Bangladesh | Blogs

  • An interview with Nazmul Islam Chowdhury

    Elizabeth Dunn

    January 12th, 2017

    The Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal has been a major success, raising an incredible £1 million from people just like you.  This was then matched pound for pound by the UK Government.

    Almost every year monsoon rains cause the three major rivers of Bangladesh to swell, resulting in devastating floods.  They wash away fertile land and destroy homes and livelihoods.  Families are forced to find a new place to live and a new means of earning a living without land to cultivate.  Sandbars emerge as the rivers recede; the soil is barren but can be made productive by using the technique of pit cultivation for pumpkins and other crops.  It’s a simple solution that is truly changing lives, thanks to your support.

    "A small dream is now a big dream" Nazmul Chowdhury

    Nazmul Islam Chowdhury is the Head of the Extreme Poverty Programme in Bangladesh and manages the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  Nazmul came up with the idea of using the barren land in this way many years ago and has gone on to develop and implement the solution in communities across Bangaldesh.  Below he explains just why this project is so important.

    “Firstly, I want to say thank you so much for everyone’s generous support of Practical Action and the Pumpkins Against Poverty project.  You are helping to reach thousands of people.

    “When I initially came up with the idea of sandbar cropping, I thought something is better than nothing, but we have been able to develop and improve the project. It now has a huge impact on the ground and there is potential to bring this innovation to other countries. The pumpkin is like a magic golden ball; it is a solution for food security, vitamin A deficiency, income and gender equality.

    “I have many stories from the people the project helps but there is one that sticks in my mind. In 2009, When I was visiting a community in Rangpur, I was interviewing a farmer when I heard a girl crying. She was only around three years old. Her cries interrupted the interview and I asked her mother what was wrong. She said she was crying because she was hungry and she had no food to feed her. I was shocked and thought, how can I help? I still think about that girl now. We must do something to help these families.

    “I always tell my children, imagine that you have no food at home and you are hungry. You should always try to help the people that need it.”

    Thank you to everyone who has supported the Pumpkins Against Poverty appeal. You are helping thousands of people to lift themselves out of poverty, for good.

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  • Communities building resilience


    January 9th, 2017

    Bangladesh has a population of 16 million in a small area. It is on a journey with the aim of becoming a developed country. Apart from the challenges and barriers, Bangladesh has become better known globally for using  effective measures to build more resilient communities.

    Being a delta country, Bangladesh is vulnerable to natural hazards such as floods, riverbank erosion, cyclones and drought. All these hazards are expected to increase in intensity and frequency under a changing climate. In addition, increased temperature, erratic monsoon rainfall, sea level rise and salinity intrusion not only increase the frequency and impact of hazards to become more dangerous but also are expected to have a serious effect on lives, livelihoods and food security.

    resilience

    So it is vital in Bangladesh to build communities that make lives and livelihoods more sustainable.

    But do we give equal attention to the people who live in these communities and to society as a whole? “Sometime yes but sometime no” is the reply from those of us who work in this field.  And there are are a few reasons for saying that that. Community based organizations (CBOs) play a major role in building resilience by performing two major activities.

    Firstly they organise community meetings to discuss issues, to raise awareness, to review action plans, prepare plans in advance for disaster emergency fund and many other things.

    Secondly they are active in response to a disaster by helping in the distribution and management of relief, saving lives from the disaster and sheltering affected people.

    CBOs also look after income generating activities, social welfare, deal with social crises, network with service providers and much more.  This emphasis on community led work through mobilizing to build better resilience is where the community based organization provides a vital platform for a vulnerable community to take the initiative in capacity building alongside both Government and Non-Government Organizations.

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  • Promoting inclusive urban growth

    Halim Miah

    January 3rd, 2017

    Stories of urban cleaners society in Bangladesh

    by Md. A. Halim Miah, Makfie Farah, Uttam Kumar Saha and Hasin Jahan

    History reveals that there were a special group of people who, unlike other artisans like smiths and weavers, worked at cleaning sewerage and drainage system in the old urban civilizations at Harappa and Mohenjo-daro. They were mostly enslaved. We are now under the charter of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights where every man has equal rights to choose their profession and lead a decent life with dignity and equality.

    Urban cleaner is a caste or class?

    FSMAs well as that Indus civilization as we also had a thousand year old urban centre named Pundra nagar. That city had also had a ‘cleaner class’, a special artisan community culturally called ‘Harijan’.

    Among the society of cleaners in Bangladesh there are broadly two communities based on their religious identity – a Hindu or Harijan community and a Muslim sweeper community.

    In the Hindu religious system society is segregated into a caste system of four professional groups. The Harijan community is one of these. Mahatma Gandhi, a famous Indian political leader renowned for his non-violence movement and social reform, worked for the rights of those human groups who did not have minimum dignity as human beings.  He tried to bring them in the main stream Hindu society by giving them a new name. He called them Harijan (hari means most honourable) and that was officially declared as ‘scheduled’.

    There is no social stratification in Islam but in practice lower status communes exist in  society who are exploited in many ways due to their low status profession like ‘Kulu’ (traditionally oil producer), ‘Jhula’ (weavers) and ‘Hajam (circumcision).  As today many people from rural peasants society have moved away from their land and traditional livelihoods due to natural disasters and are forced to take shelter in urban and peri-urban areas. These poor people, who do not have skills that fit with the urban economy, are  engaging in this type of lower skills based employment. They face economic, social, and cultural marginalization.

    Political economy of cleaners

    participationAvailable statistics show that there are around 150,000 Harijan in Bangladesh.  If we include Muslim cleaners in this profession then the number is higher and is gradually increasing with urbanization.  There are around 532 urban centres in Bangladesh representing 35% of the population and contributing 80% of national GDP (MHHDC, 2014). Experts suggest that rapid urbanisation will mean that this number will reach 50% by 2030.

    Each day 13,333 MT of urban waste is generated – per capita this is ½ kg per day. This study was conducted in 2005 when there were 512 urban centres and the total urban population was around 25%.  This increased to 35% in 2016 so waste generation today could be around 20,000 MT per day.

    For a liveable city and healthy urbanization we need improved and modernized cleaning services and a professional group with skills and adequate logistics. We can not expect these improvements immediately, but need a priority plan to take the country and our economy to the stage of middle income countries where per capita gross national income starts from  US$1,026 to $ 12,475.

    How do we expect to do this when we ignore around two million people whose services are required daily to foster our urban economy and production? Are they being exploited? Is their work less economically valuable than that of other artisans among the urban classes? We cannot afford to ignore the cost of negligence of proper sanitation cleanliness.

    A study ‘The Human Waste’, conducted by Water Aid and Tearfund shows that  in developing countries 80% of disease is due to poor sanitation. People suffering from water borne diseases occupy half of the world’s hospital beds. Poor sanitation causes an increased burden of disease, numbers in hospital, a daily work loss, lower participation of children in school and the long term effect on health from anaemia and stunted growth.

    The report also reveals that school sanitation programs increase the enrolment of girls annually by 11%. My 12 year old daughter was admitted to a new school after her graduation from class five to six. In the beginning she reported to me that her school toilets were not cleaned properly so she did not want to continue at that school. She repeatedly reported this to her class teachers and she is now fine with her present school. So we can see how the social and economic value of this cleaning works!

    Why are cleaners not a development priority?

    The Bangladesh constitution confirms equal rights for every citizen under the article 19(1) “the state will attempt  to ensure equal; opportunities for all the citizens” and also article 20(1) where every citizens rights are agreed with same value  regardless of their caste, class, religion and sex. But in practice what we see is that communities like cleaners are deprived in many ways of equal access to basic citizen services.

    A recent study conducted by Professor Ainoon Naher and Abu Ala Mahmud Hasan among the harijan of northern Bangladesh (HEKS/EPER, 2016) shows that, “In general, the common feeling among the Dalit is that they have always been looked down upon by the mainstream/dominant groups who tend to avoid Dalit in public spaces”. It also reveals that Dalit women are the ‘marginalized among the marginalized’.

    Social safety nets are a major instrument of the Bangladesh government to reduce poverty and hunger. The allocation of safety nets is mostly rural biased with safety net packages more than three times higher in rural areas compare to urban (House Hold Income and Expenditure Survey , 2010, Pp. 72, BBS).  Girls from extreme poor communities who live in urban slums are not entitled to school stipend program as metropolitan cities are excluded from that safety net policy.

    The Faecal Sludge Management (FSM) network Bangladesh organized a national convention of pit emptiers on 7th December 2016 in Dhaka. Around 92 pit emptiers from 20 municipalities attended. It was an exceptional day for the development workers as well as for these most marginalized people. They identified plenty of eye awakening issues (revealed in the table below) about what we need to know if we really want to change the world

    Table:  Extent of deprivation of cleaners

    Health & SecurityEquityDignityFair income
    “We want equal attention in health care centres when we become sick”“We want to play together with all the children”

    “We are avoided in social events even though we attend we are humiliated”“What we earn monthly that is enough for twenty days and rest of the days we have to live with borrow from informal money lenders with high interest of repayment”

    What is the solution?

    Jan Eliasson, Deputy Secretary of the United Nations commented that ‘No- one left behind’ is the underlying moral code of the 2030 agenda for sustainable development. He  emphasized that people who are hardest to reach should be given priority.  Practical Action Bangladesh have implemented a four year (2012-2016) multi-country (Bangladesh, Nepal & Sri Lanka) project named Integrated Urban Development ( IUD2) that focused on participatory planning for inclusive urban governance.

    The findings of this project are encouraging for development thinkers and policy makers. It followed a participatory approach to include urban cleaners in the development process with a drive to demonstrate pro poor urban governance.  Narratives from project beneficiaries show that they were enlightened by understanding the democratic process and how to identify problems and solutions through a participatory planning process. “We can arrange election in our SIC reformation, exercise and enjoy democracy”,  said Rumpa Begum, Slum Improvement Committee, Faridpur.

    We learned that to create an enabling environment for interaction between two classes of people (elite and proletariat) governance improvement is essential. At the same time a focus on improving skills and reducing health and safety risks is important for transforming any economic sector.

    Customized gulpher for emptying pitIn the history of human society the dominant class has always controlled advanced technology. So creating access to technology for this class can make change happen. I found this to be true for the cleaners’ community of the Faridpur municipality. At the beginning of this year Urban and Energy Service Program of Practical Action, Bangladesh organized an impact review and learning workshop. One of the main stakeholders of this program was city /municipality government. Anisur Rahman Chowdhury, an honourable counsellor of the Faridpur Municipality, who commented in one of the learning sessions on Practical Action’s engagement in the development of his city:

    “Earlier I myself never give space to stand my side any mathor (Cleaner) but when I found that they are now use machines for emptying pit. They do not get down into inside of the pit. I found there is no any bad smell with their body. They are doing like other mechanic or civil engineering works. So I sit with them in a same table at tea stall”.

    I think this is the way to change social perspectives and change the lives of the most disadvantaged communities in any country.  This has also been recommended by Mr. ABM Khurshed Alam, Chairman of the National Skills Development Council to make available modern tools and machinery which could change their status. He also suggested for arranging certificate course for increasing skills of the people of this profession.

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  • Why we should invest in disaster management

    Halim Miah

    December 14th, 2016

    Prioritise weather forecasting and early warning for local communities

    by Md. A. Halim Miah, Kamrul Islam Bhuiyan and Dr. Faruk Ul Islam

    Disaster management in Bangladesh has been transformed from disaster response and recovery to a risk reduction model. However though policy and law have been formulated based on the risk reduction model, policy priority is still required in many areas both in quality and quantitative improvement, such as shifting risk governance from centralized systems to people’s empowerment and redirecting disaster investment from response and recovery model to pre-disaster investment.

    Why more investment at pre-disaster stage?

    Bangladesh spent a lot in the last two decades on disasters. One flood in 1998 caused an estimated loss of US$ 2 billion –  4.8 % of national GDP. This figure might even be higher as loss and damage estimates focus on infrastructure and bigger public institutions and less on those of small entrepreneurs and small holder farmers.

    This loss and damage will increase if we do not invest in prevention measures such as community resilience building, critical infrastructure like dams, embankments, bio-dykes, green belts and the dissemination of risk information for the people live in vulnerable areas.

    voice messages for DRR BograAccording to the IPCC Fifth Assessment Report the frequency and intensity of hazards will increase with greater risk particularly for developing nations. Bangladesh has achieved remarkable progress in some social indices like health, primary education, poverty reduction and in some areas of disaster related emergency response. Therefore mortality and morbidity from disasters have reduced significantly.

    Redirect financing from disaster response to development

    The total GNP of Bangladesh is growing.  At independence (1972-73) the total annual budget of Bangladesh was 7.8 billion (£78.5 million) but for the fiscal year 2016-17 it is 3.41 trillion taka (£34 billion).  Bangladesh has a growing national economy and  wealth and GDP per capita rose from US$2,038.7 in 2006 to US$3,136.6 in 2016.

    The World Wealth Report also shows that in 2000 the assets per head of adult men in Bangladesh were worth US$1069 and this has more than doubled to US$ 2347 in 2016. The rate of national poverty was 62% in 1992, which came down to 32% in 2010. But a very few of those who came out from poverty the ‘movers out of poverty’- could become part of the economic middle class (the range of income $2 to $4).

    According to renowned economist Binayak Sen, Director, Research, Bangladesh Development Studies in Bangladesh , the movers who are stuck in the range of $1 to $2 a day income are still  vulnerable to shocks and downward slippages (Sen, Binayak; June 2014, ICE Business, Dhaka).  This is a vicious cycle of income erosion where disasters like floods that recur pull those people behind so that they can not climb up the ladder. Studies reveal that investment in strengthening weather, climate and water information services is highly cost efficient for societal progress returning three times as much as monetary investment according to the CREWS Initiative. 

    Practical Action Bangladesh has implemention experience under Vulnerability to Resilience+, financed by the Zurich Insurance Group.  We found that by disseminating flood early warning messages to the community in understandable ways, flood vulnerable people living downstream of Brahmaputra basin were able to save their most valuable household and agricultural resources.

    We conducted a rapid assessment on the impact of flood early warning voice messages just after the flood which occurred in July –August 2016. Our preliminary findings revealed that people’s indigenous knowledge did not work.

    “The saying goes, if cloud passes from south-west to north-east we would think that the river Jamuna will be raised. But this year we could not understand the possibility of flooding. Therefore voice messaging was very important. Among my neighbours around ten farmers were able to harvest their jute when they got flood early warning voice messages with a minimum financial value of 9,000 taka (£90) for each. Those of us who live island like places, very close to the river evacuated with our cattle saving a minimum of household value of 100,000 taka (£1,000). So if voice messages cost 20 taka household then its return is more than 1000 times higher!”

    This is an example of how improving early warning systems for vulnerable people can save them from the vicious cycle of income erosion and enable them to continue to climb the steps of the ladder with the aim of reaching the gateway from poverty.

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  • Less is more when building a resilient community


    December 1st, 2016

    To improve the resilience of flood vulnerable communities in Bangladesh, Practical Action has been working in the north-west of the country on a Vulnerability to Resilience (V2R) project under the Disaster Risk Reduction and Climate Change Adaptation programme.

    This project, funded by the Zurich Insurance Group, has piloted new practices such as developing Local Resilience Agents (LRA) to sustain the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable flood prone communities by providing an early warning system voice SMS service and delivering vaccination campaigns.

    V2R has trained 181 LRA in 15 flood-prone areas of Sirajgonj and Bogra on services requested by the communities: crop management, livestock service, fisheries and paramedical services. These agents combine entrepreneurship and volunteerism to serve their community with skills that supplement other extension agents. By providing these services they are also earning, which is improving their livelihoods.

    resilience agent Mohamed KhalequeOne LRA is 38 year old Mohammad Abdul Khaleque from Thakurpara village in Sirajgonj. After starting the V2R project in Sirajganj District in 2009, he was selected as a volunteer to provide support for community resilience by minimizing the loss and damage of livestock from flooding. He received 18 days training which included 15 days technical training on livestock health services and three on disaster preparedness and response in 2010. The project provided equipment to help him perform his duties. In 2015 he was selected to a LRA and had refresher training to give more comprehensive support to the community. He has extended his livestock treatment service to eight neighbouring villages and earns 400-500 TK a day by providing treatment to cattle.

    He was also selected for training for the Bangladesh Water Development Board’s Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) and received equipment to disseminate the Flood Early Warning System (EWS) as a Gauge Reader. He collects water level readings five times a day and sends them to the FFWC.

    “Now I am well known as “Doctor Khaleque” in the surrounding community of Takhurpara village and different people, officials and service providers come to me and contact me which makes me proud and feel that I am doing good for my community”

    He now has a well-built, tin house, some savings and sufficient food for his family. He has also purchased cows, installed a tube well for safe drinking water and set up a latrine to ensure a healthy life for himself and his family. While he was unable to finish his studies, he is making sure that his children are going to school regularly. Asked about his future plans, he replied, “continuing and expanding my livestock services to more communities.”

    For faster communications, he is thinking of buying a motor bike and for quick response he also provides emergency information via his mobile phone.

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  • Celebrating International Disaster Mitigation Day in Bangladesh

    Anwar Hossain

    November 1st, 2016

    Every year, many national and international days are observed by the Government and NGOs in Bangladesh, but they are mainly celebrated in the towns and headquarters of districts. The urban people see many colourful rallies and processions, with the only downside being slight traffic congestion! The media cover the stories with attractive headlines and citizens in the major towns are informed by the speeches, television coverage and print media.anwar1

    But what about the people of Songacha; a vulnerable remote Char area of Sirajganj District, which has no access to TV or print media? Songacha is about 25 kilometres from the district headquarters and stands on the shore of the Jamuna river. There are about 29 villages and 44,825 people live in this Union. Every year, almost all the area is affected by flooding. Many crops and valuable assets become damaged or lost.

    It has been proved that knowledge and awareness are the prerequisites of resilience against vulnerability. This is the first time the villagers in Songacha observed any day like International Disaster Mitigation Day.  

    anwarOn 13th October 2016, the villagers were in a festive mood – they enjoyed colourful rallies with banners, festoons, a discussion session and folk songs on disaster preparedness written and performed by the local people. The community based organisation arranged the day’s programme with collaboration from Songacha Union Parishad and Practical Action’s V2R+ project.

    The Chairman of Songacha Union Md. Sohidul Alom led the programme and inspired the community to become more resilient by avoiding, coping with and absorbing the shock of flooding.  Men, women and children, all came to hear about how to prepare themselves for the onset of future floods. The Daily Sirajganj Barta, a renowned daily newspaper covered the story on their front page.

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  • Bag gardening makes a big change to food security of flood vulnerable families

    Anwar Hossain

    October 3rd, 2016

    Nasima Khatun lives in a village, very near the mighty Jamuna river of Sirajganj. River water comes to destroy their kitchen garden almost every year during the months of July, August and September, the harvesting season for summer vegetables. During the post flood period vegetable scarcity in homes and local markets becomes acute. Most poor families just eat boiled rice with salt during the floods. The health and nutrition of the household becomes fragile. They have no idea how to come out of this situation.

    bag gardening bangladesh To improve this situation, Practical Action Bangladesh under it’s Vulnerability to Resilience project arranged hands on training for 200 flood vulnerable families on bag gardening.  This is a simple technology that protects the plant from root suffocation and rotting and avoids water logging.  With a smile on her face, Nasima Khatun told me.

    “I have harvested about 60 pieces of green fruit of white gourd and they are still now fruiting. I kept a few fruits to be matured for seed. I have sold 20 pieces, consumed 30 pieces and gifted to neighbours 10 pieces. Total market value was about 1200tk where as it was cost 20tk only to set a single bag garden.”

    Bag gardening BangladeshShe continued, “I had no stress regarding food during the recent flood period. Following this method and using local materials, different types of vegetables could be grown. My neighbours did also. When the water rises we can move or raise the bag to keep it out of water except if the water touches our roof. Really, it is a fantastic technology that will increase our strength to live with flood without scaring at for food and nutrition.”

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  • Know your soil

    Hasin Jahan

    October 3rd, 2016

    The agrarian economy of Bangladesh contributes more than 18% of the country’s GDP through employing around 45% of the labour force. We can take the pride in its achievement towards ensuring food security though debates remain around food safety and nutritional aspect.hasin

    There’s a common practice among our farmers of using excessive amount of fertilizers without understanding the nature of soil. As a result of the overuse of chemical fertilizers, the soil texture is deteriorating and at the same time farmers are spending more on agricultural inputs. Good yield depends on nutrient status and organic matter contents of soils to a great extent. To explain it in simpler language, organic contents in soil strata hold the water, nutrient within it and facilitate plants to absorb the same. Due to excessive use of chemical fertilizers, the level of organic content in Bangladesh has reduced to less than 1.5% which the ideal content is support to be around 4-5%. The situation is approaching to an alarming stage.

    farmers in bangladeshBangladesh is generating huge amount of solid waste everyday and major portion of solid waste is organic and could be easily converted into compost or organic fertiliser. Further, about 80,000 tons of human waste is generated every day in the country which is polluting the environment. Even if we could use a certain portion of this waste could be converted into compost/ organic fertiliser, it would be a huge gain for the country. The gain should not be seen only from monetary perspective, rather, use of this compost could save the environment, reduce the surface water pollution, improve the soil health and increase soil fertility. We are yet to think comprehensively and utilize the full potentials of available resources around us.

    Government is providing extensive subsidy for chemical fertilisers creating a business enabling environment for it which in turn is adversely impacting promotion of organic fertilisers. Time has come to echo for promotion of balanced fertilizer and creating a conducive policy environment for promotion of organic fertilisers.

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  • Online workshop on gender: process, challenges and possibilities

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    September 29th, 2016

    Recently, we had a virtual workshop on gender for Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP) project staff. Through participatory methods, the workshop was conducted and all participants enthusiastically shared their experiences and insights. However, Because of some technical difficulties, first day of the workshop could not be organized which was shifted to first half of second day! At the end of the workshop, some activities were identified to include into project and make it more gender sensitive!

    the process we followed;

     

    process

    Glimpse of the activities;

    1. Start of the workshop: sharing a quotation of Kamla Bhasin ( a well-known feminist activist & social scientist of South Asia)

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      “I know enough women who are totally patriarchal, who are totally anti-women; who do nasty things to other women, and I have known men who have worked for women’s rights their whole life. Feminism is not biological: feminism is an ideology.” ( Kamla Bhasin)

    2. Why Gender is important for development project like Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP) is being discussed;

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    3.  How PaP  project takes actions (can take action) to address gender inequality in households, women’s effective decision-making  is being discussed and share some of the examples from the region;

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    4. Integrating gender into project cycle: exercise is done for PaP project

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    5.  Mary Surridge ( Gender Consultant UK), Lizzy Whitehead (Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Adviser) and PaP project staff (at Rangpur, Bangladesh)

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    6.  Lizzy Whitehead sharing her experiences and concerns through Sype conferencing;

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    7.  Group work on stakeholder analysis and logframe review;

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    8. Sharing findings of the group work; identified some areas where gender aspects can be incorporated

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    9. Final notes given by the Consultant Mary Surridge

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    Challenges:

    The workshop was virtual- for which high speed internet connection was required. But next day of the workshop, Prime Minister of Bangladesh visited the Rangpur and delivered speeches in number of events. There was plan from divisional administration to live telecast her speeches. Therefore, on 6th October internet connection was heavily disrupted which affected the workshop plan. Second important challenge we came across is inadequate time for the workshop. There were lots of associated issues to be discussed and participants had many observations and opinions to share- which could not be completed properly.

    Possibilities:

    The workshop alos showed us number of possibilities, which are;

    • It was a trial whether to go for this kind workshop. The experience suggests  for going
    • Identified areas for gender inclusion in the project.
    • Agreed to continue this kind of session within the project and beyond the project.
    • Agreed to conduct period gender assessment in the PaP project.
    •  

    Conclusion:

    We have experience of organizing online meeting frequently but this was first time we tried to conduct a full workshop virtually. Even there were some technical problems in first day, but finally it was ended up with good spirit among the staff. Thus, we are hopeful to transform the project as landmark one for Practical Action!

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  • Pumpkin producers association – a marketing platform of the extreme poor

    Mokhlesur Rahman

    September 19th, 2016

    Recently, I was in Rangpur and met some of our colleagues and partners and had the opportunity to discuss the associations established by our pumpkin producers. This is based on information and insights from that discussion.

    DSC_0018

    Pumpkin storage at beneficiary household

    Since 2009 Practical Action’s Extreme Poverty Programme has been working with river eroded communities to support their livelihoods and empower them economically. Pumpkin production in sandy land is one of the solutions that has been helping them to move out of poverty. However, Shiree (Pathways from Poverty- Stimulating Household Improvements Resulting in Economic Empowerment) the leading project of the programme dreamed of enabling the thousands of extreme poor living in the river embankment of the Tista river to enhance their capacity, skills and knowledge, particularly in the areas of agricultural production and marketing of the goods they produce.

    In 2013-14, 5000 households engaged in sandbar cropping developed producer groups and associations for better marketing of their product. Thus, 250 producer groups and 20 associations were formed by the project beneficiaries.

    DSC_0054

    Pumpkin stored for selling later

    How it is formed?
    The project supported beneficiaries through a group approach and in each producer group there were 30 farmers. From each producer group 3-4 members were selected for the association (qualities considered were vocal in negotiating, skill at organizing people and interest in marketing work). Representatives from each producer group are the general members of the association. The association is run by a 10 member committee including one president, two vice presidents, one general secretary and one marketing information secretary and five general members.

    How project has helped?
    The producer group members were oriented through

    DSC_0052

    Group discussion on formation of the Association

    workshops about marketing, market chains, pumpkin post-harvest management, storage, group marketing, selling pumpkin in weight, and grading pumpkin before selling. Pumpkin grading is very important to add value of the product as well as to maintain a long lasting relationship with buyers. The workshops also made them aware about how to bargain with buyers to get a better price, the importance of keeping communication open with buyers and the benefits of selling to local agents.

    How does it function?
    The association projects their production amount. They organize meeting, seminars and workshops among themselves with relevant market promoters. Taking the advantage of project support, they established linkages with relevant government agencies and private companies. Association leaders also organized exposure visits to potential market players for better marketing their pumpkins. They collected mobile numbers of almost all wholesale market actors and maintain communication with them so that they can get some information proactively. They have been encouraging producers to set up storage space at their home and sell at the collection centre later to get a better price. They also collect and keep updated information from different level market players.

    Early impact
    In ensuring a fair price, the pumpkin producer association has been playing an important role for poor farmers.

    DSC03655

    Selling pumpkin through the Association

    In the last production season, 41MT pumpkin were exported to Malaysia through the association. From this, 210 farmers household benefited. The producers got BDT 2.5/ per kg more in comparison with the local market price.

    Like many farmers, Md. Bakiul Mia (Vice president) and Azizul Hoque (Member) are satisfied to see the previous group activities and their success. They are willingly to continue the old producer’s group activities to get a better price. Similarly, it is also observed that because of the association, now farmers are better united, and they are storing pumpkins using a grading system in order to sell to wholesalers in a group approach.

    Challenges
    In the last production season, the farmers produced 4000 MT pumpkin. Thus, in compare with the production size, the exported amount is low. Therefore, alternative national or international markets need to be explored. Additionally, buyers prefer to buy only a particular size of pumpkin (2-6 kg of weight) but the farmers mostly produce large pumpkins. Hence, exploring suitable and alternative markets is the ultimate priority work of the group. Last but not least, the association is just crawling to move forward; thus, perhaps they need some technical support from the local authority or a development organization for few more seasons.

    The author acknowledges contribution of Md. Abdus Salam and Mizanur Rahman, Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP project), Rangpur Regional Office.

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