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.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Founder and Chairperson of BRAC, one of the world’s leading non-governmental organisations, has received the prestigious Laudato Si award during a ceremony at the Vatican City. The award recognises BRAC for its innovative approach to creating opportunities for millions of people living in poverty, achieving significant impact in Bangladesh and ten other countries.
BRAC was founded in Bangladesh in 1972 by Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, and today is a global leader in developing cost-effective, evidence-based poverty innovations in extremely poor, conflict-prone and post-disaster settings. These include programmes in education, healthcare, microfinance, girls’ empowerment, agriculture, human and legal rights, social enterprises, a bank, a university, and the world’s largest mobile money platform. The organisation is known for its business approach to helping people in poverty, with 16 socially-minded businesses that enable the most marginalised people to access financial services and livelihoods. In addition, BRAC’s celebrated graduation programme helps the poor ‘graduate’ out of destitution, resulting in an income boost of up to 37 percent. Research has shown that it has the potential to help achieve Sustainable Development Goal 1 by uplifting the poorest people and eradicating the most severe forms of poverty.
In 2015, Pope Francis wrote “Laudato Si’ meaning, “On care for our common home,” in which he calls for an international dialogue about how to approach and act upon an ecological crisis. In essence he explains that caring for our common home, and bettering our communities, means also addressing how international business practices have contributed to climate change, which effects the most marginalised people. The Laudato Si’ Challenge 2017 is developing and accelerating transformative, scalable, profitable businesses that have solutions to the most intractable problem of our time: climate change and human migration.
As part of the inaugural challenge, The Laudato Si’ awards recognise the innovators whose contributions are uniting humanity and transforming the way we approach impact and enterprise. The Laudato Si’ awards are a set of three prizes honouring those who are committed to answering Pope Francis’s clarion call. Other award winners include Huda Abuarquob in the individual category and Sarara Camp in the enterprise category.
Sir Fazle expressed his gratitude for the award. “Forty-five years ago, I set out to change the conditions of my native Bangladesh permanently, by giving poor people the power to control their own lives and destinies. I founded BRAC based on the belief that poor people, if given the means to organise themselves, can change the course of history.
“We have achieved much, but there is more to be done. For the first time in history, the eradication of extreme poverty from the face of the planet is within our sight. Like His Holiness Pope Francis, I believe that proper care for the planet means proper care for the people who live on it, including the most vulnerable among us. My vision is of a world where even the poorest have the opportunity to lead lives of purpose and dignity.”
BRAC in Sierra Leone was awarded the ‘Best NGO for Women’s Empowerment' for 2017 by the Council of Chief Executives, a leading association of business leaders in Sierra Leone that is committed to sustainable economic growth and human development.
The award comes in recognition of BRAC’s role in empowering women through its programmes, management systems and innovations.
The award was accepted by the country representative, Rakibul Bari Khan, on behalf of BRAC in Sierra Leone. He described the award as "a great honor and recognition of our determination to empower the lives of women in Sierra Leone. Ultimately, we want to help the country achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly the goal of attaining gender equality." He further noted, "In turn, the empowerment of women will help remove inequality and contribute to the eradication of poverty in all its forms."
80% of BRAC staff in Sierra Leone are women and over half of the programmes are run by women. The Empowerment and Livelihood for Adolescents (ELA) programme is completely run by women while all community health workers under the health programme are women; 95% of microfinance staff and clients are also women.
BRAC opened its offices in Sierra Leone in 2008 and currently reaches 2.3 million people through programmes in health, adolescents’ empowerment, agriculture and microfinance. It follows an integrated approach to development, implementing programmes through 30 branches in 11 districts across the country.
BRAC received a contribution of USD 1.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation in November 2017 to build its preparedness and emergency response capacity in BRAC International’s head office, Sierra Leone, Uganda and Myanmar. BRAC will employ a community-based approach to assist women, children, youth and local government representatives to build resilience against disasters.
Sir Fazle Hasan Abed shared that the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has been a key partner in building the emergency response capacity of BRAC. The partnership becomes stronger with this fund commitment. He also mentioned that right now, we are facing the greatest conflict around the world since the Second World War: the crises in Syria and South Sudan require large-scale humanitarian responses, so we have to work not only for Bangladesh, but also for other countries. BRAC International is now focusing on building capacity and preparedness in order to be able to respond effectively in humanitarian emergencies.
BRAC has developed the capacity of staff working in Bangladesh for the last 10 years, providing rapid humanitarian assistance to help more than 2 million people around the world recover from disasters. As Sir Fazle Hasan Abed said, “As we live and work in disaster-prone environments, we need to build our capacity to understand the nature of disasters and how to act in emergency situations, keeping BRAC’s principles and values in mind, and act accordingly".
Researchers have shown that a dollar invested in building local preparedness reduces at least eight dollars in losses from disasters. Studies have shown that the preparedness approach is highly effective and has positive long-term impacts. The funding will allow BRAC to develop a model of disaster preparedness in Sierra Leone, Uganda and Myanmar to strengthen localisation, an approach that focuses on community ownership. The localisation agenda was recognised at the World Humanitarian Summit (WHS) in 2016 and received funding commitments from development partners, foundations, international organisations, UN and philanthropists. BRAC aims to build the resilience capacity of six local governments, six schools and six communities using this model and plans to replicate it in other countries.
Lack of healthy diet puts more people at risk of death and diseases
Lack of healthy diet puts more people at risk of death and diseases in developing countries than things like air pollution, smoking and drug abuse. It has been reported that as a result of poor nutrition conditions, there was an estimated 11 percent drop in GDP of countries across Africa and Asia.
This, along with other insights, come from the new report on 'Healthy Diets for All: A Key to Meeting the SDGs' that was launched at this year's Global Panel meeting at a hotel on today in the capital. Zahid Malek, MP, Honorable State Minister from the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, was present at the launching as the chief guest.
Panel members at the meeting included the Director of BRAC, Health, Nutrition and Population Programme, Dr Kaosar Afsana, Global Panel member Emmy Simmons, Global Panel Technical Advisor Professor Patrick Webb, Department for International Development (DFID) country director Jane Edmondson were also spoke at the meeting, BRAC, and Global Panel in collaboration with International Food Policy Research Institute and Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Public Health Foundation of India (PHFI) hosted this year's meeting in Dhaka on Monday, 20 November, 2017. The central agenda of the meeting was to engage policymakers at all levels and help them recognise the role of healthy diets in achieving the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
The report presented six evidence-based recommendations, aimed at policymakers in low and middle-income counties, showing how 'diet quality' can be the key to help them unlock and accelerate progress on meeting their Sustainable Development Goals.
These six areas of focus include – paying attention to diet quality in developing SDG plans; adopting food systems approach to meet the SDGs; focusing on improved diet for infants, young children and women; addressing barriers and shocks impeding access to healthy diets; widening national policy approach to ensure well-functioning food systems; boosting efforts to collect and report data on diet quality.
Zahid Malek MP stated, "this is a country of 160-170 million people. Despite few natural calamities and man-made disasters, Bangladesh has maintained its sustained economic growth. We are turning from lower middle income to middle income by 2021 or earlier. Even then, 45 million people live in absolute poverty, 40 million are suffering food insecurity, 7.3 million children are stunted, only three-fourths of under two children accessed minimal acceptable diet and 70% of our diets are cereal based."
He emphasized on five points to solve these problems; urge all relevant ministries to act in their own jurisdiction for improved nutrition and healthy diets for all with a multi-sectoral approach, propose a minimal healthy diet affordable to the people, rigorous advocacy and mass campaign for healthy diets, continuous and serious dialogue with commercial markets to make them pro-people, nutrition-sensitive and supportive for healthy population and all stakeholders – government, NGOs, UN and private sectors must work together for community mobilization.
The consensus at the meeting was that one critically important policy area that connects many of the SDGs, is the provision healthy diets for all. Invisible in terms of SDG language and not mentioned among the many targets, healthy diets are a foundation underpinning successful progress toward targets in health, agriculture, inequality, poverty and sustainable consumption.