S M Alauddin


Manager (Research & Advocacy), Policy, Practice and Programme Development Manager working with Practical Action, Bangladesh; can be reached through sm.alauddin@practicalaction.org.bd

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

Posts by S M

  • Participatory planning and inclusive urban governance

    March 23rd, 2016

    There has been encouraging evidence in influencing inclusive urban governance necessary to face future challenges of unplanned rapid urbanization taking place in most  developing countries including Bangladesh. Rapid growth of slums is an obvious part of unplanned urbanization. Bangladesh experienced the fastest urbanization compared to other middle income countries, with 6% growth rate per year since independence (UPPR, UNDP, 2011). The urban population was 30% in 532 urban centers (2001), which is likely to be 50 million by 2021 and may exceed 60 million by 2031 (CUS 2008, Bangladesh Urban Forum, 2011).

    Urbanization is a process of development. However, unplanned urbanisation creates a lot of pressures on urban infrastructural services, like, water, sanitation, electricity, drainage facilities, etc. (UPPR, UNDP 2011) as they are often excluded from urban planning and development interventions. Besides pressures on infrastructural services, such rapid growth of unplanned urbanization and slums creates social problems that resulting in suffering for the city dwellers and urban governments.

    The urban poverty rate is 21.3 %, while, 7.7% are extreme poor (HEIS, 2010). However, the urban extreme poor, mostly migrated from rural to urban areas are the main sources of laborers in different urban sectors and the urban economy now contributes 60% of the national economy. But slum dwellers suffer from multiple problems of housing, employment, water and sanitation. So, planned urbanization inclusive with the slum dwellers and low income settlement people is very vital.

    participatory planningPractical Action has worked in 82 communities (slums) across 6 cities in Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka from 2012-2016 with partners following a participatory planning process in collaboration with municipalities. A regional workshop was held on 28 February 2016 in Dhaka to mark the end of the project by sharing its learning and experiences, which, showed remarkable changes on the empowerment and living conditions of the extreme poor.  The project was funded by the European Union and UK Aid.

    This blog is mainly based on the experiences and learning of Bangladesh (Faridpur and Jessore Municipalities). It is relevant to mention that the IUD-I project was implemented in Faridpur Municipality only from 2006-2009. The project covered 30 slums (24 in Faridpur and 06 in Jessore) with 10,962 people (5511 female and 5451 male). Most of them are day laborers, van/rickshaw pullers, cleaners, sweepers, pit-emptiers. Of those, a good number of the laborers are engaged in cleaning for the municipality, hospital/clinics and other Government offices. Open defecation is 6% and 8% respectively, in Faridpur and Jessore Municipalities.

    Participatory planning is an effective tool in mobilizing, engaging and integrating a wide range of stakeholders including community, GO-NGOs and municipality.  It followed steps like community mobilization, formulation of a Settlement Improvement Committee (SIC) formulating Community  Action plans (CAPs) and building a Community Improvement Federation (CIF) in streamlining them in the governance, planning and delivery process of infrastructural services. SIC representatives formulated the Community Action Plan (CAP)/year based on assessment and their priority ranking with existing resources, those included identifying community problems, needs, actions and strategies for implementation. SICs, from the needs assessment, their prioritizing, validation and formulating CAP, engaged representatives of municipalities and relevant stakeholders and finalized the CAPs.


    The process has made the opportunity of participation and empowered the urban poor to reach inclusive urban governance. The CIF (with representatives of all SICs) is now empowered to represent and influence the municipality, district and upazila level Local Government Institutions, IGA, education and other support services. Representatives of SICs and CIFs actively participate in municipality level meetings of TLCC, PRAP, GAP and WMSC and contribute to decision making process including government relief operations during disasters like floods, winter clothes distribution, etc.

    waste collectorsFor the first time in the history of Jessore Municipality, the socially excluded Harijan community participated in a budget sharing meeting. All CAPs formulated by SICs are compiled and again shared and validated by the representatives of municipality, which they integrate with their own plan and make inclusive budget allocation.

    Under PRAP and Gender Action Plan (GAP), the Faridpur Municipality has approved BDT 1,72,00,000.00 for urban poor people for infrastructure services in the fiscal year 2014-15, which, is higher than the previous allocation  of BDT 1,45,70,000.00 of 2013-14 and BDT 1,22,00,000.00 of 2012-13, which reveals the increased investment by the Municipality for the people living in urban slums, their participation and representation in urban governance and contributing to the urban development process. The Mayor of Faridpur has given a room for CIF Secretariat at the Municipality building, which has strengthened poor peoples’ participation and empowerment in inclusive urban governance process and contributing to the urban development, spporting SDG Goal 11 that specifically focus on inclusive and sustainable urbanization and capacity for integrated and sustainable human settlement. The process is adopted in Government UPPR and UGIIP II projects, which need to be scaled up and mainstream throughout the entire urban governance process to the cause of a more safer city and urban lives of the city dwellers.

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  • Learning from advocate development training in Nepal

    October 1st, 2015

    Practical Action runs advocacy training sessions to enable its worldwide staff to further the causes and interests of the extreme poor.  This course aims to develop advocates who will be able to carry out policy influencing work at local, national, regional and global level.

    advocacy training in NepalA total of 14 participants (7 male, 7 female) attended the week long training for the Asian offices. It was participatory with lots of exercises and presentations and s to further the causes and interests of the extreme poor.

    ‘How change happens’ was a key component.  Also covered were video creation,  building trust, presentations, the structure of writing a pitch using structure and evaluation.

    The first participatory exercise by the trainees related to defining advocacy.  Some of the definitions offered were systematic, win-win, voice raising, about change, the process of influencing policy and practice, collaborative with right audience/stakeholders, rather than forcing, linear, manipulating, doing something for personal interest.

    How change happens?

    This introduced Practical Action’s influencing framework that incorporates components such as stakeholder engagement; networking and alliance building; civil society capacity building and mobilization; internal capacity and confidence; technical expertise; evidence and learning; and communications. All of these are important.

    It introduced and emphasized the concept of think tank (institution/individual) and opinion leaders’ engagement in the influencing process. Mentoring for individual development of advocates is also important.

    Using evidence based video is effective tool now-a-days. Video filming in groups on particular subject, showing, reviewing and feedback was useful in building knowledge and skills. Exercises on listening and sharing of stories were very useful for easy understanding of problems with their rationale and objectives; audience, approach and strategies; outcome/ results of the policy agenda. These are necessary for effective trust building and collaboration at every step with the target audience, stakeholders, partners, policy networks and institutions.

    Exercises on presentation skills covered issues like voice and body language, tone, speed, pitch and emotion. Practice demonstrations and real situations with an outside audience – the Agriculture Department of Nepal and Heifer-Nepal – helped us to build confidence and apply learning.

    Practical exercises on writing a pitch with a particular policy agenda were very helpful. Evaluation with feedback and suggestions on strengths and weaknesses, was a very important and interesting part of the training.

    Finally, preparation and implementation of an action plan for every individual and  follow-up is going to be important to developing the advocates.

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  • South Asia Right to Food Movement

    July 30th, 2015

    Practical Action, Bangladesh has been participating in the South Asia Right to Food (SARF) Movement for over the last year and a half. There are about 250 national and international NGOs and about 300 individuals of civil society representatives, academics and researchers. The individual dignitaries are from different fields like economics, education, social development, right based issues (human, women and child rights) and food security, from Bangladesh as well as in South Asia.

    South Asia Right to Food conferenceAt present, 925 million people of the world do not get enough food to eat and a huge portion of them (336 million) live in the South Asia Region (FAO 2012). These figures, however, don’t represent the true extent of food insecurity which also includes hidden hunger, micronutrient deficiencies, food wastage and unsafe food. An alarming situation exists in the South Asian (SAARC) countries. In Bangladesh 16.8% of the population are undernourished, 17.5% in India, 24% in Sri Lanka, 5.6% in Maldives, 19.9% in Pakistan and 18% in Nepal.

    The challenge of hunger and malnutrition in South Asia is a complex issue. It will require a multi-pronged approach, including interventions for greater availability of food through improved agricultural production and secure access to livelihoods; education for improved food utilization; clean water for improving health and nutrient uptake and agriculture; women’s empowerment and social protection for the equitable distribution of food with a focus on resources amongst other relevant interventions. These will also provide the basis for communities’ resilience to climate change.

    The movement aims to share experiences of civil societies and relevant entities on right to food and nutritional security movements, policies and legislation across South Asia; building perspectives and strategy of the movement for all relevant actors; strengthen networking among civil society organizations and networks, farmers’ organizations, CBOs, academia, researchers, individuals, and policy makers for effective campaign. And, thus, promote Legal Framework on Right to Food issue and relevant policy reforms at national and regional level engaging policy makers, political societies and relevant stakeholders. Among the SAARC countries India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka are already going to implement several laws and policies regarding right to food and food security. Currently Bangladesh is in a better situation in terms of food security, nutritional scenario and social protection and safety net compared to the last decade. The ultimate goal of the movement is to formulate a food and nutritional security act in Bangladesh.

    South Asia Right to Food conferenceThe Objectives of the movement are similar to SAARC objectives. Peoples’ SAARC under the SARF Movement carry out parallel activities to uphold its objectives to attract and influence the SAARC leaders for its implementation such as SAARC Food Bank that was decided in 2007 upon critical gesture of the civil society. The progress, however, is yet to take place in reality that is supposed to work as a regional food security reserve for member countries during the time of food shortages and emergencies. The right to food movement wants to influence SAARC countries to establish the food bank with immediate effect. With all critical progress of food rights and emergence of food sovereignty in this region, neoliberal discourse and regime of excessive trade liberalization, privatization and deregulation continuing unfair trade system and corporate dominance in agriculture and benefiting the transnational corporations and the elites of our countries. Industrial and chemical intensive agriculture threaten the food and nutritional security and economic development of the people of south Asia.

    Multifaceted environmental and climatic challenges make it difficult for the small holder producers to maintain their livelihoods.  These include land grabbing and land degradation (agriculture, pasture) for industrial purposes, corporate agriculture, mining and logging.

    Of the 925 million hungry and undernourished people, 70% are women and girls; inclusion of gender dimension on right to food could bring down this gap in the region. We are confronted with intensifying economic, social and environmental crises in this region. Securing tenure of land and natural resources, investment in public goods and services, such as infrastructure are necessary to foster responsible investments in agriculture and food systems. At the same time, it contributes to food security and nutrition, and overall economic development. Responsible investment includes priority investments in, by, and with small scale producers, such as, peasant, small holder farmers, pastoralists, artisans, fisher folks, forest dwellers, and processors. The SARF movement wishes to deal with the food and nutritional security issue and raise voices in South Asia to achieve the ultimate goal.

    Issues with the movement will address are:

    • Right to food & nutritional security and food sovereignty,
    • Economic, social and environmental issues in the context of right to food & nutritional security in South Asia region,
    • Equal rights for women with regards to access to food, land rights, financing for farming, and ownership of resources,
    • Policy, legislation and regulatory framework regarding right to food and food governance,
    • Responsible agriculture investment and food sovereignty in this region,
    • Situation of small food producers, experience and learning sharing,
    • Social protection and rights of the peasants, working people and marginal groups in urban and rural areas,
    • Landlessness and insecurity of tenure over the lands, forestry and indigenous people’s rights,
    • Corporate dominance in agriculture, industrial, chemical intensive agriculture,
    • Excessive trade liberalization, privatization and deregulation,
    • Regional rice Strategy for Asia including South Asia,
    • Land, coastal and natural resources grabbing,
    • Access to water for aquaculture & agriculture and ecological diversity,
    • Water as common regional resources for right to food & nutritional security,
    • Access to potable water and sanitation,
    • Effects of grabbing on women, indigenous and marginal people.

    Expected Results:

    • Experiential sharing and critical learning on right to food & nutritional security and food sovereignty for surfacing the challenges and obstacles of existing policies, legislation across south Asian region,
    • Strategize common approach and plans for South Asian countries involving several streams of movements and networks on right to food and nutrition,
    • Initiate discussion on standardization of policies and procedures required for food governance at regional and national level,
    • Explore and streamlining the regional and national networks on right to food and nutrition,
    • Widening and reinforce South Asian regional Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) process,
    • Common statement of the conference considering Right to food obligation,
    • And, finally influence the Government to formulate a Food and Nutritional Security Act.

    Amongst the diversified challenges of South Asia strong solidarity among the people of this region is crucial. With this in mind, SARF recently organized a South Asian Right to Food (SARF) Conference in Dhaka (May 30 – June 1, 2015). Practical Action, Bangladesh was one of the organizers and was a member of the Organizing and Working Committee.  We also presented learning and experiences of our extreme poverty programme with special focus of our policy issue “Operational Access to Transitional Sandbars for the Extreme Poor” in the regional convention.

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  • The impact of technology on street food vendors – part 2

    July 22nd, 2015

    This is a continuation of ‘The impact of technology on street food vendors‘.  Part two covers technology disruption and investment considerations in the street food sector.

    In part one we learnt about technologies used in the sector, technology changes and emerging technologies along with their impact on work opportunities for the informal workers engaged in selling street food.

    Technological disruptions

    street food vendorsTechnologies used for transportation in the street food vending sector are mostly, wooden and steel vans. These are manually operated, very heavy and hard work to pull or push. They also have maintenance problems and health hazards. Both juice and fuchka sellers said that their fruit squeezers are easily damaged. Modification of these technologies have reduced their sufferings gradually, though many vendors lack the financial capacity to modify their vehicles.

    Street food vending is mostly unapproved by the government. Vendors face many social problems like harassment by the police and local politicians. Street food vendors are mostly poor informal labourers and because their business is at the side of the street, it often creates problems for passers by as well as environmental pollution. There is no institution- government or private to look after or monitor the street food vendors. Thus, they frequently have to pay illegal tolls to the police and local politicians. The glasses they use often get broken and have to be replaced. The van can also be damaged and need to be maintained. Pulling a loaded van from home in the morning is very difficult.

    Addressing technological disruptions:

    Modification of existing technologies and the adoption of new emerging technologies are taking place, though these depend on financial capacity. It is very important to adapt to changing trends in technologies used to sell the food. Further, there has been a tremendous shift in trends in food items because of the change of food habit of the city people. So, addressing the technological disruptions is important and also modification of the existing technologies or adoption of new emerging technologies is also very important to sustain in the sector, increase their business and cope with the changing trends of technologies, food items and habits of the city people.

    Investment considerations 

    The selection of technology depended on cost and affordability, seeing how others used it and the technological skills to operate the technology. Similarly, regard to investing in new technologies, the street food vendors considered a number of issues such as safety, cost and affordability and ‘technological knowhow.’  Further, most street food vendors emphasized that they would modify their existing tools and technologies instead of purchasing new ones, since cost always mattered to the street food vendors as most of them are poor.

    Other factors also influenced change of technology in street food vending. Participants shared that when they observed others using a new technology, they themselves become interested in acquiring new and better technology; those in a family business were sometimes told by family members  about new technologies; sometimes customers suggested improvements in food safety, ingredients and tools.

    Their sources of information about technology were mostly other workers and friends and seeing others to use the technology. None of them reported any government or private institutions as sources of information of those technologies.

    The impact of technology

    Technology changes have brought multiple benefits to the labourers by reducing hard physical labor, health and environmental hazards, trust and  confidence of citizens and increasing work opportunities, income and comfort in work as mentioned in my previous blog.

    The way forward

    There remains huge scope for work with technologies for the informal labourers involved in street food vending in Dhaka City.  There is scope for developing entrepreneurship and increasing work opportunities by supporting them with appropriate in the sector. Such support would help informal labourers to increase their income and reduce health and environmental hazards.

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  • The impact of technology on street food vendors

    July 21st, 2015

    Thousands of informal labourers are involved in various types of street food vending in Dhaka, one of the most populous city of the world and the capital of Bangladesh, home to 15 million people. Hundreds of people migrate to Dhaka each year in search of work, driven by the opportunity of work as well as disasters and poverty that force them to migrate. Most of these people find shelter in  slums and start working in areas such as street food vending, rickshaw pulling or construction. Practical Action in partnership with WIEGO conducted a study entitled “Technology and the Future of Work” in five cities across Asia, Africa and Latin America in the energy, transport, urban waste and ICT sectors, where a large number of poor people are involved in informal labour.

    street food1The study was conducted from the perspective of Technology Justice and looked at the use of technologies, technology disruptions, emerging technologies in these sectors and the impact on work and income opportunity, as well as how this may influence work opportunities for street food vendors in the future. Practical Action, Bangladesh carried out the study in Dhaka from April to June 2015 covering domestic waste transportation (from home to local dump station) and the street food vending sector, especially considering energy issues. Participants from two sectors – juice sellers and fuchka sellers attended the focus group discussions. They also shared experiences of other categories of street food vending such as singara/somocha, chop, pianjo, beguni; sweets; sarbat; cakes; popcorn; halim; etc. This article is based on the preliminary findings of that study.

    Technological changes

    Earlier, the earthenware stove was the dominant cooking method for street food vendors followed by the kerosene stove, modified kerosene stove, IPS battery and more recently, liquid petroleum gas (LPG) all of which are being used to make street food. The changes are shown sequentially below:


    Changes have also occurred in the transportation used for street food vending. For example, the basket and push cart was dominant about twenty years ago, later the four wheel wooden cart was introduced and this was followed by the three wheel van, modified van and recently the truck/pick up van, as shown below:

    food vending transportation

    The truck or pick up van is used by the more well off and companies such as Sajna, Yan Tun, etc. which the poor informal street food vendors usually cannot afford.

    There were changes with regard to use of other equipment associated with street food vending, as shown in the following chart:


    Emerging technologies

    street food vendorThe charts above already include some emerging technologies – the IPS battery and LPG are the emerging technology in the street food sector from an energy perspective. And the modified van and truck/pick up van are the major emerging technologies for transportation. Changes in equipment include the bigger saucepan, larger modified stoves, water filters; blenders and digital measuring scales.

    In specific case of juice and sarbat selling, vendors are currently using water filters and blenders powered by a battery, a fruit squeezer, a van with a compartment in the bottom, and sometimes a glass chamber on the upper part of the van. Fifteen to twenty years ago they carried a bucket on their heads to sell the juice and later, began to use a van. Now, some juice vendors have a van with a fibre glass chamber, since it is light and easy to push.

    New technologies bring new opportunities

    For example a blender allows the vendor to make new kinds of juice. One with only a lemon squeezer can only sell lemon juice. A water filter is important for cool and safe drinking water and attracts customers. A glass chamber allows storage of different kinds of juice.

    Fuchka vendors use kerosene stoves, battery powered lights, a modified enlarged van with fibre glass surrounding. Fifteen years ago they used a four-wheel, wooden pulling cart for their business. Later, they started using a three wheeled larger, steel van. Recently, they are trying to make their vans attractive through installing fiberglass. Fuchka vendors considered that a larger van would help them to manage larger stove, produce and sell more food. They used to use small, ready made stoves, but now use larger, modified stoves. Before, the flame for the stove would top out, but now the flame is more reliable. However, the adoption of new technologies or modification of their existing technologies always depends on financial capacity. These technological changes have been adopted in other categories of street food like fried food as well

    street foodParticipants also shared information about other street food vending, like snack shops or popcorn sellers, who also previously used the four-wheel cart. Then, they also used the three-wheeled metal van. Now, snack sellers are using modern food carts with colorful designs. Popcorn sellers use gas to make the food and battery lights and vans with airtight glass, and the popcorn machine. In this connection, participants shared example of Yan Tun Company that used an automated van with a motor, which can both keep food hot and frozen. But, for the fuchka and juice vending, this van is not applicable; rather, it is very useful and applicable for fast food such as burgers. The example of a burger shop was also shared that used a modified van with a motorcycle engine. The selling of fast food items on the street is a recent phenomenon in Dhaka (initiated around 5-7 years ago), which was and still is a business in sophisticated shops. But, improved technologies have made it possible to bring on the street, where many people could be involved if they could afford the technology. There remains a huge demand for such fast food at a cheap price in this highly populous city.

    Technology changes have brought multiple benefits to the informal sector with regard to reducing hard physical labor, health and environmental hazards, building the trust and confidence of citizens about quality and hygiene issues of food, increasing work opportunities, expanding business and earning good income and improving working conditions.  However, the sector lacks attention from government, NGOs or the private sector. There is no institution to provide information, technical or financial support to street food vendors. There remains huge scope for working with these thousands of street food vendors. Unless, they manage the technology changes and emerging technologies in the sector, they might lose their opportunity for work.

    Note: The technological disruptions, technology choices and consideration for future investment in technologies in street food vending will be covered in the part two.

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  • Solar Home System

    February 6th, 2015

    A small technology that brought light to Hasina Begum 

    Ms. Hasina Begum, aged 30, is from Kalikapur village of Atulia Union Council (UP) under Shyamnagar Upazila of the South-western coastal Satkhira district.  This is an area prone to climate change and climatic extreme events such as increased salinity, sea level rise and cyclones. She is a widow and very poor, with no one earning in her family. She lost her husband two years back and has two children- one girl studying in class VI and one son studying in class III in local school.

    Hasina BegumBecause of her poverty, she was selected for the support of Solar Home System (SHS) at her house by the climate change adaptation project of Practical Action Bangladesh with support from Asian Development Bank, along with 19 others in four local villages.

    Kalikapur is known as ‘poultry village’, and the use of SHS is common. In the last two years (mid-2010 to 2012), there has been a tremendous increase of coverage of SHS in the village with support from different NGOs, which, can be considered as Technology Justice, since SHS is becoming popular in the off-grid area, where there is no grid electricity. However, the people of the grid area have been accessing electricity services with high government subsidy. So, SHS, comparatively, with its high cost for the extreme poor is obviously not right from a Technology Justice point of view.

    After the problem of ‘bird flu’ in the last year, poultry raising significantly decreased in the area. The only entrepreneur of the village gives work of karchupi (hand knitting on dresses- salwar, kamij and orna, mainly) to the village women. Hasina also receives some work but not sufficient. However, it helps her in earning to maintain her family to certain extent.

    Hasina received a solar home system in April 2012. The system included one 12 volt battery, one solar panel, two bulbs and a control meter along with wire, switch board and other relevant equipment. Her children’s interest in studying has greatley increased, since the SHS provides more light and is more convenient than traditional kerosene kupi. They now study even after dinner. Hasina herself also has been able to increase her work capacity by carrying on working up to midnight, when there remains pressure of work that she could not perform in the day time because of household work. Earlier, she could work only in the day time.

    So, the SHS has created opportunity of work for longer hours, specially, at night in solar light and scope of earning higher income to maintain her livelihood. Hasina receives wages for karchupi work on each set of dress amounting Tk.200-400. The wage varies based on the amount of work on the dress. SHS has increased her work speed and almost doubled her working hours. She informed us that she can perform her work in six days now, which would have required 12 days earlier prior to the installation of SHS. She is happy with the SHS. Beside longer working scope and income earning aspects, the SHS has increased her security also, since the solar lights lighten the entire room and around and encourage her children to study as well. Earlier, she would feel insecure in the dark of the night. She is a pretty woman and lives alone with her two young children. Having a SHS at home is considered to be the matter of social status as well, in the rural context.

    The SHS has brought multiple benefits to Hasina and her family – she has the opportunity to work for longer, she can earn a higher income, her children can study and her security and social status have improved.


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  • Pushpo Rani is economically empowered

    January 27th, 2015

    Bangladesh is extremely vulnerable to climate change because of its geographical location. Coastal areas in Bangladesh are highly vulnerable to climate change impacts, such as, cyclones and tidal surges, salinity intrusion, sea level rise, coastal flooding and water logging. Shrimp cultivation in the salinity prone coastal area became the dominant livelihoods measure since mid-eighties. But, cultivation on the same land for a long time along with rapid salinity increase caused severe decrease in production, while crop cultivation is not possible due to high salinity in soil. This has caused acute employment problems and increased poverty in the coastal area.

    pushpaThe devastating Cyclone Sidr (2007) and Aila (2009) killed over 16,000 people and devastated millions of people’s lives and livelihoods. The coastal people still have not recovered. Practical Action Bangladesh undertook some interventions with support from the Asian Development Bank in the south-western Shyamnagar and Kaliganj Upazilas (Sub-districts) of Satkhira District.

    Ms. Pushpo Rani (from Atulia UP, Shyamnagar) lives with her husband and two children. She is a tailor and had been making bags out of plastic for the last 2/3 years with support from Sushilan–a local NGO. Her husband also works with her part of his time. Their earnings were poor from bag making. Because of her skills and experiences, she was provided with support for ‘smart bag making’ and accordingly, started working since Jaisthya (mid-April 2012) last.  The bag is of thin cotton and synthetic cloth. It can be folded and kept in a pocket, office bag or vanity bag like a money bag/key holder.  Along with tailoring, she has a business of making printed cloth. Now, they employ 50% of their time making bags and the other 50% for tailoring at home.

    Ms. Pushpo Rani prepares ‘smart bags’ of two qualities- one with good quality cloth,  the other with slightly lower quality cloth. The better quality cloth costs Tk.50/yard, while the lower quality cloth costs Tk. 25/yard. She produces 2 bags with 1 yard of lower quality cloth, and 4 bags with the better quality cloth. So, for each Tk.50/-, she prepares 4 smart bags  of better and lower quality bag. She sells the better quality bag for Tk. 30-35 each (but mostly for Tk.30/-), and the lower quality bag for Tk.20-25 each and makes a profit of Tk.120/for the better quality one,  Tk.80-100 for the lower quality one. These are profitable. They have the capacity to produce more bags, but, there is insufficient demand in the local market. The demand, however, is gradually increasing as they are trying to contact shopkeepers at growth centres around Nawabeki and Munshiganj including Shyamnagar- the Upazila headquarters. They have a plan to produce more bags and expand the market, if there is higher demand. They are able to produce 15-20 bags every day/each i.e. 30-40 bags together/day.

    Since scope for income earning is poor in the area due to salinity increase and wide scale shrimp cultivation, the ‘smart bag’ making with an outside market chain could be a good option for household based income generating. Ms. Pushpo has been contributing significantly to increasing her household income, which, is expected to lift her out of poverty.


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  • Crab Fattening as a livelihood option in coastal areas of Bangladesh

    November 8th, 2014

    The rapid increase of salinity and high tidal inundation has been a great problem for agricultural crop cultivation in the coastal areas over the last few decades in Bangladesh. Shrimp cultivation started in the mid-eighties and is still popular, although production has fallen tremendously due to cultivation  year after year on the same land, where paddy cultivation is not possible due to severe salinity.

    People of the coastal area cultivate saline tolerant fish as adaptive livelihoods options, mainly tilapia and pangus . The Department of Fisheries (DoF) has established a saline water tolerant fish breeding centre in Paikgachha Upazila in the western Khulna District several years back, however, there is no Crab Hatchery to produce young for fattening by the rural poor, though, it’s a very profitable livelihoods option in the coastal area of Bangladesh. There are crab hatcheries in Thailand, Taiwan and Vietnam.

    Photo of CrabsCrab fattening has been a profitable adaptive livelihoods option in coastal areas of Bangladesh as it is both low in cost and easily available.  There is a good market for crab in South East Asian and European countries. Some are also purchased by restaurants in metropolitan cities serving Chinese, Japanese, Korean or other western foods. The fattened crab is sold at a very high price and is 2-3 times more profitable than shrimp cultivation. But, population pressure and over exploitation of crabs from natural sources are threatening the crab population. There was only 3 – 4 crab ghers (farms for fattening) in Munshigang and Atulia Unions under Shyamnagar Upazila of the southern Satkhira District in 2010, which, after 13 years in 2013, has been increased to about 300 ghers. Such increase of crab fattening has put pressure on crab biodiversity, which may also be harmful for the aquatic ecosystem of the coastal areas. So, developing crab hatcheries is essential to produce young crabs to facilitate this important adaptive livelihoods option for thousands of the poor coastal people.

    Crab fattening as an adaptive livelihoods option has been increasing. Crabs are collected from shrimp farms and natural sources i.e. rivers and river channels around the Sundarbans. They prepare small pond/gher, often adjacent to their homestead, put pata (made of bamboo), so that crabs can’t escape. Rotten fishes are the main food for the crabs in the gher. Crab fattening takes a cycle of two weeks only. Thus, it could be done many times by a farmer and can be continued for almost throughout the year. Poor fishers/farmers can get a significant financial return from crab fattening on a sustainable basis and can break out of the poverty trap within a reasonable timeframe.

    So, to facilitate the livelihoods of thousands of coastal poor people and to protect the aquatic ecosystem, establishing a crab hatchery is important without delay. Government, NGOs and private sector could take on the intervention.

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  • Tree planting can reduce risks of climate extremes

    October 27th, 2014

    The coastal area of Bangladesh is the most vulnerable to climate change;  it is prone to salinity, sea-level rise, cyclones and tidal surge. The trend of cyclonic events has also been increasing in the recent years. Sidr, Reshmi, Nargis and Aila are some evidences of such climatic extremes in Bangladesh.

    The Government and NGOs are implementing adaptation programmes, but these are inadequate. Onetree planting initiative by a small local CBO Rupali Sangha is an encouraging example, where Practical Action Bangladesh provided support under its Climate Change Adaptation Project. Rupali Sangha is from the north western Kaliganj Upazila of the Satkhira District adjacent to the Sundarbans. They planted mangrove trees on both sides of a local government/Union Council road following participatory  agreement with concerned parties – the Union Council and land owners. Practical Action Bangladesh facilitated the process. As well as the environmental benefits of this planting, the share of probable profit was settled as 20% for the UC/20% for the land owners/60% for the Rupali Sangha.

    mangrovesMembers of Rupali Sangha voluntarily repaired a 320 meter road in 2012 and planted trees on both sides of the road. They received support of 100,000 taka under a government safety net programme for repairing the road and planted 150 mangrove saplings. As well as the environmental benefits of carbon emission reduction, protection of the road from erosion and protection from the risks of cyclonic storm there were also financial benefits. The Sangha did the plantation with support from Practical Action Bangladesh. Out of 150 saplings, 55 died, and were supposed to be replaced soon. A Caretaker was employed for caring and maintenance of the planted saplings and Rupali Sangha members voluntarily perform the maintenance work.

    After a year they will be able to harvest kewra fal (fruits of kewra trees). After 3-4 years, they should be able to harvest a substantial quantity kewra fal  and earn regularly by selling those in the local market. Each tree should produce 20 kgs of kewra fal/year. Each kg kewra fal costs Tk.10. So, they could be harvesting a total of 3000 kgs (20kgx150) of kewra fal/year that cost Tk.30,000/yearly. The cost of kewra fal will increase gradually in the near future and they will be able to increase their profit. Besides, they will be able to sell dead branches for  fire wood for 5-10 years that will earn some income as well.

    After 15-20 years, when the trees are mature, the price will go up and they would be able to sell each tree for Tk.15,000-20,000. They will develop a fund with earning/profit and expected to spend the money for development of their village such as road maintenance, vaccination of cattle and scholarships for poor students.

    The mangrove tree plantation has diverse benefits in regard to economic, environmental, and protection of road communication and above all development work with its earning including contributing to reducing the risk of climate extremes.

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  • Is climate change threatening floating gardens in Bangladesh?

    October 16th, 2014

    Climate Change (CC) is considered the greatest threat to mankind in the 21st century.  Its impacts are evident across the world. It’s a global process and the poor countries of Asia and Africa are the most vulnerable. This is a huge global injustice as these countries have contributed so little to the greenhouse gas emissions that are causing our planet to heat up. Though it’s a global problem, it has particularly devastating local impacts in Bangladesh on agriculture and food production; water, ecosystems and health; extreme events and disaster preparedness; sea level rise and salinity intrusion. Mitigation and adaptation are the major means to addressing risks and vulnerabilities. But, poor countries like Bangladesh, who emit much less carbon, concentrate on adaptation measures, rather than mitigation.

    A floating garden to grow crops when land is flooded

    A floating garden to grow crops when land is flooded

    Hydroponic gardens consist of plants grown without soil. Because rapid climate change is having such adverse negative impacts on agriculture and fishery ecosystems i.e. coastal, floodplain and drought regions, various adaptation options are practiced in Bangladesh. Of those, floating bed vegetable gardening has been a major potential and effective adaptation option in the floodplains and waterlogged areas of Bangladesh over the last two decades. Hundreds of farmers depend on floating gardens for their livelihoods on floodplains where there are very limited agricultural options (one paddy per year).

    Floating bed vegetable cultivation, or hydroponic vegetable gardening is a five hundred year old practice in the low-lying flood prone districts of Bangladesh, particularly, in the south-central and southern areas,  Gopalganj, Madaripur, Pirojpur and Jhalokathi Districts.

    The floating bed crop cultivation is known as ‘gato’, ‘baira’ and ‘dhap chash’ in the areas, where, earlier plants of different vegetables were mainly produced in the rainy season and after the recession of flood water, farmers would use the waste as compost. Over the last two decades, floating garden techniques have been improved a lot. Farmers produce mainly the leafy green plants like pumpkin, water gourd, turmeric, ginger, chichinga, lalshak, puishak, ladies fingers, karalla, arum, tomato, turturi, etc. The production of vegetables from these floating bed is very high, more than double that of normal land. The Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) has been expanding its cultivation in the haor basin, where there is no salinity but huge scope for floating bed vegetable gardening.

    Water hyacinth is the main material used to prepare the floating bed. However, floating bed cultivation has been threatened due to salinity in Gopalganj District, particularly, in Tungipara Sub-district according to local farmers, as the increased salinity of the water is hampering the growth of water hyacinth. The impact is similar in other areas. Farmers are not getting enough water hyacinth for floating bed preparation. A number of farmers informed me that currently their floating beds have been reduced by at least 30-35% for each farmer than the past years. What will happen to these farmers if floating bed gardening becomes impossible? Climate scientists, researchers and the DAE need to think about this.

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