Research findings from LANSA-BRAC examines the relation of agriculture and nutrition
Bangladesh achieved remarkable success in alleviating poverty but lags in the field of nutrition. Presently, 7.3 million children under the age of five are stunted while 2.9 million children are undernourished. To overcome this, experts are stressing on the diversity of agricultural production and agri-food value chain beyond farm to ensure food security, and fight against under nutrition.
On Tuesday, speakers shared such findings at a seminar titled ‘Nexus between Agricultural and Nutrition: Bangladesh Case’ at the BRAC Centre in Dhaka. The seminar was organised jointly by BRAC’s research and evaluation division, and international research partnership Leveraging Agriculture for Nutrition in South Asia (LANSA) which is funded by the Department for International Development (DFID), UK.
Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, was present as chief guest at the seminar. Welcome speech was given by Prof. Abdul Bayes, director of research and evaluation division, BRAC. Dr Md. Sirajul Islam, programme head of BRAC's agriculture and food security programme presented findings from a research on the potential of orange-fleshed sweet potatoes in curbing under nutrition in Bangladesh. The session was led by the head of BRAC’s impact assessment unit Andrew Jenkins where International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)’s Chief of Party Dr Akhter Ahmed, BRAC’s Research and Evaluation Division’s senior research fellow Barnali Chakraborty, researcher of BRAC-LANSA Dr Uttam Kumar Deb also presented papers. The presentations were followed by open discussion.
Addressing the key points of the research, Dr Md. Sirajul Islam said, “We need to focus on how the process of agri-food value chain and market distribution can be developed. That way, nutrition and food security for poor people can be ensured. This is going to be the next success of farm under food distribution management." He also mentioned that orange-fleshed sweet potato, which contains Beta-Carotene can play a vital role to preventing under nutrition problem.
Dr Akhter Ahmed said that the main objective of IFPRI's Agriculture, Nutrition, and Gender Linkages (ANGel) project in Bangladesh is to increase investment in agricultural activities and enable women to play a crucial role in curbing down under nutrition.
About nutritional wellbeing in Haor areas of the country, Barnali Chakraborty said, “Nutrition problem is extreme in Bangladesh, and 45 per cent children are stunted in the Haor areas. To prevent this situation, BRAC initiated a pilot project in 2013 in the upazila level.”
Dr Uttam Deb's paper indicated that diet diversity has increased in recent times and involvement in diversified agriculture (crop, horticulture, livestock and fish farming) contributes towards better nutrition (measured through BMI) and low income inequality.
Mohammad Moinuddin Abdullah, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, said, “Government has taken different initiative to develop and increase nutrition for mass people. Ministry of Agriculture is evaluating various methods for nutrition enhancement through Agriculture, Nutrition, and Gender Linkages (ANGel) project.
BRAC has been recognised with Smart Certification for its demonstrated commitment to client protection through its microfinance activities. By successfully completing the Smart
Campaign’s certification programme BRAC has become the first organisation in Bangladesh to achieve certification. It joins 63 other financial institutions worldwide who are proven industry leaders in keeping clients first.
Client Protection Certification is an independent, third party evaluation to publicly recognise financial institutions that meet adequate standards of care in how they treat clients. Financial institutions awarded with Smart Certification must meet rigorous, internationally agreed standards on client protection.
To secure certification, BRAC underwent an extensive audit of their policies and practices for adherence with the Smart Campaign’s Client Protection Principles, which cover issues including transparency, fair and respectful treatment, responsible pricing and prevention of over-indebtedness. The Smart Certification process consists of a thorough document review followed by an onsite visit complete with interviews of BRAC’s management, staff and clients. The process was conducted by Microfinanza Rating, a globally specialised microfinance rating agency and licensed Smart Certifier. Including BRAC in Bangladesh, 64 institutions globally have been certified since the programme’s launch, which serve more than 34 million clients.
Commenting on the achievement, Shameran Abed, director of BRAC’s microfinance programme said, 'We are absolutely thrilled to be Smart Certified. Our clients have always come first, and this achievement confirms the success of our programme’s mission to provide financial services to the poor in a way that is responsible and responsive to their needs.'
The Supreme Court ruled in favour of the government today regarding BRAC’s taxable status. The income tax law changed over time and, as a result, the taxable amount applied to BRAC changed. BRAC contested that non-profit organisations should be exempt from income tax.
Today's ruling overturned the High Court verdict from 2014 that declared that the income from BRAC’s social enterprises would be exempt from income tax. BRAC is a non-profit organisation and the income generated by BRAC’s social enterprises supports BRAC’s social development programmes. In the 2014 financial year alone, BRAC paid more than 91 crore taka (11.61 million USD) in tax and other forms of revenue.
BRAC respects the latest ruling by the Supreme Court, the full text of which has not yet reached BRAC management. Once this verdict is received, we will take legal counsel and decide our next course of action.
Our social development programmes across the country and millions of people who benefit from them will not be adversely affected by the outcome of this ruling.
Dr Munir Ahmed (country director, Orbis International Bangladesh) and Dr Kaosar Afsana (director of HNPP, BRAC) exchange the MoU in presence of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed (founder and chairperson of BRAC).
BRAC and the US-based international organisation, Orbis International, with the support of Qatar Development Fund, has signed an agreement today for extending quality modern eye care treatment for the ultra poor. It aims to strengthen community eye health services across four districts, increasing access to eye care for children in Bangladesh. This activity forms part of a new initiative called Qatar Creating Vision (QCV).
The agreement was signed at BRAC Centre, in the presence of Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, chairperson of BRAC, Dr Kaosar Afsana, director of BRAC Health, Nutrition and Population Programme, and Orbis International Bangladesh's country director, Dr Munir Ahmed, and director of programmes, Md Alauddin.
At the occasion, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said, “Many are suffering from vision problems, helping those unfortunates to see the world with primary care service is crucial. We must work collectively to ensure the primary eye care service for all.”
Country Director of Orbis International Bangladesh, Dr Munir Ahmed said, “We have committed to achieve the Vision 2020 goal, and without universal eye health coverage, this would be impossible.”
A spokesperson from Qatar Development Fund said, “Half of childhood vision loss can be prevented or cured, so there is much that can be done, particularly for children in hard-to-reach or poor areas.”
According to the MoU, Orbis International will partly fund the construction of four vision centres, contributing around BDT 13 million, based on the model of primary health care centres to provide free eye check-ups. These centres will be built in the Khansama Upazila of Dinajpur, Nandail Upazila of Mymensingh, Dumuria Upazila of Khulna, and Homna Upazila of Comilla. The five-year-long MoU between BRAC and Orbis International will continue till June 2020. Supported by the Qatar Development Fund, the initiative will conduct one million eye tests, treat 100,000 children with uncorrected refracted errors, and perform 10,200 eye surgeries.
At the signing ceremony, BRAC informed that 16 more vision centres will be constructed. The main objective is to ensure quality eye care services for the ultra poor through telemedicine technology. Furthermore, the middle class will receive eye check-up, registration, necessary suggestions and treatments at reasonable costs.
A delicate ceasefire appears to be holding in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, after five days of heavy fighting between forces loyal to the President, Salva Kiir and those loyal to the vice-president, Riek Machar. There is widespread concern that violence will breakout again leading to calls for a buffer zone to be established. The rival forces from the Dinka and Nuer tribes battled each other using anti-aircraft guns, artillery attack helicopters and tanks, almost five years to the day after South Sudan declared independence from Sudan.
More than 300 people have been killed in the violence, including many civilians, and 36,000 people have been displaced with some seeking shelter in UN compounds and others hoping to make the long journey to Uganda and find safety. On Monday evening the clashes terminated following orders from senior leadership on both sides.
BRAC have been working in South Sudan since 2006 delivering services in education, youth empowerment, peace building, healthcare and nutrition, agriculture and food security, and livelihoods. When independence came in 2011, BRAC staff supported the world’s newest country to develop schools and reach remote villages to deliver healthcare. Currently working in 11 counties across 4 states, BRAC have created opportunities for more than 1.3 million people.
The deteriorating security situation in South Sudan is deeply concerning and BRAC has temporarily evacuated staff from areas where violence has erupted. We are additionally concerned about the impacts of sustained civil conflict on a vulnerable population that is already threatened by famine in some locations. As soon as the situation allows BRAC will continue reaching out to communities in need across our operations.
BRAC organised a press briefing today on Thursday on the food shortage in Thanchi upazila. BRAC directors KAM Morshed (left) and Gawher Nayeem Wahra (middle) and Thanchi local inhabitant Piyaching Mro.
Non-governmental organisation BRAC has urged the government to undertake long-term measures to sustainably solve the ongoing food shortage in the remote Thanchi upazila of Bandarban. Among a number of recommendations it has made includes urgent measure to issue voter identity cards to the citizens inhabiting remotest part of the upazila, which will ensure proper distribution of the government food aid.
BRAC organised the media briefing on Thursday at the BRAC Centre at Mohakhali to share its observations from the two field visits its officials made in the current month. More than a dozen staff members including the director of its Disaster Management and Climate Change (DMCC) programme visited the remote upazila.
DMCC director Gawher Nayeem Wahra made the recommendations at the briefing. Among other speakers at the event were Mr KAM Morshed, director, Advocacy for Social Change, Technology and Partnership Strengthening Unit, Piyaching Mro, local community leader in Thanchi, Khamlai Mro, former Thanchi upazila chairman, Apul Tripura and Chinmoy Mro of local civil society organisation Grouch and local volunteer Rajumoy Tanchangya.
The recommendations included cash assistance besides giving rice, fixing date, time and place for rice distribution and informing it to the families affected beforehand, strengthening of malaria diagnosis and treatment for remotest villages, providing alternative means for earning, creating suitable linkages to bring agro-produce to the market, developing transport communication.
BRAC officials said they have identified 1000 households in most need and already handed Tk 2000 cash to 200 families each to enable them to buy medicines and food.
Gawher Nayeem Wahra said, 'According to our estimates, around 20 thousand people of Thanchi upazila are suffering from food shortage. People in Tindu and Remakri unions along with 11 villages in the remotest part of Thanchi Sadar union are suffering the worst. In these areas Mro, Khumi, Tripura, Khyang and Bawm are in worse situation'.
Increasing the amount of allowance and coverage in social safety net programme will not much help reduce poverty. It rather encourages dependence on others and promotes corruption. Only creating income opportunities for the poor communities will help them stand on their own feet, reducing poverty in a sustainable manner, observed speakers today on Tuesday at a seminar on the national budget recently proposed in parliament.
BRAC Research and Evaluation Division and Advocacy for Social Change department jointly organised the event titled ‘A review of national budget 2016-17’ at the BRAC University auditorium at Mohakhali.
Former advisers to caretaker government economists Dr Akbar Ali Khan and Dr Mirza Azizul Islam were key speakers, while Research and Evaluation Division director Professor Abdul Bayes gave the key presentation. Advocacy for Social Change director KAM Morshed moderated.
In welcome speech KAM Morshed said, since 1972 BRAC has been working to reduce poverty. In continuation of its work the seminar was organised to review how this budget will influence the economic development and social empowerment of the poor communities.
The keynote presentation gave a brief review of different aspects of the proposed budget, including its size and volume, deficits, tax structure and its various limitations in the light of Vision 2021 and Sustainable Development Goals. The keynote also gave eight recommendations, including strengthening of GO-NGO partnership in budget implementation, creation of taskforce to guide and monitor ADP implementation, increased allocation for social and health sectors, adoption of agriculture-friendly policies and increased agricultural investment.
Highlighting the successful cooperation between BRAC and Bangladesh government in different sectors, Professor Bayes said the organisation has proved to be a tested partner of the government since the 1970s. Oral rehydration programme in the 1970s, child vaccination in 1980s and TB control programme, loan programme for tenant farmers, programme to reduce ultra poverty in the post-1990 period are some of the programmes implemented successfully where the government partnered with BRAC.
He further observed that the government should bring NGOs into further partnerships to ensure successful implementation and evaluation of the programmes in development sector under 2016-17 budget. It will help reduce red-tapism and increase cost effectiveness.
Dr Akbar Ali Khan said, ‘It is not sufficient to allocate money only, there has to be projects. Then effectiveness must be ensured and corruption checked through strict monitoring. If we finish the education budget paying the recruitment of more teachers and their salary, where the money should come from for improving the quality of education? It is not enough for a budget to become ambitious only, it has to be implementable also’.
Dr Mirza Azizul Islam said, ‘The minister in his budget speech mentioned the goal to establish an equity-based society. But the major part of our budget comes from taxes. In this budget [proposed 2016-17 budget] indirect taxes occupy 61 per cent, which will increase pressure on the low-income groups. According to the World Bank, except childcare the public expenditure in health sector benefits more the well-off than than the poor’.
The speakers also answered to the questions of the media and other guests at the seminar.
NGO ADVISOR announced its 2016 Top 500 NGOs World rankings, and BRAC returned to the top spot
Geneva, Switzerland: BRAC, an international development organisation dedicated to spreading solutions to poverty worldwide, today was ranked the number one NGO in the world by the Geneva-based NGO Advisor, an independent media organisation committed to highlighting innovation, impact and governance in the non-profit sector. BRAC clinched the top spot as part of the 2016 Top 500 NGOs World rankings.
"This recognition is truly an honour," said Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, founder of BRAC. "BRAC staff work tirelessly to both innovate and apply proven solutions at scale to empower people worldwide living in poverty. It is wonderful to see this dedication recognised."
Each year, NGO Advisor researches, evaluates and ranks NGOs from around the world, highlighting the best in their annual Top 500 NGOs World list. NGO Advisor announced the new rankings on its website Friday, June 17.
Of more than 500 organisations worldwide, NGO Advisor placed BRAC first in its international category, based on its impact, innovation and sustainability. BRAC was praised for its holistic approach to fighting poverty, treating it as a system of interrelated barriers that must be addressed concurrently. The ranking also highlighted the organisation’s history of designing and implementing solutions at scale.
“From the perspective of our ranking criteria – impact, innovation and sustainability – BRAC ticks every box. Over the course of its decades-long history, BRAC has assumed an unparalleled position in the crowded field of international development, all while remaining committed to a holistic, evidence-based approach to poverty reduction,” said Jean-Christophe Nothias of NGO Advisor in a statement.
BRAC, formerly Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, was founded in Bangladesh in 1972, and today is a global leader in creating opportunities at scale as a means to end poverty. It is the world's largest non-governmental development organisation, touching the lives of an estimated 138 million people in 12 countries using a wide array of tools such as microfinance, education, healthcare, legal rights training and more to create opportunities for people most in need.
“As we noted last year, BRAC is in many ways a microcosm of the entire international development sector…gaining in independence from donor influence each year. It covers almost 80 per cent of its USD 684 million income through a burgeoning portfolio of catalytic social enterprises – a clear trend positioning the organisation in an enviable position of financial and programmatic sustainability,” said NGO Advisor on its website.
NGO Advisor combines academic rigour with journalistic integrity and autonomy, evaluating each organisation based upon its objective merits. Co-founded by Jean-Christophe Nothias, a journalist formerly with The Global Journal, the rankings methodology was first developed in 2009.
Nothias has since enlisted experts at The University of Geneva and partners from the non-profit sector to improve the evaluation metrics. Today, NGO Advisor presents its findings to an international audience of donors, volunteers, journalists, researchers, diplomats and non-profit leaders to showcase best practices and mirror the evolving values of the global community.
The new rankings include several notable organisations. The Skoll Foundation, a social entrepreneurship foundation based in Palo Alto, California, claimed the third spot, and Médecins Sans Frontières, also known as Doctors Without Borders, the number two. The Danish Refugee Council and Oxfam rounded out the rankings in the fourth and fifth spot, respectively. Last year, BRAC was ranked number two, after initially taking the first place spot two years ago.
Unifying Uniqueness and Us
BRAC and BRAC International operating countries celebrated the Inclusion and Diversity Management Campaign (IDMC) day. This celebration is celebrated for the second time across BRAC’s head office and BRAC International countries on 21 May on world cultural diversity day under the theme “Unifying Uniqueness and Us”.
Likewise the last year, diversity day was celebrated in all BI countries, which had cultural and cooking events, games and dances. Additionally, this year’s programme took place over the course of a day and began in BRAC’s office premises with a display board erected for writing comments and hand printing to showcase what diversity means to BRAC. The main event began after lunch and was comprised of welcome speeches, presentations and panel discussions all relating to the importance of diversity to foster and instill its importance. The colorful cultural programme also featured performances from people of differing national, ethnic and physical abilities.
The main objective of the initiative was to enhance knowledge and sensitivity on diversity and inclusiveness and to increase empathy of other cultures through opportunities to interact with different cultures at the international level. The vision of IDMC is: to promote Intercultural sensitivity, embracing differences, easily adaptable mindsets and diverse perspectives, richer teams
Through a series of activities, this campaign aims to touch all the employees, all-level of staff and ultimately the programme participants (beneficiaries) along with the community.We hope to continue making great strides toward promoting diversity and inclusion in the workplace to ultimately help achieve the vision of BRAC.
Family planning, mother-child health and adolescent health service and campaign week 2016 was recently held across the country from 14-19 May. BRAC also observed this national event focusing on family planning counselling. BRAC worked intensively to promote family planning to create awareness among people concerning overpopulation, mother-child healthcare and adolescent health besides providing healthcare services to mothers, children and adolescents. Special daylong camps were organised at five maternity centres in Dhanmondi, Mirpur, Gulshan, Jatrabari and Uttara region of Manoshi project. Various family planning materials were distributed for free in those centres and people were advised on different methods of family planning. Md Delwar Hossain, director, directorate general of family planning, Dhaka division, Dr Md Abdul Haque AD, Dhaka and regional supervisor, FPCST-QAT, Mirza Kamrunnahar, DDFP, Dhaka district, Md Mizanur Rahman TFPO, family planning office Mirpur, Dhaka and other government officials visited the camps during the event.