BRAC held the fourth Frugal Innovation Forum from 23-24 March 2016 in Savar, Bangladesh with the theme of scaling resilience. The forum showcased financial, social, and technological innovations that non-governmental organisations and other implementers are using to strengthen communities that are facing the effects of climate change.
The forum was designed to explore effective innovations and create opportunities for dialogue among leaders in the global south. Speakers from organisations that are building resilience in innovative ways, such as Goonj, iDE Nepal, The Mojolab Foundation, and Medic Mobile were featured in panel and plenary discussions. In addition, representatives from various grassroots organisations and thought-leaders on the subject including Ainun Nishat, Jaideep Prabhu, Rizwana Hasan and Arif Jebtik also presented and highlighted ways to build resiliency in the face of natural and man-made disasters.
“Resilience-building mindsets and creativity at the community and government level are necessary for communities to not only cope when faced with disaster, but to thrive,” Jaideep Prabhu said during the opening session. Mr. Prabhu said that top-down policies need to be balanced with grassroots, bottom-up solutions to build resiliency ahead of disaster.
The major sessions included financial innovations to foster household resiliency, innovations in adaptive livelihoods and agriculture, and also explored how policy can strengthen communities ahead of natural disasters in South Asia.
The two day long forum ended with a session with BRAC founder and Chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed moderated by Mr Prabhu. The discussion mostly focused Bangladesh’s growth in the last few decades. Highlighting some of them Sir Fazle said that Bangladesh’s life expectancy at birth is higher than that of Pakistan and India although both the countries have higher per capita income than Bangladesh. But unfortunately, the country has a long way to go in terms of ensuring gender equality and meeting the growing demand of urbanisation.
Her Majesty the Queen Mother Ashi Tshering Pem Wangchuck of Bhutan visits BRAC on her first trip to Bangladesh. As President of the Bhutan Youth Development Fund (YDF), Her Majesty is here for a five-day study trip to explore possibilities for collaboration between BRAC and YDF.
On Tuesday, 15 March, Her Majesty met with Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, the founder and chairperson of BRAC, at BRAC Centre. Admiring Bangladesh she said, “I am very impressed to see Bangladesh’s growth. I can see the discipline and it’s phenomenal.” She added, “We are very keen to collaborate with BRAC. It is remarkable that BRAC has touched so many lives and we have so much to learn from BRAC’s success.”
Thanking Her Majesty, Sir Fazle said, “Bangladesh is on the path to increase development growth rate. Last year it was 6% and we are hoping this year it would be 7%. But still 20% people live in poverty and BRAC is working to eliminate poverty and provide equal opportunity to all. We will be happy to collaborate with YDF”
In the evening, Her Majesty met the Honorable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the Gonobhaban.
Her Majesty and YDF officials visited BRAC’s Ayesha Abed Foundation production centre and the Aarong Flagship Outlet on 16 March, Wednesday.
Her Majesty the Queen Mother was accompanied by Her Royal Highness Ashi Chimi Yangzom Wangchuck, the Vice President of the YDF, Ambassador of Bhutan to Bangladesh Her Excellency Pema Choden, YDF officials, and officials from the Royal Bhutanese Embassy in Dhaka.
BRAC Afghanistan's staff KM Sirazul Islam (left) and Mohammad Showkat Ali (right)
18 March 2016, Dhaka. It is with great regret that we announce that Engineer Mohammad Showkat Ali, Chief Engineer, National Solidarities Programme and KM Sirazul Islam, Regional Accountant, Girls Education Challenge (GEC) project were abducted on 17 March 2016 from Shenowari of Baghlan e Markazi district under Baghlan province in Afghanistan. The incident happened when they were returning to Kunduz province BRAC office from a scheduled field visit.
BRAC is fully engaged in dealing with this crisis. BRAC Afghanistan authorities are in constant communication with the law enforcement agencies and the local administration and also has dispatched a team to Baghlan to coordinate the rescue efforts.
In immediate response, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and Ministry of Interior of Afghanistan have assured their full cooperation.
BRAC officials in Bangladesh have been in communication with the families of Showkat and Siraz, keeping them informed of the latest situation and providing all necessary support.
BRAC has been in operation in Afghanistan, the first country presence of BRAC International, since 2002 helping the country to rebuild after the war. It currently runs programmes in health, girls education and is a partner of the Afghan Government in their National Solidarity Programme initiated to rehabilitate 5000 villages in Afghanistan. Its total budget for 2016 is about 15 million USD and it has a staff of 857 with about 61 of its staff being from Bangladesh and rest being from Afghanistan.BRAC's Afghanistan operation has reached 5.6 million people so far. For more information on our Afghanistan programme, click here.
BRAC is working all out to ensure a safe and speedy release of its abducted staff members.
“Ensuring safety at workplace can help increasing women’s participation in the working sector” -said state minister of MoWCA Begum Meher Afroze Chumki, MP
State minister for Ministry of Women and Children Affairs (MoWCA) of Bangladesh Government, Begum Meher Afroze Chumki, MP, emphasised on women’s safety at work place to increase women’s participation, at a national dialogue today. The dialogue titled “Safe Spaces for Women at Workplace” was jointly organised by BRAC and Bangladesh Legal Aid Services Trust (BLAST) to mark International Women’s Day 2016.
As more women are participating in work outside home than ever before, ensuring safety for women at their workplaces has now become one of the most pressing agendas. Although the High Court issued a directive in 2009 to prevent and provide protection against sexual harassment at all workplaces, compliance with this directive is still not up to the mark. The dialogue was organised to start a conversation among private sector organisations to address the issue.
Barrister Sara Hossain from BLAST highlighted the nature of sexual harassment and what are the barriers for women to complain against it. She also put emphasis on the high court directive on sexual harassment redressal in her presentation. She said, “Even after seven years of the high court directive on sexual harassment redressal, it has not been made a law. In addition to this, the conditions or exact penalty in case of non-compliance with the directive is still not clear.” In her presentation she also stressed that the guideline only talks about the women, there is no mention of the third gender.
Maheen Sultan, visiting fellow of BRAC Institute of Governance and Development made a presentation on “Addressing sexual harassment in the garments sector: Good practices and findings”.
BRAC’s programme head of human rights and legal aid services (HRLS) Sajeda Farisa Kabir’s presentation addressed BRAC’s experience and learning in Addressing sexual harassment in the workplace. BRAC has more than a decade of experience in addressing sexual harassment issues at workplace, providing support to its 112,934 national staff, working in 64 districts and more than 8,000 staff working in 11 countries.
Present at the event were representative from private sector organisations like Nestle Bangladesh, Afroz, Incepta. The dialogue was moderated by BRAC's executive director Dr Muhammad Musa.
BRAC's chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed joined a panel discussion today, 12 March, on Income Inequality, Demographic Change, and Gender at the three-day-long Advancing Asia conference in Delhi, India. He was joined by Milwida Guevara, CEO of Synergeia Foundation, Philippines, Arvind Panagariya, Vice Chairman of NITI Aayog India, Azeema Adam, Governor of Maldives Monetary Authority and Zia Mody, Partner, AZB and Partners, India. The session was moderated by Christine Lagarde, the managing director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Watch the session here.
Learn more about Advancing Asia Conference here.
We hear that girls in Africa don’t have the same opportunities as boys to get a decent education, that discrimination is shutting women out of the jobs and assets they need to provide a better standard of living for their families, that the benefits of economic growth are being wiped out because women are having too many children, and that thousands of women are dying in childbirth because they don’t have access to basic healthcare.
While all of these things are true, they also hide something that you rarely hear – that Africa has been making significant progress and even has a thing or two to teach the rest of the world. read more
A computer whirs to life in a small shop in Bangladesh’s chaotic capital Dhaka. Outside rickshaw drivers bargain for fares and street sellers call out the day’s fish prices. The phone rings. Hasna Hena, 15, takes the call in one hand, her other flying over the track pad to open Photoshop. It’s another new client needing a poster design. read more
BRAC has been working in the agriculture sector since 1972. The objective is to enhance food and nutritional security by ensuring the consistent supply of quality agricultural inputs including resilient varieties, promoting sustainable production technologies and appropriate mechanisation to reduce post-harvest losses.
Quality seeds are one of the necessary factors for high yields. To ensure quality seed supply, BRAC has been marketing hybrid maize seeds since 1994, and hybrid rice seeds since 1998. It also started producing hybrid maize seeds in 1996-97, vegetable seeds in 1996, and hybrid rice seeds in 2001. BRAC has established the value chain system of production and distribution for seeds and other agricultural inputs, allowing the enterprise to offer fair prices to the farmers. BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise focuses on supplying quality agricultural inputs, appropriate production and post-harvest technologies to enhance production and reduce post-harvest losses to optimise the profit of poor and marginal farmers. Additionally, it is important to BRAC to use sustainable methods, so that agricultural development does not occur at the cost of environment harmony.
BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise today
BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise has three agricultural research and development centres in Gazipur, Bogra (Sherpur) and Dinajpur (Birol). The centres are conducting applied research on plant tissue culture, vegetables, rice and maize. It has a soil-testing laboratory with the capacity of testing around 3,000 soil samples per year. Our researchers focus on discovering new varieties that meet the needs of both regional farmers and consumers. BRAC has developed five hybrid rice varieties, four hybrid maize varieties, 10 hybrid vegetable varieties and three open-pollinated vegetable varieties. It has registered 12 hybrid rice exotic varieties through government authorities.
With 22 production centres and about 7,000 contract farmers around the country BRAC is the country’s largest producer of hybrid maize seed and second largest producer of potato seed. It has the largest market share for rice seed (hybrid and high-yielding varieties), maize seed, potato seed and vegetable seed. The seed and agro enterprise has established five seed processing centres with a processing capacity of 12,000 metric tons per year, along with 11 modern storage systems with the capacity of 4,400 metric tons. To ensure high quality seeds, the enterprise uses automatic polymer seed coating treatment (fungicide) and an automatic packaging system. Furthermore, it promotes environment-friendly farming by marketing micronutrients like zinc and boron in order to tackle the rising micronutrient deficiency in soil.
BRAC’s seed and agro enterprise has built the value chain system of production and distribution through a wide network of 450 dealers and more than 4,500 sub-dealers around the country. BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise is now marketing 26 hybrid varieties and 27 open pollinated varieties of vegetable seed, 13 hybrid varieties and 19 high-yield varieties of rice seed, 14 hybrid varieties of maize seed and 5 varieties potato seed. During the production season 2014-15, the enterprise has marketed 1,600 metric tons hybrid rice seed, 1,300 metric tons high-yielding varieties of rice seed, 590 metric tons hybrid maize seed, 125 metric tons vegetable seeds and 9,600 metric tons potato seeds. In the seed business, BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise has 19% market share in hybrid rice, 23% in hybrid maize, 36% in potatoes (of organised seed supplied) and 8% in vegetables. In tandem, BRAC is also importing quality seeds regularly to increase the national production of high-yielding varieties invented across the globe.
Besides the core seed business, the seed and agro enterprise is currently working with two projects, ‘agri-business for trade Competitiveness Project (ATC-P) Bangladesh’, which ensures the availability of quality vegetable seeds at hard-to-reach areas and ‘SUSTAIN’, which aims to ensure nutrition-enriched orange flesh sweet potato production and promotion on chars and areas with salty soil and water. Previously, BRAC Seed and Agro Enterprise worked on the USAID Horticulture Project to improve incomes, nutrition and health in Bangladesh through the cultivation of potato, sweet-potato and vegetables. The enterprise also collaborated with CIP, under FoodSTART, for a project funded by IFAD to ensure food security through roots and tuber crops. Another project was conducted in collaboration with Katalyst, under Swisscontact, which involved the promotion of maize cultivation through increasing awareness, access to information and quality inputs in the southern region of the country in order to allow farmers to generate income.
At a glance
3 agriculture research and development centres
22 production centres
5 modern equipped seed processing centres with the capacity of 12,000 metric tons per year
11 modern storage system with the capacity of 4,400 metric tons
5 own developed hybrid rice varieties
4 own developed hybrid maize varieties
10 own developed hybrid vegetable varieties
450 dealers and over 4,500 sub-dealers in supply chain
Marketing 53 varieties of vegetable seed, 13 hybrid varieties, 19 high-yield varieties of rice seed, 14 hybrid varieties of maize seed and 5 varieties of potato seed
Marketing 1,600 metric tons hybrid rice seed, 1,300 metric tons inbreed rice seed, 590 metric tons hybrid maize seed, 9600 metric tons potato seed and 125 metric tons vegetable seed annually
“Emphasis has been given to ensure taking tech-based education system to every corner of the country,” said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today at the official launch of the new, interactive digital multimedia content. The digital content covers the entire curriculum of primary education (grades 1-5) and will be accessible on any device.
“To improve the quality of education, we have developed this new interactive multimedia content that will be accessible from any corner of the country,” the PM said.
Through this initiative, all of Bangladesh’s twenty million primary school students will be able to access their entire curriculum online via any device. In public schools, it is being accessed on the computers that the government has already integrated into over 1,500 digital classrooms across the country as part of its Digital Bangladesh vision.
Present as a guest Minister of Primary and Mass Education Advocate Mostafizur Rahman, MP said, “We have already prepared 55 PTIs with multimedia projectors and they have developed interactive content. They have also trained the teachers on the content. We are training teachers on the use of multimedia projectors, digital devices as well.”
The government initiated to transform 17 books made by National Curriculum of Textbook Board (NCTB) into interactive multimedia digital education content a decade back. The multimedia content creates an innovative and engaging learning environment, moving away from the traditional teacher-centric classroom.
It was developed in response to the success in classrooms of the content previously developed by BRAC to cover Grades 6-10. The new content was funded by the Government of Bangladesh and created by BRAC and Save the Children.
Explaining this as a revolutionary initiative, state minister of ICT Mr Zunaid Ahmed Palak, MP said, “The multimedia based interactive digital content is an approach to make education more interesting and fun for children. So far, we have made multimedia classrooms in 5,000/1500 schools and we plan to reach 65,000 by 2021, thus contribute creating a digital Bangladesh”
According to research, visuals improve learning by up to 400 percent, and now those visuals will be available anywhere in Bangladesh that an internet connection can be found. Every screen, in a country where over 50 million people are online, will now be a space where families can experience fun, animated learning.
Congratulating government BRAC founder and chairperson Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, KCMG said, “BRAC has always emphasised on education from its beginning. We started our “Computer aided learning” project in 2005 to bring technology in education sector. We appreciate the government for adopting our learning and taking it all over the country. It will change the education scenario in future”.
Amongst other distinguished guests, present at the event were secretary of primary and mass education Md. Humayun Khalid, secretary of ICT Shyam Sunder Sikder, Interim Regional Director South/ Central Asia of Save the Children Mr Michael McGrath.
Interactive multimedia content is available here: http://digitalcontent.ictd.gov.bd/
To find more about BRAC’s education porgamme visit: http://education.brac.net/
Watch the event coverage here: http://www.brac.net/live
BRAC has won the Urban Resilience Challenge launched by Amplify/OpenIDEO. The idea submitted by the BRAC Urban Development Programme (UDP) for this challenge is among the 8 winning ideas which were selected from a total of 350 submissions globally. BRAC UDP’s idea involves developing community-led fire prevention and response mechanisms in the urban slums of Bangladesh.
OpenIDEO is an online collaborative that enables people from all over the world to collaborate in developing innovative solutions to pressing social and environmental challenges. OpenIDEO runs the Amplify programme which focuses on improving the lives of the billion people living in extreme poverty around the world.
Amplify will fund BRAC UDP up to 800,000 USD for a 12 months project. Amplify will also support BRAC UDP to build capacity on human-centred design approach to problem solving and develop prototypes.
The idea submitted by BRAC UDP for the Amplify/OpenIDEO Urban Resilience Challenge can be viewed in detail here -