Grameen Fisheries, Danone and Eye Care
After the village, we went to the fisheries where we learned about three of Grameen’s sister organizations/social business – Grameen Fisheries, Grameen Danone and Grameen GC Eye Care Hospital.
The Bangladeshi government loaned (begged Grameen to take them over) the fisheries to Grameen for 25 years in hopes that Grameen could turn them into a worthwhile and profitable business. In keeping with their mission, Grameen devised a plan which would also help to alleviate poverty and empower the poor. The result was a 50/50 partnership between the poor families living along the fishing ponds and Grameen. The families provide the labor of maintaining and fishing the ponds, Grameen provides training, expertise and breed the fish to stock the ponds. As the ponds are fished, a truck takes them to market and 50% of the profit goes back to the pond beneficiaries and 50% goes to Grameen Fisheries for overhead, maintenance, etc.
While at the fisheries we stayed at the resthouse – a Grameen run house for vacationers and others visiting the ponds. The stay was amazing and the evening sunsets were beautiful. I am so amazed by the beauty of Bangladesh. It’s by far the most gorgeous country I have ever visited. The country is so green – a green that I did not know existed in nature. The rice patties are a striking, almost neon green that seems to make the countryside shine.
On our way back to Dhaka, we stopped by Grameen Danone for a tour of their factory. Grameen Danone is a partnership between Grameen and the French yogurt company – Dannon. The mission is to bring better nutrition to poor, rural children who often suffer from several nutrient deficiencies – such as vitamin A, zine, iron and calcium. Grameen Danone is made from local milk purchased from local famers – many of whom are Grameen Bank borrowers. It works well because the farmers have a daily purchaser that is dependable and Grameen Danone uses a local products and put them back into the community. The yogurt is sold by ladies in the village through door-to-door sales for between 6 and 8 taka (less than 11 cents) per cup depending on size and flavor (mango flavor costs more). It’s a really neat social business that is helping ensure that the rural children of Bangladesh receive proper nutrition.
Grameen GC Eye Care Hospital
We also stopped by Grameen GC Eye Care Hospital for a tour of the hospital where they perform basic eye examinations and cataract surgery for both poor and wealthy Bangladeshis. They also operate a Eye Camp program where qualified and trained eye doctors and nurses travel to the most rural villages to provide basic eye care and surgery consultations to those without access. Surprisingly, the eye camp only costs 4,000 taka (about $60 US). So the class pulled together some money and paid for an eye camp.