper," she said.
As our incomes were increasing, we purchased 50 decimals of crop land and built a house, Zakia said, adding that her the family now has four sheep, one bullock, a heifer and other assets worth Taka two lakh in addition to their land, house and business.
"We already arranged marriage of our daughter Nazmun Nahar when supported son Zakaria to pass the SSC examination this year. We also support studies of two other children, daughter Tasmina, a student of class six and son Saikat, a student of class one," said a happy Zakia.
Member of Horkoli VDS Mominul Islam Biplob, 30, under Haridebpur union said he got Taka 7,000 loan and invested the same in his small hotel business at Horkoli Bazar in 2012.
"After regular repayments, I got Taka 18,000 in 2014 and again Taka 30,000 in 2015 to expand my business with assistance of my wife Ambia Begum who prepares various food items at home for my hotel," he said.
Our two sons and only daughter now go to schools, and we have assets worth Taka two lakh, said Biplob hoping that his children would become have a better life after getting higher education.
Member of Satmail Para VDS Shefali Begum, 45, under Haridebpur union said she received Taka 7,000 in 2012, then Taka 15,000 in 2014 and took lease of one acre of cultivable land for ten years.
"I grow various crops in the land round-the-year and earn around Taka 30,000 a year. My family now has assets worth Taka three lakh after spending for weddings of my two daughters Maya Moni and Jemy," she said.
Terming EBEK as one of the most effective projects, Divisional Commissioner Kazi Hasan Ahmed said its successful implementation would free the rural people from poverty.