Sir Fazle stresses quality improvement of basic services and lasting partnerships
Bangladesh will have to shift its focus from providing basic services only to ensuring improved quality of those services and work to forge stronger partnerships between the government, non-governmental development actors and private sector to fulfil the targets of its 7th five-year plan and the sustainable development goals.
BRAC founder-chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed made these observations while speaking at the Bangladesh Development Forum 2018. The two-day high profile event organised by the Economic Relations Division (ERD) under the finance ministry concluded today on Thursday in the capital.
Sir Fazle spoke at the opening plenary session titled ‘Implementation of the 7th FYP and the SDGs: Challenges and way forward’ on Wednesday (17 January 2018). The session was also addressed, among others, by BRAC’s executive director Dr Muhammad Musa, its senior director for strategy, communications and empowerment Asif Saleh, and director of Advocacy for Social Change department KAM Morshed.
Stressing three areas of priority in implementing the government’s 7th five-year plan and achieve the SDG targets, Sir Fazle pointed out that eradicating extreme poverty, improving the quality of basic services and enhancing the quality of education will be the vital factors in this regard.
‘We must prioritise the eradication of extreme poverty in Bangladesh. While one cannot deny the tremendous progress made, there are still 20 million people in our country who live in the direst forms of poverty and deprivation. The government has taken many initiatives, including the Ekti Bari Ekti Khamar project, to help people in extreme poverty. BRAC pioneered the ultra-poor graduation approach, which has lifted millions of people out of ultra-poverty in Bangladesh, and has been replicated in over 50 countries globally,’ he said, underscoring the need for all relevant actors to join hands to eradicate extreme poverty from Bangladesh.
Sir Fazle also called on relevant actors to work together to reduce maternal mortality. ‘A recent report indicates that some of the gains achieved during the MDG era have now stalled. The maternal mortality ratio (MMR) has remained the same at 196 per 100,000 live births between 2010 and 2016. We have to dig into the reasons why such an impressive trajectory of improvements has stopped,’ he said.
Collaboration of all relevant actors is a must for quality improvement of education at all levels, he noted, further commenting on the importance of teachers’ capacity building at the pre-primary level. ‘In order to cater to the needs of young children, the teachers need special orientation, training and support. They need to be more like facilitators, the classrooms need to look very different and the children need to learn through play.’
Sir Fazle also observed that the government in its endeavour to reform public sector institutions should involve the civil society as well. ‘The government alone cannot address the challenge of reforming its public institutions. It will require credible partners, and here too the civil society organisations can play an extremely constructive and positive role’ he said.
Simi Kamal, the senior group head for grants and operations, and Mohammed Ashraf, the programme management specialist for the Pakistan Poverty Alleviation Fund (PPAF) paid a two-day visit to PPAF funded BRAC’s programme for poverty reduction (PPR) office at Hub Chowki, Lasbela.
PPR is specially designed to meet the needs of people in vulnerable and marginalised communities, who are deprived of social and economic opportunities. An integrated model is used to provide a holistic environment conducive to the socio-economic uplift of people living in extreme poverty. The objective is poverty reduction through the creation of sustainable conditions of social and economic development, including increased income and production capacity and social support. As of December 2017, 221 community organisations have been established, 321 clients received asset transfers, and 564 community members received vocational and technical training. 28 community schools have been established and 37 government schools received rehabilitation support. Two health centres were established and 106 women-friendly latrines have been constructed. 39 clean drinking water schemes and 33 solar lighting schemes have been completed.
The visit was an extensive attempt to monitor gender parity and women’s participation in the programme. On the first day, Kamal and Ashraf were briefed about PPR operations and the progress of the programme by the programme manager, Changiz Baloch, communications coordinator, Zilay Huma, and programme lead, Kashif Ashraf.
The visitors were taken on a field visit the next day. The first stop was BRAC’s community school in Ibrahim Sasoli Goth in Union Council Sakran, Lasbela. Kamal discussed academic matters with the head teacher, and had a chit chat with the students. She met with members of the school management committee and the students’ parents. She checked all the facilities supplied by BRAC in Pakistan to the community school, such as washrooms, fans, lights and teaching material.
The next stop was a community health centre at Hashim Wahora Goth. The visitors met with the staff and discussed in length the operations and medical procedures.
Next was the Local Support Organization (LSO) Band Murad office at Mubarak Goth. The president of the LSO, Rehmat Ullah, and vice president, Saliha Bibi, welcomed the PPAF team. LSO members gave a detailed presentation about their community work and their linkages with government institutions. The PPAF team was introduced to all the committee and subcommittee members of the LSO. Kamal interacted with the procurement, education, health and audit committees of the LSO. She was very concerned about women’s representation and participation in the community development work and was delighted to see Saliha Bibi and other extraordinary women speaking for themselves and breaking the glass ceiling. She even drove around in an autorickshaw to encourage women to work outside their homes. She visited different community infrastructure schemes in Mubarak and Ibrahim Sasooli Goth and met clients.
The visit came to an end with a dinner and an informal meeting where Kamal shared her views about BRAC Pakistan’s community development work. She was surprised and contented to see vibrant and meaningful women’s participation in the community. She appreciated BRAC Pakistan staff at Lasbela for their outstanding performance in community mobilisation. She wished BRAC in Pakistan well in its future endeavours.
Ambassadors from four European countries visited BRAC’s food security and livelihood programme at Buchanan, Grand Bassa County on 28 November 2017.
The honourable group of ambassadors was Ambassador of European Union, Helene Cave, German Ambassador Hubert J. Jäger, British Ambassador David Belgrove OBE and French Ambassador Terence Wills. Alberto Menghini, Head of Cooperation Section of EU Delegation to Liberia was present along with the team.
The group of ambassadors visited BRAC’s poultry hatchery and feed mill at Neekrin Township, Buchanan. After a brief presentation, they discussed the feasibility, operation, business model and future plan. The hatchery and feed mill started operation in 2014 with support from Chevron and European Union. Since then it has successfully produced day old chicks and feeds for chicken. The team also visited a community-level farmer training session to see how communities are engaged with the project across various levels.
The training was organised by the European Union funded PRO ACT project which began in 2016. The main objective of the project is to improve the food and nutrition security situation of vulnerable population groups. This visit can start new collaborations in the development of agriculture and food security in Liberia.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Royal Denmark and BRAC have signed an agreement to implement a 2-year project titled ‘Socio-economic reintegration of returnee migrant workers of Bangladesh’ to facilitate the reintegration process of the expatriate workers who have returned to their home country.
The objective of the project is to raise public awareness about the essential social and economic support our migrant workers need for reintegrating themselves into the mainstream society once they permanently return, facilitate skill training activities increasing their scope for better utilisation of the money they have earned abroad, and carry out advocacy with the government to undertake separate programmes for returnee migrants, focusing on the issue of reintegration.
Ambassador to the Royal Denmark Embassy in Dhaka Mikael Hemniti Winther and BRAC’s senior director for strategy, communication and empowerment Asif Saleh signed the agreement on behalf of the respective parties at a ceremony in Dhaka on 20 December (2017). Other officials of BRAC and the Danish embassy in Dhaka were present at the event.
The two-year long project will end in December 2019.
Inadequate implementation of land related laws, lack of information, faulty land surveys and land records are some of the major challenges preventing delivery of proper land related services to the citizens. Along with these problems, lengthy processes followed in service delivery and complications and lack of transparency in financial transaction also perpetuate. As a result, the different initiatives taken up by the government to digitise and modernise the land management system are failing to bring expected benefits to the general people.
Speakers made these observations at a seminar on land services held by BRAC in the capital today on Thursday (21 December 2017). BRAC’s Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) programme organised the event titled ‘Strengthening public-private partnership to ensure easy access to land services and information’ at the BRAC Centre at Mohakhali. State minister for land and Member of Parliament Saifuzzaman Chowdhury was present at the seminar as the chief guest.
BRAC’s Advocacy for Social Change programme director KAM Morshed moderated the event, while chairman of Land Reform Board Md Mahfuzur Rahman, director (administration) of Department of Land Record and Survey Matin-ul-Hoque and director (survey) Md Shamsul Alam, and associate director of HRLS Syeda Farisa Kabir spoke, among others.
BRAC Human Rights and Legal Aid Services (HRLS) programme organised the seminar as a part of its effort to facilitate delivery of better quality land services through collaborations between the government and non-governmental agencies.
State minister Saifuzzaman Chowdhury in his chief guest’s speech said, ‘Once we carry out a complete digital land survey it will alone lead to reducing a lot of complications and land cases. That is why we are now giving highest importance on carrying out the digital land survey.’
Having welcomed BRAC’s ‘Bhumibandhu’ initiative he said, ‘Since BRAC works to benefit the marginalised people, I believe that its “Bhumibandhu” will also help the common people establish their just rights on their land property.’ He also suggested that BRAC should create a model of land service delivery by starting work with a single union.
Chairman of Land Reform Board Md Mahfuzur Rahman urged BRAC and other relevant actors about boosting advocacy activities in this sector. ‘To reduce corruption in land service delivery we have to reduce cash transaction,’ he observed, further emphasising the need for laws strengthening Go-NGO collaboration.
Director (administration) of Department of Land Record and Survey Matin-ul-Hoque said, ‘The majority of the land cases derive from conflicts on boundary and attempts to deprive women of their property rights. Most of these conflicts are occurring in the rural areas.’ He stressed digital land survey across the country to resolve the disputes on land boundary.
HRLS programme’s associate director Syeda Farisa Kabir said, ‘The objective of our “Bhumibandhu” is to deliver services with transparency and bring correct information and right advice to the people. We now need assistance from the government to take our effort further.’
The experts came up with a number of recommendations at the seminar that include, among others, bring change in attitude among the land officials, strengthen collaboration with the non-governmental actors, increase the number of staff at the department of land survey, boost public information dissemination activities and prevent corruption and lengthiness in delivery of land services.
The speakers informed the seminar that one in every seven people in Bangladesh endure hassles with their land property. In this context BRAC’s HRLS programme this year (2017) established four centres called ‘Bhumibandhu’ at different corners of the country as part of a pilot project to provide advisory services and other assistance to the public. The centres are located in Pakundia upazila of Kishoreganj, Trishal upazila of Mymensingh, Singra upazila of Natore and Sadar upazila of Panchagarh.
BRAC in Uganda, the country’s largest non-governmental development organisation, has been honoured as the Best Visionary Microfinance Bank 2017. The 5th Visionaries of Uganda Awards ceremony was held at the Kampala Serena Hotel on December 7, 2017.
The award was given to BRAC by the People of the Republic of Uganda for their outstanding contribution towards Uganda’s middle income status aspiration 2020 and Vision 2040, in a ceremony presided over by His Excellency, Edward Ssekandi Kiwanuka, the Vice President of the Republic of Uganda.
The Visionary of Uganda Awards was launched in 2013 by His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, the President of the Republic of Uganda, to award institutions and organisations that contribute towards the social economic transformation of Uganda.
The awards were sponsored by various institutions including the National Planning Authority, Ministry of Agriculture, Mediciens Frontieres and Compuscan CRB Limited. The awards drew over 40 participants including both private and government organisations covering sectors such as health, education, agriculture, microfinance and banking.
BRAC in Uganda provides access to finance and livelihood development services to small entrepreneurs through small enterprise loans. These loans enable them to expand their businesses. These awards are confirmation that alongside growth, BRAC is putting emphasis on providing microfinance solutions to shape and uplift Uganda’s economy.
BRAC and the German Development Bank (KfW) on behalf of the German Government signed two agreements to set up a fund on climate change adaptation and climate-induced migration.
The project called ‘Climate bridge fund’ has been drawn through consultation between the two organisations with the objective of supporting the communities of Bangladesh vulnerable to the impacts of climate change.
The agreements were signed on Tuesday, December 12, 2017 at the BRAC Centre in the capital. Asif Saleh, senior director, strategy, communication and empowerment, BRAC and BRAC International, Carla Berke, head of division, urbanisation and mobility, South Asia, KfW, Germany, and Regina Maria Schneider, director, KfW regional office, Bangladesh and Nepal, signed the agreement on behalf of the respective parties.
This initiative will provide funding to NGOs, social and private sector institutions to implement projects for strengthening resilience of the vulnerable people in urban areas who are either displaced or at risk of displacement due to climate change impacts. The fund, subject to government approval, will encourage sustainable operations and their scaling up, which traditional development projects usually cannot provide. More details on it will be published during the first quarter of 2018.
Crop diversification have positive impact on nutritional intake
Crop diversification helps increase the intake of nutritious food by giving households more options in food items to choose from. A study, conducted from 2010-11 to 2014-15, reveals that underweight population among the participant community reduced by 4.5 per cent over this period.
The findings further show that over the study period normal weight population among the participating households increased by 2.3 per cent. Also underweight male population reduced by 4.4 per cent, while female population of the same category reduced by 5.3 per cent.
‘Econometric analysis revealed that crop diversity level has direct influence on dietary diversity and, thereby, on the nutritional status of the individual,’ the study concludes.
International research body Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) and development organisation BRAC conducted the study titled ‘Crop diversity, dietary diversity and nutritional outcome in rural Bangladesh: Evidence from panel households’ with 500 participating households in 12 villages of 11 districts across the country.
LANSA-BRAC consultant Dr Uttam Kumar Deb and BRAC’s Research and Evaluation Division (RED) director Professor Abdul Bayes led the study.
The findings of the study were presented at a seminar styled ‘Leveraging agriculture for nutrition in Bangladesh’ today on Tuesday (12 December 2017) at the BRAC Centre in the Dhaka city. The event was supported by UK AID.
Agriculture secretary Md Kaykobad Hossain was present at the seminar as the chief guest, while Professor Abdul Bayes moderated. BRAC Agriculture and Food Security Programme’s head Dr Md Sirajul Islam, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) research analyst Tauseef Salahuddin, and RED senior research fellow Barnali Chakraborty presented three other papers at the event. Agriculture joint secretary Balai Krishna Hazra and WorldFish country director Dr Malcolm Dickson, among others, also spoke at the seminar.
Md Kaykobad Hossain said, ‘It is difficult for Bangladesh to mitigate the challenges including that of increasing the nutritional intake for the 160 million people with limited resources. As a part of its efforts, the government is giving emphasis on distribution of nutritious food items besides rice under its VGD (Vulnerable group development) programme.’
‘Rice cannot fulfil our daily need of food intake. So the government is now motivating the farmers to produce new crop varieties apart from rice,’ he further said.
‘Besides food crop production, we have to increase our focus on building quality storage system,’ added the agriculture secretary.
Professor Abdul Bayes said, ‘It is true that Bangladesh has made better progress in increasing people’s nutritional intake than some of the disadvantaged African nations, but to make further progress our farmers need to reduce their dependence on rice cultivation.’
Professor Bayes in his presentation pointed out that during the study period, 99 per cent of the farmland was under rice cultivation throughout the monsoon, which changed outside the rainy season to bring more than 45 per cent of farmland under non-rice crops.
The community in the study area, however, generally manifested a positive trend towards cultivating varieties of crops. Households with larger farms and comparatively better institutional education showed more interest about crop diversification.
The speakers also warned that an upward trend of gaining weight in a section of the community is also evident from the study. During the study period, overweight population increased in the participant households by 1.9 per cent with overweight male population increased from 3.9 per cent to 5.6 per cent and female population increased from 9.3 per cent to 11.3 per cent. During the same period, obese population increased from 0.9 per cent to 1.2 per cent with obese male population increased by 0.5 per cent and female population increased from 1.3 per cent to 2 per cent.
Summaries from three more research work were also presented at the seminar. Dr Md Sirajul Islam presented the paper titled ‘A study on milk value chain for the poor in Bangladesh’. Barnali Chakraborty’s paper was titled ‘A capability approach to child nutrition: Parents’ stories in context of haor’, while Tauseef Salahuddin presented a paper styled ‘Dietary patterns in rural Bangladesh: What influence of agriculture?’
BRAC's attention has been drawn to the news published by some media houses, alleging that the Government of Pakistan has ordered closure of BRAC's development operations in that country. While this news is not based on any fact, the statement below will explain the real situation on this issue.
BRAC has been implementing development programmes in Pakistan since 2007 under the entity 'BRAC Pakistan' which is locally registered. Recently, BRAC undertook an initiative to register an international development entity called 'BRAC International' to operate in that country. Accordingly, an application was filed with the Pakistani ministry concerned. The ministry, however, rejected the application, while advising to resubmit papers within 90 days for reappraisal.
In this context, the development programmes being run by BRAC Pakistan have no connection with the application for registration of BRAC International or the process involving it.
We, therefore, clearly state that the news published alleging the suspension or closure of BRAC programmes in Pakistan is entirely baseless.
BRAC in Pakistan organised their the first Annual Performance Awards 2016 to recognise top performing credit officers in the microfinance programme from all the six regions. The awards ceremonies were held in Karachi, Lahore, Multan, Sahiwal, Rawalpindi and Hyderabad, ending in July 2017. The top 36 performers were awarded with cash prizes based on outreach, number of clients, the quality and amount of portfolio achieved, and adherence to BRAC’s core values of integrity, innovation, effectiveness and inclusiveness.
The microfinance programme provides access to the financial support needed for people living in poverty, particularly women, to improve their livelihoods. BRAC uses an inclusive and client-focused intervention to extend financial and non-financial services across a wide number of underdeveloped areas in Pakistan. The loans are delivered at clients’ doorsteps through female agents.
BRAC is currently providing financial assistance to 55,000 borrowers through microloans, small enterprise loan and agriculture loan products. The microfinance programme is operational in 13 districts through 66 branch offices and six regional offices in Sind and Punjab province of Pakistan.