Mokhlesur Rahman

82060

Mokhlesur works with Practical Action, Bangladesh as Manager - M&E and Impact under Policy Practice and Programme Development Department. He has also been pursuing his doctoral study at Jawaharlal Nehru University, India.

Recommended reading: http://www.practicalaction.org

Posts by Mokhlesur

  • Big change starts with a small technology- Aashkol

    September 20th, 2017

    Since independence, having had massive development interventions for women empowerment in Bangladesh, but still rural people perceived that technology is something that needs to be handled by men. Similarly, entrepreneurship is believed to men’s sphere. However, aiming to bring some changes in these gendered domains, under EC- PRSIM project (funded by European Commission), we have distributed Aashkol (jute fiber extraction machine) through a joint entrepreneurship model (one male and female member can take lease of the machine fro 3 years). In this entrepreneurship model, women have significant role to play both for unleashing their potential entrepreneurial skills and earn an income. However, it was not easy for community people to see woman leading an enterprise. Sheuli Begum- one of the woman entrepreneurs of the project stated that;

    I am a housewife and people do not see my entrepreneurship skill in positive way. They never encourage to do such thing. Rather people laughed at me. But I know, I can do this.

    Sheuli helping her husband in jute retting

    Sheuli Begum lives in Bozra, Kurigram with her husband and two children. Her husband is a jute farmer, and she is a home maker. From her husband’s income, it is impossible to save any amount for meeting any emergency need. Seasonal income from selling jute fiber, jute stick is also insufficient. Therefore, to meet their regular expenses such as education expenses for the children and medicine for the family members, often they need to borrow money from neighbors. Since they do not have other sources of income, thus it becomes impossible to pay back the borrowed money. Sometimes, she sells her jewelries to pay the indebted money.

    Ashkol is being used for jute extraction

    With such hardship in life, suddenly she came across about a jute extraction machine. She also heard about a project that would select entrepreneur for Jute extraction from their community. She got surprised to know that women would get equal partnership with men in this entrepreneurship. Without any hesitation, she shared her keen interest with her husband. After fulfilling all the requirements and receiving the training, she got the machine from Practical Action Bangladesh.

    During the season, after meeting all the expenses, she earns 1500 taka per day with her jute extraction machine. Since they have got better quality of fiber, thus she hopes to sell the jute fiber with a higher price (in compare with last year). In her words;

    Before, it required many days for jute retting and fiber extraction. Now with this machine, fiber extraction is done immediately and retting also takes less time. Thus, labour and time both are saved. That’s why, we could have made some profits.

    She informs that due to regular rainfall she was unable to dry the broken jute stick. But she has explored an innovative alternative about the raw jute sticks. She has rotten them in compost bin to make organic fertilizer. She will use the fertilizer in the crop. Along with that, she has plan to use the machine in multipurpose way throughout the year to secure income round the year.

    As a concluding reflection, it can be said that women like Sheuli in rural Bangladesh never (or hardly) have opportunity to give a try to develop and run some sort of enterprise. Sometimes, a few of them get development support and try to do like Sheuli in this case. Among them, a few of them become successful (of course many reasons will work behind) and are considered as role model in the community. But there are others as well, who could not make it a success. As many development interventions, now a day are not comprehensive (like in this project, we do not have any activity like community awareness around on gender & entrepreneurship; which  is very important to sensitize the community). Therefore, the problem that Sheuli has highlighted in her first statement will play around and continue creating problems in her way of empowerment. However, we need to continue putting our efforts some way or others. And if we can carefully and dedicatedly deal the issue, then big change may happen from this entrepreneurship initiative around the small technology- Aashkol.

     

    Acknowledgement:
    Md. Rezaul Karim (Community Mobilizer, Kurigram) for data collection & Sayeeda Afrose (Technical Supervisor, Kurigram) for drafting the case study.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Prospects and challenges of introducing new sheep variety

    September 12th, 2017

    Whenever, we try to introduce new technology or new approach in our work, we provide special emphasis on our monitoring work. Recently, one of our MEL team members visited Thanahat union in Chilmar Upazila and interacted with 4 beneficiary households who have received improved sheep variety supports from Pumpkin against Poverty (PaP) Project. The visit has come across number of issues such as sheep rearing practices, challenges going through by the beneficiary, profit they are anticipating and obviously future planning to rear this type of improved sheep. This blog post is based on the reflection of the beneficiaries and observation of the MEL members.

    Being a staff of a technology focus organization, our efforts are always being invested around innovating new technologies that work for the poor or identifying appropriate technologies that have been working for poor for years. Under PaP Project, we have been doing the same. The main focus of the project is to support poor landless farmers- mostly women to produce pumpkin in the transitional land to help family move out of poverty. However, alongside with pumpkin production, there are also some technological supports that project is constantly providing and exploring alternative means of poverty alleviation. As a such effort, we have provided improved variety of garol sheep to some selected beneficiaries.

    The variety has been collected from Rajshahi, and has been introduced with aims to improve breed development (Hyderabad variety, India) in the north-west region of Bangladesh, popularize sheep rearing as alternative livelihood means, facilitate quick income earning by female beneficiary. Keeping these in mind, out of the 399 beneficiary households, only 10 households were given 3 sheep per households. The project has supported BDT 19680 (USD 240) per household and contribution from beneficiary themselves was BDT 5000 (USD 61). The expenses were occurred due to purchasing kid garol sheep, input and feed.

    The visit unveiled that there are two important advantages of this sheep variety. These are;
    • Grows so fast in compare with local variety
    • Eat locally available feed and all types of grass
    A short case on one of the beneficiary could better demonstrate the advantages.

    Golenur with her sheep

    Case of Golenur (35)
    One of the 4 beneficiaries is Golenur(35)- a housewife of Thanahat Union. She received 3 sheep in last week of March 2017. After a few days, she observed that in compare with other local variety her garol variety has been growing so fast. She estimated that the present market value of 3 sheep will be BDT 35000(USD 427). The total investment (from the project and own investment) was BDT 21680 (19680+5000). After 3 months, value of the sheep has been increased at 1.4 times. Most importantly, this variety of sheep eats all locally available feed and all types of grass. That’s why, she is now happy that one sheep is pregnant. She is also planning to increase number of sheep. Once she has the anticipated profit from the sheep, she will buy a milking cow to ensure daily income (by selling milk).

    Her son taking care of the sheep

    However, the farmers also pointed out some challenges that they have been going through. These are
    • Feed demand of new variety sheep is higher in compare with other local variety.
    • This type of sheep is very sensitive and becomes ill easily.
    • Close follow up and care are required for the good health and benefits.
    • Lastly but the least, feed crisis is very high during the monsoon. Poor farmers hardly can manage it.

    The growth of the sheep is really fast. Potential return of the investment is also assumed to be high in compare with local variety. However, the problems which have been identified need to be tackled, particularly alternative feed- for monsoon in particular needs to explored, only then this could be a viable livelihood option for the poor farmers in the region.

    Co-author of the post is Abdus Salam, Coordinator- Monitoring & Evaluation.

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Online workshop on gender: process, challenges and possibilities

    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)

      1

      “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;

    2

    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;

    3

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

    4

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

    6

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

    5

    7.  Group work on stakeholder analysis and logframe review;

    20160908_093831

    7

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

    9

    9. Final notes given by the Consultant Mary Surridge

    10

    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!

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Pumpkin producers association – a marketing platform of the extreme poor

    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.

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Flood early warning systems save lives and reduce losses

    December 1st, 2015

    Despite making significant progress in social development, Bangladesh remains at high risk of natural disasters like flood, river erosion, cyclones, tidal surges and drought. Due to changing climate, all these are expected to increase in intensity and frequency. In addition, temperature, erratic monsoon rainfall, sea level and salinity intrusion are all expected to increase which will have a severe impact on lives, livelihoods and food security, particularly for poor people in Bangladesh. Thus, working to help them adapt is a key step. As grassroots development professional, I see there is a gap and international actors have much more to do. We expect COP21 will highlight some of these issues.

    Our efforts on adaptation

    flooding in SiragonjWe have been working with poor communities to strengthen their ability to use technology to cope with threats of natural disasters and environmental degradation. One of the many approaches is to focus on improving vulnerable communities’ ability to prepare for natural disasters so that they can survive and rebuild lives and livelihoods after disasters. Working through a project titled From Vulnerability to Resilience: Capitalizing on Public Investment‘, funded by Zurich Foundation, in Sirajganj district. The project tries to improve resilience capacities of 52,942 households of 15 flood-vulnerable Unions by effective use of weather forecasts, flood early warnings and technological innovations and improved disaster governance. Recently, we conducted a monitoring visit to understand the level of impact and how people are adapting. I came across two examples from the project that really impressed me and which I would like to share with experts of the field which might serve as food for thought.

    CASE1: Simple Information can save life and reduce loss

    Abul Hossain is a 60 year old poor farmer from Belkuchi Upazila of Sirajganj district. He is a dyeing worker but also works as day labourer in the agriculture sector. He has 4 sons and 3 daughters. He does not have enough cultivatable land to provide a livelihood for family members. He has 3 cows and 4 goats as alternative means of livelihood. His house is close to the Jamuna river and every year his house is affected by flooding, so during monsoon he is scared. In previous years, his house was damaged by flood. Thus, he had to leave house with his cattle and goats to take shelter on higher land. But, this year, he was alerted by an early warning message from a local volunteer.  On 10 August 2015, he received a message that informed him flooding was coming in 5 days. So, following the instructions of the volunteer, he raised his cattle plinth. As a result, his cattle were saved and unaffected from the flood.

    CASE2: Early SMS saved to decide
    18964Anisur Rahman is a farmer of Kaliahoripur Union of Sirajgonj, who lives near the flood prone river Jamuna. On the land he got from his parents he cultivates various seasonal crops. Beside crops cultivation, he also has a small pond when he breeds fish during rainy season. If luck favours him, he gets a good harvest; sometimes the floods take away all his fish. Some indigenous fish also  enter into the pond what he uses for his family consumption. This year in August 2015 he received a short message by mobile phone from Bangladesh Water Development Board, brought to him by project volunteer, Asanur Begum. The message informed that over the coming 5 days there was a possibility of the water rising. Swiftly,  he caught the maximum number of fish from his pond and sold them in the nearby market.  After he sold the fish, he saw his pond overflow with flood water.  For Anisur this simple message saved his livelihood.

    Conclusion

    Natural disasters cause extensive loss and damage to the lives and livelihoods of people living in flood prone areas like Sirajganj district of Bangladesh. On one hand, we need to continue and strengthen our efforts to prevent natural disasters.We also need to innovate technology and its application so that people can reduce damage and loss. Localized early warning messages offer one such effective technological application which has been very effective for reducing disaster loss and damage to disaster prone areas of Bangladesh.

    Can we expect a global agreement will give more attention to this area and help climate vulnerable people to better adapt?

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Multi-faceted poverty and contextual intervention: Tale of Ranjit

    October 12th, 2015

    Poverty is a multi-faceted problem:

    In recent development discourse, poverty alleviation programmes acknowledge poverty has multi-dimensional aspects. Impact evidence from around the world demonstrates the same. Thus, development interventions need to understand those aspects when designing solutions. Therefore, it is not surprising, while agriculture inputs support work for someone, light engineering may work better for someone else. And some others may find cattle rearing or small trading are more suitable for their livelihood than any others. Over the last 6 years, the Extreme Poverty Programme of Practical Action, Bangladesh has learned how to design development interventions in this context. The learning has been guiding us to identify and develop appropriate solutions for poverty alleviation in the context of river erosion.

    Solution never goes through liner line:

    In my last blog post, I tried to convey how skills training can play an important role in reducing poverty at an individual level and can support reducing disaster risk and vulnerability at the community level. Similarly, in another blog, I stressed how local led technology and agricultural inputs support to river eroded poor people help to drive out of poverty. To add to these, I am going to focus on how light engineering can also help people to challenge poverty and move towards self-reliance.

    DSCN5291

    Ranjit is repairing a cycle in his shop

    Tale of Ranjit:

    Ranjit Ray is a youth of 24. He lives with his mother and brother at Hudur Bazar in Rajpur union of Sadar Upazilla of Lalmonirhat district in Bangladesh. The family has been living on the embankment since 1994. In early 2013, Ranjit was selected as beneficiary and give training on light engineering. Subsequently, in May, 2013, he also received training on repairing rickshaw-vans. After his training, he rented a small shop adjacent to his village Hudur bazar at the rate of BDT100/per month. Since, then he has been running it. Now, it is going well and on average, he earns BDT300 (US$ 3.80) per day.

    DSCN5304

    Ranjit is repairing a rickshaw

    With this income, he repaired his house at a cost of BDT 2000 (US$25) and leased 10 decimal of land for BDT 12,000 (US$ 152). He has ensured access to safe drinking water and installed an improved latrine. At present, he also has good clothes to wear and can obtain better food. Social acceptance has been increased within his local community. He dreams of establishing a small business for spare parts. To materialize his dream, he has started saving from his income. Looking back to his past, he finds the training was very effective and changed his life.  In his words,

    “If every young person had vocational skill development training and tried to utilize their own skills, s/he would become self-reliant. I am grateful to OVA and Practical Action, Bangladesh for bringing such change in my life.”

    DSCN5335

    Conclusion:

    Poverty has structural as well as functional concerns. Being a development professional, we cannot bring or expect change in structural spheres overnight. It takes time. However, we certainly can bring some changes in functional areas. Our development interventions provide evidence to claim ‘the vicious circle of poverty’ can be prevented! We should keep trying to do that!

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Volunteerism, Community Services and Story of Abdul Khaleque

    October 4th, 2015

    Background:

    Volunteerism has a long history in Bangladesh. It was mostly local led and initiated by local youths. It was very much context, time and location specific. Different local youth clubs took different initiatives like building bamboo bridges, road construction in remote areas, providing non-formal education teaching in a school, organizing drama and sports competition etc. However, since the emergence of development organizations in Bangladesh, volunteerism had been practiced widely for addressing different local and national problems. Even there are some cases of success (like in disaster management), but mostly NGOs facilitated volunteerism is a failure attempt. This write up is focused on narratives of an individual volunteer- Abdul Khaleque who has been providing volunteer services to his community and can be considered to be a successful volunteer.

    Struggles:

    Khaleque measuring the water level

    Khaleque measuring the water level

    Mohammad Abdul Khaleque (38) lives in Belkuchi Upazila of Sirajganj District. He is from a poor but large (8) family. In 1997, when his father died, he left only 10 decimal of land and a hut for all the family members. In the following year, his mother also died. Therefore, they were in a very miserable situation. As in the meantime, his only one sister got married and other four brothers started living separately. Therefore, after death of his parents, he started living with one his brother’s family. Due to poverty, he could not continue his schooling after grade seven. When he was 21, his brother and other relatives arranged for his marriage and he got married and started living with his wife separately (not with his brother’s family). He used to earn his livelihood by selling manual labour but it was not easy for people like him who always get affected erosion of Jamuna river. There was no adequate job round the year. Thus, his family suffered from a shortage of food.

    Skilled Volunteerism:

    After starting the V2R (Vulnerability to Resilience) project in Sirajganj District in 2009, he was selected as a Skill Volunteer (Livestock) to provide support for building resilient community. To provide appropriate support, he got 18-day training (15-days-long basic technical training on livestock health services and 3-day training on disaster preparedness and response) in 2010. As input support, the project also provided basic equipment to perform the duties of a Skill Volunteer (Livestock). Similarly, under TAM TAM project, he has also been selected and trained up as a ‘Gauge Reader’ (water level measuring) on August 2014 by Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre (FFWC) of Bangladesh Water Development Board. He also got equipment support for disseminating the Flood Early Warning. Therefore, as a volunteer, he collects water level reading 5 times daily and send to the FFWC. FFWC gives message to all enlisted community.   Still today, he continues with these activities.

    2

    Khaleque is providing livestock services as paravet

    Family livelihood:

    For his livelihood, he provides livestock treatment services to community people. In the meantime, because of good services, people started calling him from 7-8 neighboring villagers. Providing services on livestock, every day on an average he earns BDT400-500 (approximately USD 5-6). Through this income and confidence gained working for community, he managed to save some money and make assets. As of today, he built a ten shed house spending BDT 1,75,000 and has taken mortgage of 66 decimal land by BDT 75,000. He also purchased 2 cattle by BDT47, 000 for fatting. For safe drinking water, he installed a Tube Well and set up a latrine for sanitation.

    He told me:

    3

    Khaleque is at his medicine shop

    “I am grateful to V2R Project that enlightens my life. Now, my children are going to school regularly. I have built linkage/networking with Government and Non-government agencies and departments to improve quality of services. I have established a medicine pharmacy in my house.”      

    In future, he plans to continue and expand the livestock treatment activities and medicine pharmacy. He will buy motor cycle for providing services to more people. Even he started working as volunteer but now people know him as livestock Paravet. He feels so proud for it and happy with present life.

    Conclusion:

    Once upon a time when volunteerism was community led and it had its own mechanism for existence. However, while NGOs started applying customized volunteerism (like driving their priorities, paying certain portion of the expenditure and asking contribution for others from community) has polluted the spirit of volunteerism. However, there are still some good examples where NGOs support for developing skills of the community volunteer and linking with income earning opportunity. Abdul Khaleque is one such volunteer who received training and supports for developing his skills to earn his bread. Till today, it has been working!

    No Comments » | Add your comment
  • Pumpkin production was a breakthrough for Samsunnahar

    August 27th, 2015

    In my recent blog, I narrated some of the factors that contribute success and failure of any individual’s efforts to tackle poverty. In this post, I am going to detail an individual’s success and future aspiration that was fuelled by development intervention.

    Samsunnahar (50) like many other poor people lives in the flood protection embankment (village of Moddhyo Belka), Sundergonj Upazilla of Gaibandha district. Due to river erosion, her family had to move home six times, lost all their homestead resources and arable land. They became extremely poor after losing all their assets. Her husband, day labourer Nobbas Ali earned an insignificant amount for their living. Their only child, a son of school age, also required some education expenses. Therefore, they had a very hard time and often suffered from having inadequate food.

    photo

    In 2012, along with 500 other households, Shamsunnahar was enrolled as a beneficiary in 2012 in the Shiree project (with the support of local NGO AKOTA). Afterwards, she received 3 days training on sandbar cropping and inputs such as seed, fertilizer, equipment and irrigation and storage support (worth US$64). As a result of this support, she harvested 420 pumpkins from 100 pits, and earned BDT 19,450.00 (US$253) from the sale of 340 pumpkins (the rest t they used for own consumption). In 2013, the project also supported her with equipment worth BDT 4229 and she had a similar size harvest. To build alternative earning sources and generate some assets, she also invested the income. For example, she purchased a heifer at price of BDT 12000.00, and leased 25 decimal lands with BDT4000.00 for crop production.

    ???????????????????????????????

    Now she longer has project support but has been continuing sandbar cropping on her own initiative, beside production of high valued crop from leased land (which she has taken by BDT40, 000). Additionally, she owns four cows, worth BDT 80,000.00. In monetary terms, she owns assets worth of BDT 120,000 (US$1558). Moreover, one year ago, she also bought a solar panel with BDT 22,000 in instalments over 3 years. She pays BDT 750 every month. They have been using 2 ceiling fans and 4 lights with the power of solar panel- which makes a great difference to them!

    ???????????????????????????????

    Samsunnahar and her family received the following support from the project: 

    Project Investment Amount in BDT
    Investment Year 2012 4896
    Investment Year 2013 4229
    Total 9125
    Total in USD 118.00

    Over the last three years, she and her family generated then following assets:

    Type of asset generated   Amount in BDT
    Leased land 40,000.00
    Livestock 80,000.00
    Solar Panel 22,000.00
    Total 142,000
    Total in USD 1844.00
    Project investment versus assets generation 16 Times

    They are relatively better off compared with 2012. Their son, Sujan Mia happily studies at home as they have lights at their home. To Samsunnahar,

    “Solar panel shudhu barite alo dichche tai na, ata amar cheler vobishshat keo alokito korche”

    “This solar panel not only gives light to our home but it has also lightened my son’s future”.

    ???????????????????????????????

    Recently, her husband has been selected as member of local mosque management committee (which portrays as dignified member of the community). She believes that these multiple endeavors will help them to get out of poverty and secure food and nutrition for her family members. They are dreaming Sujan Mia will get access to higher education and manage a good job in future.

    In conclusion, it is worthwhile to note that poor people struggles against poverty, development intervention accelerates their efforts and brings some impacts. However, sustainability of the impacts and impacts at a scale require broad structural changes. Over the last 44 years, very insignificant efforts were seen from Government of Bangladesh to address the root cause of the vulnerability of the river eroded people.

    [The author acknowledges the contribution of Mr. Salam, Coordinator, M&E of Practical Action’s Extreme Poverty programme for providing information and images]

    1 Comment » | Add your comment
  • Factors make a case successful or failure

    August 22nd, 2015

    Whenever we pay any field visit to see the intervention at the ground or understand how our beneficiaries are being helped, we always get stuck to one point ‘what works and what does not’. We realize that it is not a generalizable issue. It works very individual level. It also shaped by power structure of the community. As poverty is a multi-dimensional aspect, therefore, the factors that may help one person to get out of poverty may not work others.

    In a recent field visit to our largest project Shiree in Gangachora Upazila of Rangpur division, I personally observed some interlinked psycho-social parameters that contribute beneficiary to become successful or failure to get out of poverty. Even process of intervention supports are similar to everyone, but results and impacts have significant variations.

    20150816_135725

    The author is interacting with project beneficiary

     

    During the visit, I talked with number of project beneficiaries in the said location.  Based on the observation, in this post, I would like to focus dynamism of the problem and psycho-social parameters that contribute beneficiary to be successful (or even failure) in his or her livelihood endeavor.

    Some of the factors contribute to failure:

    As I observed, in brief, following are the elements for which the beneficiary could not secure expected progress as follows;

    • Dowry
    • Intra-household gender relation
    • Sickness ( physical unfitness)
    • Gendered exploitation in the society

    The first case we found is a divorcee mid-aged woman, who has been living with her mother in a river embankment in the said area. Her husband was working as guard in a cinema hall. He demanded BDT 30 Thousand as dowry which her family could not met. Thus, he divorced her but it was done through a cheating process. Her husband took her signature in a paper which he mentioned was for taking loan from a micro finance agency. But later she realized that it was divorce paper, in conspiracy with local marriage registry office, he cheated her and got married with another woman. She did not go to police station or any local elites as she believes nobody thinks for poor people rather it may welcome further problem. As in her words,

    Ki hoibo matbor ba thanay gele? Goriber jonno kei nai (nothing will happen if I go to local leaders or police station. Nobody is there to help poor people.

    20150816_112906

    The beneficiary is sharing her life struggles including how her husband divorced her

     

    Since then Yesmin has been living with her mother in maternal house with her 4 years old son. She has another sister who has some sort of mental disorder, and only brother lives in Dhaka and works in readymade garments. He hardly helps them. In his word; “how can I help three people by one’s earning? ” Thus, she leads a traumatized life because of cheating by her husband, got affected by some diseases like asthma and found no hope to regain her life spirit.

    However, Practical Action, Bangladesh through local NGO (UDPS) has selected her as beneficiary in 2012 and decided to provide supports so that she could uplift herself. She was given supports for pumpkin cultivation (in 100 pits) like many other female farmers. Initially, the pumpkin plant was good but after few days of work she became sick as her asthmatic problem was increased. Therefore, she contracted (on 50-50 crop sharing condition) another male farmer who could provide physical labour, but unfortunately he also cheated her while sharing the crops. Therefore, when she received supports from the project second time and she tried to do the cultivation by herself and her mother. Most of the works at field were done by her mother. It was not easy job for them. However, they were happy as at the end, they got good harvest of pumpkin, and sold them by 3000 Taka. By the income, she circumcised her son and maintained some other family expenses.

    Later when GMS (Graduate Monitoring Survey) identified her as less progressed beneficiary, project came up with further support. In April 2015, she was given a heifer (worth of BDT 13700; 13000 from the project and 700 was own contribution). Now, they are rearing it and hoping for good return from it.

     

    Factors contribute to success:

    Through interaction and observation, I found some factors that play significant role in uplifting beneficiaries’ economic status (including overall living standard).  Besides the support selection process, there are some socio-cultural and health issues that determined final outcome of the intervention at individual level. Some of such socio-cultural and health issues are mentioned below;

    • Relationship with family members and relatives
    • Supports from family members (son and daughter in law)
    • Alternative option for earning even for some times
    • Not consuming capital assets at any circumstance/ earning from sources to meeting daily expenditure
    • Physical fitness
    • Aggressive attempts to help own self

    How the above issues work at a individual level can be discussed by case studies description. Masuma Begum (60 +) is a beneficiary of the same project who has received a heifer support (worth of 1331o) in March 2013. Since then she has been rearing it. In the meantime, it gave birth a heifer and will give another one soon. The cow gave milk around five months. They sold the milk to the market and earned around BDT 5000. She bought a goat by 2500 Taka and some hens by Taka 600 and spent rest of the amount to build a cowshed. Now she has the following livestock;

    Cattle Present market value
    1. Cow 35000.00
    2. Heifer 20,000.00
    3. She goat 5,000.00
    4. Hen 1800
    Total 78,000.00

     

    Her only one son and wife of her son help her for maintaining and nurturing the livestock. When she goes to work or relatives’ house, they look after the livestock. This is not very common practices in normal circumstances. Therefore, I met her son and asked him what motivate him to extend such help. What I got as response was really surprising. He mentioned that

    dekhen, ami to ekmatro sontan! Uni to ar asob kobore niye jabena. Sob kichu to Amari thakbe. (look, I am her only son. She will not take these to grave. Everything will be mine.)

    Similarly, we met another beneficiary who has 19 goats who used to get cordial support from her neighbor and relatives. She never married and use to consider her goats as children. She loves rearing goats a lot, the goats also listen her call; which we found very inspiring!   

    20150816_120542

    The author is listening to struggles of a beneficiary

     

      Concluding reflection:

    As a development professional, we need to understand how things operate at the community level. Our better understanding would help design or redesign appropriate intervention modalities, and can potentially enhance positive impacts on beneficiaries.

    2 Comments » | Add your comment
  • Common struggles of monitoring and evaluation professionals

    Dhanmondi, Dhaka, Bangladesh, New Market TSO
    July 8th, 2015

    In one hand, monitory and evaluation (M&E) professionals are very dissatisfied about their job and treatment they receive from their line management. On the other, in many cases, M&E staff is perceived by other colleagues as enemy. They just look for drawbacks, limitations, failures etc.- are some of the common and popular complaints against M&E staff. It is true that there was time when M&E people also did behave like a police. However, over the times, significant change has emerged in this field. Now many in the development field understand M&E as process of collaborative learning.
    Is it a struggle in Practical Action only? Not at all!

    I had an opportunity to participate in a conference titled “M&E for Responsible Innovation” held in March this year. The event was organized by Centre for Development Innovation, University of Wageningen, The Netherlands. It was first time in my M & E profession to such a big M&E forum. I participated as well as presented a paper on M&E work. Therefore, many ways, the experience was unique to me.

    IMG_20150320_163442

    in the conference, participants from corporate, government agencies, international development- all acknowledged that irrespective the level, it is very challenging job. Professionals of this field hardly can satisfy their line management. They always go through hard time keeping balance between M&E standard and project priority. As it is a common struggle for all M&E professionals across the globe, therefore I get better feeling and my frustration has been reduced to a significant level. I feel like ‘I am not alone’.

    I tried to understand why this frustration and complaint exist around us. I found number of reasons that contributed to this struggles;

    Some common areas of struggles

    1. Structure of M&E and reporting system:
    Struggles of M&E largely depend on M&E structure within the organization. If there are multi-levels M&E system, then integration into different levels is very important; otherwise learning would be confined within own level. And others will not get benefit out of it.
    IMG_5511

    Moreover, reporting system and process is also another important area of struggle. ‘Reporting to whom’ is an issue that M&E staff always think of and put highest priority. If the reporting line takes to a non M&E staff, then the report (findings) obviously would be different than of a M&E. It has been identified and addressed by many big national & international NGOs. Separating M&E from programmes make them more accountable to grasp learning more systematically.

    2.Putting inadequate resources:
    We often see that M&E activities are less resourced in the project budgeting system.. Therefore, M&E staff needs to rely on alternative options to manage regular monitoring visit, capture lessons and share accordingly. Robust M&E system requires smart budget and can extract systematic learning. While these activities are largely non-budgeted, then obviously, output could not be up to the mark.
    IMG_20150224_122858

    In case of evaluation, it is worst. What I have been experiencing is much frustrating. Always we find that budget for evaluation is inadequate. And as donor’s condition, we cannot commission the evaluation by ourselves. Therefore, for obvious reason we have to hire external consultant to carry out the evaluation. When we do not have adequate budget, we cannot get appropriate or qualified person for commissioning the evaluation. Then, what do we do? Two options remains at our hand; one is to hire low grade consultant and get low quality report. In such, M&E staff needs to take additional pain to improve the quality of the report before submitting to donor or preserving for future use. Another option remains at our hand; to convince someone (qualified consultant) with the given budget from our network to carry out the assignment. In this case, we always need to keep in mind that we have to limit our expectations. In both cases, our learning gets less prioritized and lost somewhere in the process.
    IMG_9650

    3. M&E staff should know and can do everything:
    This is a common experience across M&E community. Project management behaves like M&E staff should know everything. Additionally, they would be available to respond any demand raised by any team member (whether it is a report, data, information or setting a meeting with stakeholders in weekend or holiday and what not!). They hardly try to understand that M&E staff also has a life to live. Therefore, M&E staff should not be considered as red cross’s volunteer who would be ready to rescue whenever situation demands.
    IMG_7982

    4. Less independence:
    M&E staff needs to operate their activities with some level of independence (does not mean to run parallel administration). Even most of the cases, M&E staff do follow Logframe, Theory of Change etc, but due to too much dependency to project Managers, they hardly capture any lessons for the projects, programme or even for the organization. Less independence also make people less accountable.

    5. INGO specific problem
    INGOs are too much dependent on external consultant for commissioning any evaluation. They assume that external consultant would maintain neutrality. It never happens that way. If consultant is not appointed by and reported to the donor agency, then consultant would not take any risk of disappointing project management and subsequently loosing future opportunity. For authenticity of the report, methodology is as important as the principal investigator. Always hiring external consultant impacts negatively on M&E staff’s skills level, as they do not have opportunity to get involved directly.

    Research and Evaluation Department (RED) of BRAC would be good example of how team from the same organization do conduct all kinds of studies and evaluation with credible quality.

    6.Are we ready accepting mistakes?
    Lastly, neither the M&E staff nor project team are ready to accept that they can do mistake. Doing mistake is not a crime rather it is an opportunity for learning. Often mistakes bring great learning. This is kind of open secret, everybody understands but nobody accepts. This culture needs to be challenged. If organization allows mistakes, staff will take disciplined risk and more innovation will be coming up.

    How is the way out?

    There are many ways to get out of this circle. However, I would stress on three issues.
    • Firstly, introducing technology in M&E works which could enable auto generation of report, less dependency on people and manual process.
    • Secondly, it is important to engaging M&E staff since begging of the project design so that required expenditures are budgeted, M&E systems and processes are properly designed.
    • Thirdly, important thing is to building bridges between programmes and M&E and different levels of M&E through promoting trust and better engagement.

    In my last words, I am used to get new friends and new enemy (not in true sense but kind of cooperative conflict that theorized by Amartya Sen) in every after three months. Therefore, I am not worried about putting forward the concerns that are associated with quality and effectiveness of the programme. I also know M&E is a thankless job like many others!

    4 Comments » | Add your comment