Working papers

Two Edited Books (Forthcoming)

First book

Title of the book: Extreme Poverty, Growth and Inequality in Bangladesh
Edited by: Joe Devine, Geof Wood, Zulfiqar Ali and Shamsul Alam
Publisher: Practical Action Publishing at the UK
Status: Finally edited manuscript submitted to the publisher
Contents: Ten papers have been accepted for publication as chapters in the book. You may wish to Click Here for details.

Second book

Title of the book: Aiding Resilience among the Extreme Poor in Bangladesh
Edited by: Geof Wood, Zulfiqar Ali, Mathilde Maitrot and Joe Devine
Publisher: University Press Limited (UPL), Dhaka, Bangladesh
Status: Finally edited manuscript submitted to the publisher
Contents: Of the EEP/Shiree Working Papers, 16 have been selected for publication as chapters in the book.

2016 Working Paper on Resilience

As part of the final research programme, a paper on “Resilience among the Extreme Poor” has been produced by Geof Wood, Joe Devine, and Mathilde Maitrot.  The paper was presented at the EEP closing conference in September 2016.  This paper can be read in conjuction with the report “Factors affecting graduation from Extreme Poverty” that was also presented at the conference, and authored by EEP.


These working papers present research and learning from the EEP/Shiree programme, specifically focused on extreme poverty and projects working to eradicate it. They have been designed and researched under the umbrella of the Extreme Poverty Research Group (EPRG). The research is being undertaken since the beginning of EEP/Shiree till date.

The focus of the EPRG research is to promote high quality research resulting in findings that can be rapidly fed back to enhance the quality and impact of interventions.

These papers cover a wide range of issues, such as, targeting the extreme poor, making productive use of khas land, protecting the gains, exploring the psychological context of extreme poverty, poverty threshold, health, livelihood challenges, disability, elderly, gender, ethnic minority, social-safety nets, food security, resilience, etc.

The papers have been peer reviewed by colleagues in the Chars Livelihood Programme (CLP), Urban Partnerships for Poverty Reduction (UPPR), Challenging the Frontiers of Poverty Reduction – Targeting the Ultra Poor (CFPR-TUP) programmes – all part of the DFID/UKaid extreme poverty portfolio in Bangladesh, relevant other organisations and think tanks.

Briefing papers provide summaries of the longer working papers.


Working paper 1 – Targeting the Extreme Poor: Learning from Shiree

Abstract: The extent and persistence of extreme poverty in Bangladesh requires focused attention and action. The extreme poor are people living below the lower half of the poverty line in Bangladesh comprising 25% of the population. However, whilst distinguishing the extreme poor from the poor is straight forward on paper using expenditure data, it is much more challenging in the field.

This paper discusses what has been learnt from the Shiree experience of refining targeting techniques after an initial attempt which suffered from significant mis-targeting. It is found that over specification (one-definition) of one or more criteria or over reliance on one targeting tool can lead to targeting errors in the diverse contexts of Bangladesh. Instead, a mix of contextually specific criteria and methods had to be applied. The paper then discusses general learning from this experience, best practices and outlines an overall 6 stage model for targeting the extreme poor, of relevance to improving the targeting of NGOs, donors and government programmes.

Author: Hannah Marsden and Geof Wood

Click on the link to read Targeting the Extreme Poor: Learning from shiree


Working paper 2 – Social Safety Nets and the Extreme Poor: Learning from a participatory pro-poor governance approach

Care Bangladesh

Abstract: CARE Bangladesh started the implementation of the Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra Poor (SETU) project in March 2009 in the Unions of Nilphamari, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha and Rangpur. Through solidarity building and empowering the poor and marginalised communities, the project is working to collectively address the underlying causes of extreme poverty (seen by the project as economic, social and political exclusion). This working paper shares SETU’s approach to addressing extreme poverty with a wide audience of practitioners, policy makers and academics. SETU’s participatory inclusive governance approach has broadened and deepened citizens’ influence in the decisions that affect their lives, seeing this as a right (and hence an end in itself), and also as a key strategy for “graduating” people out of conditions of extreme poverty and chronic vulnerability. The research has examined the effects of an inclusive governance approach on extremely poor people’s access to Government social safety nets and the impacts that these have on their livelihoods.

Authors: Saifuddin Ahmed and SM Abdul Bari, October , 2011

Click on the link to read the Working paper 2 – Social Safety Nets and the Extreme Poor – Learning from a participatory pro-poor governance approach

Click on the link to read the Briefing paper


Working paper 3 – Eviction and the challenges of protecting the gains: A case study of slum dwellers in Dhaka City

Dushtha Shasthya Kendra (DSK)

Abstract: Eviction is a constant threat for urban slum dwellers, disrupting overall livelihoods, especially in Dhaka city. Since 2009, DSK has been implementing a project entitled ”Moving from extreme poverty through economic empowerment (capacity building, voice and rights) of extreme poor households.” In 2010, 2,450 households were evicted from the DSK-Shiree project areas of T&T and Sattola slums. Of these, 214 targeted households of the DSK-shiree project were among those evicted. This research explored the effects of the eviction on the livelihoods of those who have returned to the slum and migrated as a result of it. It found that during the eviction, the living spaces of many slum dwellers including houses, latrines, systems of water supply, gas and electricity, and drainage and sewerage facilities were all destroyed. In addition, productive assets and household belongings were lost. Existing and future opportunities for income generation were hampered, as were many of the socio-political connections and support structures upon which households relied as sources of daily survival and livelihoods. The paper finishes with programme and policy recommendations, including a suggested compensation package and the final conclusion that: any eviction should be well planned along with concrete rehabilitation or compensation options.

Authors: Md. Adbul Baten, Md. Mustak Ahmed and Tofail Md. Alamgir Azad, Ph.D., October, 2011

Click on the link to read the Working paper 3 – Eviction and the challenges of protecting the gains – A case study of slum dwellers in Dhaka City

Click on the link to read the DSK Briefing paper


Working paper 4 – Extreme Poor Adivasis and the Problem of Accessing Social Safety Nets

NETZ Bangladesh

Abstract: Under the auspices of AMADER Project, this study was conducted in two unions of the high Barind area in Naogaon District in Bangladesh. Efforts were made to explore the factors behind the extremely poor Adivasis’ (meaning indigenous people) scarce access to government-funded social safety nets. Quantitative analysis reveals that the number of recipients of SSNs is small in the two studied Unions – Shapahar and Goala – standing at 3 at out of 74 deserving Beneficiary Households (BHHs) and 4 out of 65 deserving BHHs respectively.

Three key problems define Adivasis’ exclusion from SSNs– their exclusion from information, the fact that they are not considered politically important, and the on-going cultural labelling of Adivasis as ‘underserving poor’. With the view to identifying solutions to improve the SSN coverage of the extremely poor Adivasis, recommendations have been drawn from the interviews with gate-keepers and informants.

Author: Zakir Hossain, October, 2011

Click on the link to read the Working paper 4 – Extreme Poor Adivasis and the Problem of Accessing Social Safety Nets

Click here to read the NETZ Briefing paper

This paper was recently presented at the Conference “Scaling up Social Protection in Bangladesh. Providing Ladders out of Poverty and Social Safety Nets” organised through the UNDP, the World Food Programme, Australian Aid, UKAID, The University of Manchester, and the Government of Bangladesh.

Click on the link to read the NETZ UNDP Conference presentation


Working paper 5 – Vulnerabilities and Resilience among Extreme Poor People: the South West Coastal Region of Bangladesh

Save the Children

Abstract: The South-West coastal region of Bangladesh has unique environmental characteristics. It is extremely vulnerable to natural and climate change-related disasters such as floods, cyclones, tornadoes, tidal surges, storm surges, river bank and coastal erosion. Cyclone Sidr, struck the coastline of Bangladesh in 2007, and cyclone Aila hit the region on 25 May 2009. Another storm resulted in a huge tidal surge in October 2010. The water level rose by 1 foot after the tidal surge and destroyed the embankments and other structures in 14 Upazilas. People in this area are vulnerable to cyclones, tidal surge and river erosion along with salinized water and soil. Extreme poor people are suffering the most because of their exposure to, and dependence on, natural resources for their lives and livelihoods.

Since 2009, Save the Children UK has been implementing its Household Economic and Food Security (HEFS) project in six Upazilas. This study explored why the HEFS model – based on assets, diversified livelihoods plus awareness training – was insufficient to prevent the damage to assets and livelihoods. How can implementors build on successful examples of resilience in order to prevent damage to the livelihoods of SCUK beneficiaries in the future and enable long-term adaptation to climate change?

The findings reveal that tidal surges made the extreme poor more vulnerable by destroying or damaging the few assets they owned. The majority of beneficiaries tried to apply their own ex-ante resilience strategies but these were inadequate in the face of increasing severity or scale of climate-related disaster events. Vulnerabilities vary across households, as do households’ abilities to prevent, mitigate and adapt to the impacts of disaster and climate change. The paper finishes with project recommendations and identifies local and national specific advocacy issues.

Authors: Prokriti Nokrek and Arafat Alam, October, 2011

Click on the link to read the Working paper 5 – Vulnerabilities and Resilience among Extreme Poor People – the South West Coastal Region of Bangladesh

Click on the link to read SCUK Briefing paper


Working paper 6 – Making Productive Use of Khas land: Experiences of Extreme Poor Households


Abstract: Accessing khas land can help poor households diversify their incomes and facilitate a process of asset building alongside reducing the risks which threaten their livelihoods. However, for the extremely poor, fulfilling the right to government-provided khas land and further, making sustainable production from it, is a difficult and challenging task. The Uttaran/shiree supported project “SEMPTI” has provided support to extremely poor households in the southwestern districts of Khulna and Satkhira through; 1) the provision of khasland (on a temporary and permanent basis) and, 2) income generating assistance, with the overarching aim of graduating beneficiary householders from their situation of extreme poverty.

This study investigated three key aspects influencing negotiations for the purpose of understanding how the gains were made from the khas land by extremely poor households. Overall, the study has come to the conclusion that social structures within which extremely poor households function, constrain them in various ways. In most of the cases, a lack of capacities in terms of having inadequate knowledge, skills, negotiation and bargaining power, and access to government agencies for services, limit them in overcoming these constraining forces. The low productive practices of extremely poor households coupled with the difficult and isolated locations of their land are manifestations of their relative powerlessness. The paper finishes with a number of important suggestions for project-level improvement, spanning IGA training and distribution and working with female-headed households. On a wider policy level, khas land identification and distribution should be considered as a development imperative by the government. In this context there is scope for rural development policies and farmer development projects to include components for the development of khas land receiving households. While land needs to be transferred, simultaneous assistance is also needed to make the land productive. The role of UNOs needs to be expanded so that they fulfil their responsibilities set out in the 1997 policy on khas land identification and distribution.

Authors: Sonia Kabir and Korban Ali with cooperation from Shahidul Islam and Abdul Khaleque, October, 2011

Click on the link to read the Working paper 6 – Making Productive Use of Khas land – Experiences of Extreme Poor Households

Click on the link to read the Uttaran Briefing paper


Working paper 7 – Short-term needs and long-term aspirations of the extreme poor: Irrational behaviour, agency and cash transfers in Bangladesh

This paper is based on an investigation with the Green Hill IMPACT project in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Abstract: The extreme poor in Bangladesh suffer from a particularly severe form of multidimensional poverty. Despite opportunities for investment – which could ensure future subsistence and graduation from poverty – made available by things like microfinance, the extreme poor continue to under-invest in long-term income-generating activities, instead prioritising the satisfaction of immediate needs. While the evolving debate on multidimensional poverty has helped to unpack the structural causes behind these decisions, very little literature has sought to understand the decision process itself.

In this paper, it is argued that low investment and the prioritisation of the present is due to the psychological context of life in extreme poverty, which frustrates ambitions and causes the future to be heavily discounted. This psychological impact of extreme poverty, which results in seemingly irrational decision-making, could be seen as an overarching and under-emphasised dimension of poverty itself.

Using a case study of a successful conditional cash transfer project in Bangladesh, it is proposed that this psychological context must be addressed in order to enable behavioural change and achieve lasting impact. The findings add evidence to the ongoing debate on needs, investment, and irrational preferences, and suggest that providing households with demand-driven cash transfers can enable the extreme poor to respond to multidimensional poverty on their own terms. Much as motivational and psychological theories have suggested, these demand-driven CCTs can reduce the typically high discount rates of the extreme poor by satisfying priority needs first, making investment for the future more likely.

Authors: Christopher Maclay and Hannah Marsden, October, 2011

Click on the link to read the Working paper 7 – Short-term needs and long-term aspirations of the extreme poor – Irrational behaviour, agency and cash transfers in Bangladesh

This paper was presented at the joint DSA and EADI Conference on “Rethinking Development in an Age of Scarcity and Uncertainty. New Values, Voices and Alliances for Increased Resilience” in York University between the 19th and 22nd of September 2011.

Click on the link to see the Presentation


Working Paper 8 – Extreme Poverty and Protecting the Gains: Lessons from Recent Research

Abstract: This paper discusses the lessons from a series of research projects themed around extreme poverty and ‘protecting the gains’. In its first phase of funding, Shiree supported six partner NGOs to scale-up ‘proven’ approaches to reducing extreme poverty through economically empowering households. Throughout the implementation of these projects, various lessons emerged, as well as one overriding issue, notably, the need to ensure or maximize the possibility for sustainable impacts to households, or to ‘protect the gains’.

In response to these experiences, a series of small research projects were undertaken between January and May 2011 and this chapter brings together some of the main messages from this research. There is clearly a lot to learn from not only scaling-up but also protecting the gains for the benefit of future extreme poverty programming. How can the potential of sustainability be understood and realised in practice? This outlines the key findings from the protecting the gains research projects. Some findings include, for example, the importance of raising knowledge of threats (such as viruses in shrimp cultivation) and increasing beneficiaries’ confidence to take steps to mitigate risks and make sizeable investments; The strong need for more ex-ante or preventative approaches to shock and disaster, demonstrated by the case of Save the Children UK (SCUK), in the South-West of Bangladesh; and the critical role of empowering key change makers in communities to become advocates for the extreme poor (highlighted by Care).

The paper also documents the main lessons identified by Scale Fund NGOs during the scale-up of models. Overall, the paper highlights that socio-economic contexts hold implications, for creating both enabling and constraining spaces, in which extreme poor households try to improve their livelihoods. Not only highlighting a variety of issues as key challenges in projects’ efforts to eradicate extreme poverty, the findings offer key recommendations for operational consideration and a variety of advocacy messages relevant to stakeholders in the wider policy space. The paper finishes with a summary of these. It also touches on what has been learnt throughout the research process, and makes some suggestions for the future research framework and activities of the EPRG. It makes a summary of the research questions coming from this phase – these revolve around land, governance, gender, children, and responding to disaster and climate change.

Author: Hannah Marsden and Geof Wood

Click on the link to read Extreme Poverty and Protecting the Gains: Lessons from Recent Research


Working paper 9 – Accessing and Retaining Access to the Sandbars by the Extreme Poor: Experiences from the Practical Action Project

Abstract: A variety of means and mechanisms have been recommended to assist with the implementation of projects aimed at allowing the extreme poor to cross the lower poverty line. The Practical Action approach argues that to deal with extreme poverty, one potentially effective method is to equip households with technology that builds their capacity to use unutilized natural resources, in this case relatively less fertile sandbars or river beds. In the northwest of Bangladesh, there are vast areas of sandbars that appear in the dry season which could provide livelihood opportunities to the extreme poor. Accessing these sandbars for cropping can help extreme poor households diversify their incomes and facilitate a process of asset building alongside reducing the risks which threaten their livelihoods. It is one way of accessing a means of production.

Since 2005, Practical Action has been introducing sandpit cultivation technology suitable for use in the unfertile sandbars. It has been supporting extreme poor households in the cultivation of pumpkins under the River Erosion Project. This Shiree-supported project is a scaled-up version of a previous Practical Action project aimed at creating livelihood opportunities for those extreme poor living alongside the flood protection embankment of the Teesta and the Dhorola Rivers in four north-western districts of Bangladesh.

This study investigates the processes of negotiation undertaken to gain access to the sandbars. In so doing, the study tried to identify the main factors that facilitated successful access to sandbars by the extreme poor, and to question which approaches and methods are likely to continue to work in the future. In order to do this, the study looked specifically at the advantages and disadvantages of existing modes of access to sandbars, including free access to crop-sharing, and explored the different roles of relevant stakeholders (current and future). Key questions included: what are the factors that could change future access modalities? How long will land claimants allow free access by the extreme poor if sandbar cultivation proves profitable (despite the fact that the land remained unused before the project)? What is the role of local government and local administration in the on-going access negotiation process in relation to protecting the potential long-term gains secured by the extreme poor? Are there characteristics or features of sandbars (which change in size and location every year) which give the extreme poor leverage or greater chances of access?

The research focuses on the different types of agreements and arrangements established between land claimants and groups of extreme poor households that are involved in sandbar pumpkin cultivation. The research is highly relevant as in the first year of the project, there were no claims on the land because people felt it was not productive. With the pumpkin cultivation proving to be a success, a number of elites as well as some of the extreme poor who lost land because of river erosion made claims on the land at the start of the second year of the project. These claims posed a threat to the potential gains the extreme poor could secure from the sandbars. Lessons are drawn from the research with a view to identify relevant project recommendations and policy advocacy issues.

Authors: Khan Areef Ur Rahman and Imran Reza, March 2012

Click on the link to read the Working paper 9 – Accessing and Retaining Access to the Sandbars by the Extreme Poor – Experiences from the Practical Action Project


Working paper 10 – Poverty Thresholds Analysis

Abstract: The aim of this paper is to explore poverty thresholds from an economic perspective. In so doing, the paper will make three important contributions. First, it will contribute to our understanding of the notion of ‘extreme poverty’ as a distinct category. Second, it will help ‘locate’ in socio-economic terms the target population of Shiree beneficiaries. Finally, it will help identify and assess useful graduation indicators. Poverty thresholds refer to minimum levels below which a person is considered to lack adequate subsistence and to be living in poverty. The poverty threshold is useful as an economic tool to define and measure the socio-economic position of the poor and to design relevant programmes to reduce poverty.

In Bangladesh, nearly one-third of the population of around 160 million lives below the national poverty line. It is also the most densely populated country in the world barring a few small city states like Singapore. With such a high incidence of poverty, the government as well as nongovernment organizations are active in implementing anti-poverty programs.

Shiree plays an important role to help the poorest in the country with a mission of lifting 1 million people out of extreme poverty by 2015. From the outset therefore SHIREE targeted a beneficiary population which was amongst the poorest of the poor. The present study, hence, provides us an opportunity to examine, inter alia the socio-economic status of the SHIREE beneficiaries and to assess whether or not they are among the very poorest of the country.

Author: Zulfiqar Ali with Joe Devine

Click on the link to read Poverty Thresholds Analysis


Working paper 11 – Health status and its implications for the livelihoods of slum dwellers in Dhaka city

Abstract: Poverty and ill-health has very strong link up. Poverty causes ill-health while ill-health may also be one of the major causes of poverty. Health or physical labour capacity is one of the main assets for the extremely poor. However most of urban extremely poor people are living in crowded urban slums, live and work in unhealthy conditions, lack nutritious food, clean water and decent sanitation, and tend to be poorly educated. These conditions make illness much more likely and more serious.

This paper reports examines the acute and chronic illnesses suffered by the extreme poor slum dwellers in Dhaka city and the implications on their overall livelihoods. It identifies the most common illnesses and assesses the ability of slum dwellers to access the facilities that are available to them. Findings from a quantitative survey on average health expenditures are presented, including associated losses such as a reduction in working days, salary cuts or complete job loss. The household coping mechanisms that slum dwellers use in an attempt to deal with health shocks are also investigated.

Health support from DSK-Shiree project has aided many slum dwellers through providing primary health care, consultations with specialist doctors and access to hospital, but the project is not able to provide support for all urban slum dwellers. It is proposed that the health department needs to establish mini public clinics targeting the urban extreme poor, with effective linkages strengthened between NGOs along with community based support groups and local health service providers. Subsidized or free services are required, perhaps through the introduction of health cards or a voucher system. However the paper argues that the health care system alone will not be able to solve multi-dimensional problems of extremely poor slum dwellers.

Author: Md. Adbul Baten, Md. Mustak Ahammad, Tofail Md. Alamgir Azad

Click on the link to read the Health status and its implications for the livelihoods of slum dwellers in Dhaka city


Working paper 12 – Livelihood challenges for extremely poor disabled people in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh

Abstract: This paper presents findings from qualitative and quantitative research into the challenges faced, and achievements made, by extremely poor disabled people as they undertake income-generating activities in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh. It reports a high frequency of disability amongst the extreme poor, drawing attention to the need to mainstream support and protection for disabled people within anti-poverty policy. The paper explores the current constraints faced by extremely poor disabled people engaging in social and economic activities that would allow them to graduate from poverty and the number of extremely poor people with disabilities who go without government safety-nets.

The paper argues that improved disability legislation, and better adherence to existing legislation, is urgently needed, along with better access to quality health provision, better availability of appropriate assistive devices, more inclusive infrastructure, public transport and schooling. The paper also explores the stigmatization and exclusion of extremely poor disabled people in Bangladesh, especially in rural areas, and proposes some social and political activities which are needed to challenge this. It goes onto highlight the progress that has been made in improving the lives of many extremely poor disabled people in Bangladesh, including positive results seen from the activities of the Save the Children programme, but suggests that better support and protection across a wide range of policy issues and areas is urgently needed. The study also provides evidence that if effective support and protection were achieved, it would allow many extremely poor disabled people to not only live more healthy and happy lives, but to also make a greater contribution to economic and social progress in the country as a whole.

Author: Prokriti Nokrek, Md. Arafat Alam and Muzzafar Ahmed

Click on the link to read the Livelihood challenges for extremely poor disabled people in the southwest coastal region of Bangladesh


Working paper 13 – Exploring the impact of community solidarity building approach in addressing social discriminations

Abstract: Mutual understanding and a sense of community solidarity reduces discrimination, inequality, disparity and collision whilst uniting people to build a more mature society that does not exclude anyone from social benefits. Strong social cohesion can enable people to have more social capital that ensures empowerment and reduces community vulnerability. An integrated approach for building community solidarity has therefore become mandatory so that people can gain their acceptability within the society, build their confidence and access their rights.

With this in mind CARE-Bangladesh are implementing a project titled ‘Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra-poor’ (SETU) in the north-western part of Bangladesh assisted by SHIREE and funded by DFID. SETU believes that changes in the poverty situation are not a standalone matter; rather they require a combination of social inclusion, economic empowerment, pro-poor governance, and learning and influencing that works to graduate extreme poor households out of poverty.

SETU believes that a collaborated effort towards community empowerment will promote economies of scale to ensure a more equitable society where people will gain economic freedom, social inclusion and political empowerment. Exclusion of the poor and extreme-poor from their society makes them more deprived as they are unable to access social benefits. This is why social inclusion and cohesion have become the point of emphasis in this project. Once social inclusion is ensured it creates the opportunity for exchanging views and ensuring cooperation for all members of the community.

The facilitation of the project activities has contributed to enhance collective solidarity within working communities and extremely poor are significantly less ‘stigmatized’. Instead they are considered as an ‘integral’ part of their communities, which has increased their confidence to challenge frontiers of poverty. The holistic approach of SETU has impacted on economic uplift of the targeted extremely poor households.

This paper aims to explore how SETU is building community solidarity in its working areas and how this solidarity is addressing social discriminations at the community levels.

Author: M. Mizanur Rahman, Saifuddin Ahmed and S. M. Abdul Bari

Click on the link to read the Exploring the impact of community solidarity building approach in addressing social discriminations


Working paper 14 – The effects of ill health on the livelihoods of extremely poor Adivasis in Bangladesh

Abstract: This paper presents findings from a study of the effects of ill health on selected extremely poor ethnic minority Adivasi groups (sometimes referred to as tribal groups) in the northwestern Barind region of Bangladesh. It outlines causes of ill health and explores how these are linked to poverty or marginalization. It also explores how problems of ill health and poverty are exacerbated by poor access to health services for extremely poor Adivasis who often live in remote areas and have limited access to information about health services. The findings support arguments for better health provision for extremely poor Adivasi people in Bangladesh, and for more inclusive and effective health services tailored to their linguistic, cultural, locational and livelihood circumstances. The findings support the view that both the provision of inexpensive and effective health services, and measures to help people protect their livelihoods when coping with illness, are vital for the reduction of extreme poverty in Bangladesh.

Author: Sk. Zakir Hossain

Click on the link to read the The effects of ill health on the livelihoods of extremely poor Adivasis in Bangladesh


Working paper 15 – Supporting extremely poor elderly people in rural Bangladesh with asset transfers for income generation: lessons from Uttaran’s SEMPTI project

Abstract: The paper reports on findings from eighteen focus-group discussions and twenty semi-structured interviews with participants, their family members, and staff of Uttaran’s SEMPTI project. The focus of the research was on elderly beneficiaries who were extreme poor. The paper reports on how extreme poverty affected the elderly, and how the project, which was organised around the transfer of productive assets, impacted their lives. The relationships that elderly participants had with family members or others who helped them manage the assets were crucial to the success of project interventions: participants who had strong relationships were more likely to report that they benefitted from the asset transfer. When relatives, or others, who did not share strong pre-existing reciprocal relationships with the elderly person, managed assets, projects were less likely to benefit the elderly person. The idea of intergenerational bargain (Collard 2000) is used to describe this dynamic. The research draws attention to the need to clearly understand elderly peoples’ family and social contexts for the successful implementation of social protection interventions, especially when they are based on the transfer of productive assets for income generation.

Author: Sonia Tahera Kabir and Sohel Rana

Click on the link to read the Supporting extremely poor elderly people in rural Bangladesh with asset transfers for income generation: lessons from Uttaran’s SEMPTI project


Working paper 16 – Assessing women’s choice in asset empowerment strategies in south west coastal region of Bangladesh

Abstract: The Oxfam RE-CALL project is a Shiree supported livelihoods project which deals exclusively with the extreme poor in Bangladesh. Despite actively targeting women, the RE-CALL project has often struggled to significantly improve the livelihoods of female beneficiaries, a problem which is repeated across the Shiree portfolio. The project seeks to economically empower female beneficiaries by transferring income generating assets which the households can use to lift themselves out of poverty. Bangladesh is characterized by a highly patriarchal society, and extreme poor women face barriers to employment and successful entrepreneurship. They have also often been abandoned or have sick or aged husbands, which makes it difficult to provide enough money to sustain the household. Although many NGOs try to address women’s empowerment issues by selecting them as the lead beneficiary, in the majority of cases women will select assets for a male relative to operate. This reduces the potential for their own economic empowerment. Often when they do select an asset for themselves, this is a safe, household based asset, such as goats, which is likely to be less profitable than other income generating activities on offer.
This study, which focuses exclusively on Oxfam RE-CALL beneficiaries, looks into the influencing factors that affect women’s asset selection choices. Through focus group discussions, in-depth interviews and key informant interviews, the views and experiences of both women and men in the south-east coastal region were explored. The study found that although the situation has improved for women in recent years, there are still high religious, social and educational barriers to them becoming economically active, and it is these barriers that prevent them from selecting assets for themselves. Although NGO field staff are often encouraging, women’s self-perceptions of their own abilities to run a business, especially in their local context, are often difficult to overcome.
It is hoped that this paper will contribute to the discussion on gender and poverty reduction in Bangladesh among representatives from the Government, civil society, donor communities, and national and international and NGOs. Through focusing this discussion on the conditions and aspirations of extreme poor women, we hope to find more innovative ways of empowering women through asset transfer.

Author: Sally Faulkner

Click on the link to read the Assessing women’s choice in asset empowerment strategies in south west coastal region of Bangladesh


Working paper 17: The role of the private sector in building resilience among the extreme poor: A case study of a collaboration between SETU project of CARE-Bangladesh and CHP-BD, a private company

Abstract: Bangladesh has made significant improvements in reducing poverty since its independence in 1971 (Ahmed, 2012), however, diverse developmental challenges remain. The role of public, private and non-governmental actors in poverty reduction has been widely recognized in the literature. Numerous private sector initiatives are proliferating within NGOs’ project portfolios as an opportunity for an innovative approach to poverty reduction. Despite this progress, studies have shown the degree to which households above the poverty line remain highly vulnerable and could slide back into poverty when faced with shocks (Ahmed, 2012) such as the loss of working opportunities, food price inflation, illness, natural disasters and other crises. Attempts to alleviate poverty therefore need to look at household resilience if improvements are to be sustained. Using a case study approach, this study investigates how a private sector intervention undertaken by NGOs effectively helps extreme poor households build their livelihood resilience. This research is based on a case study involving collaboration between the Social and Economic Transformation of the Ultra-poor (SETU) project of CARE Bangladesh and Classical Handmade Products-BD (CHP-BD), an export oriented rug-manufacturing company. Under this collaboration in SETU (phase-1), nearly 270 females from extremely poor households (i.e. SETU project beneficiaries) engaged in CHP-BD rug production activities. This resulted in more resilient livelihoods and helped move the women from lower productivity housemaid work to higher productivity rug factory work. The research will also focus on the impact of a temporary closure of the factory on the livelihoods of the women. It analyses the coping strategies adopted by the workers during the closure, and explores the ways in which workers learnt from this event and changed their behaviour in terms of savings, income diversification and strengthening social connections. The authors also analyse how this change in behaviour helped the women build livelihood resilience against potential future shocks.

Author: M. Mizanur Rahman and S. M. Abdul Bari

Click on the link to read the The role of the private sector in building resilience among the extreme poor: A case study of a collaboration between SETU project of CARE-Bangladesh and CHP-BD, a private company


Working paper 18: The effects of extreme poor Adivashi income-earners’ ill-health on the resilience of their households: A qualitative analysis from the CHT

Abstract: Ill-health is often considered as a poverty trap, especially when it affects income-earners. Access to very limited and low quality health services can worsen the situation. Like most developing countries, Bangladesh still lags behind in terms of achievement of health related MDG targets. The impact of ill-health in the context of Bangladesh is not only short-term well-being decline but these also have longer-term significant negative impact on households’ overall resilience. This qualitative study, conducted in the CHT explores the health-seeking behaviour and the treatment-seeking process of Adivashi in Bandarban district, the existing health services, coping strategies adopted by the people in cases of ill-health (diseases, accident, illness) and their (short and long-term) impacts on households’ livelihood and resilience. This study was conducted in two phases: the first phase explored the health-seeking process and existing health services, and the second phase investigated coping strategies in response to sickness and their impact on households’ resilience. The main findings of this study underscore the significant negative impact of ill-health. This impact is multiplied by the longer-term effects of the coping strategies adopted by the extreme poor households during the period of their suffering and treatment-seeking process. This study also confirms and contributes to earlier work arguing that the recovery period from ill-health of indigenous groups in the CHT is longer and more uncertain than the national average (MICS 2009; Rahman and Kielmann 2012). The research identified that often the outcome of the health-seeking behaviour and treatment-seeking process is affected by issues of inaccessibility, limited and low quality health services which critically impinge on income-earners’ chance and time of recovery through different coping strategies. The main message of this paper is that coping strategies adopted by the extreme poor following a health shock are often not sufficient to allow households to maintain a stable economic status. In fact such shocks often contribute to the decline in their economic status. The paper concludes that health training and savings facilities would be appropriate interventions which can sustainably help the extreme poor in the Chittagong Hill Tracts mitigate the impact of ill-health on their long-term resilience.

Author: Rupa Datta, Sayeed Hasan Raza and Dr. Mathilde Maitrot

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Working paper 19: The savings and investment behavior of extreme poor Marma community households in resilience building: a case study on Green Hill village savings and loan association intervention in the Chittagong Hill Tracts

Abstract: This paper explores the linkages between the financial behaviour of extreme poor Marma households and their resilience through a qualitative research approach. The study was conducted with Green Hill beneficiaries in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The main finding emerging from the study is that extreme poor Marma households significantly changed their financial behaviours (regarding savings and investing)as a result of their involvement with the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSL). Their savings increased which enabled them to cope with illness, crisis/lean period of their savings and invest in income generating activities for regular income but also to mitigate the impact of shock through lower adoption of risky strategies (such as borrowing from money lenders, reducing food consumption, distress asset/labour selling or providing extra labour). The intervention also had an effect on trade linkage with buyers and marketing of the products. This has important and positive effects on household resilience. Besides, the study finds that the intervention also affects extreme poor non-beneficiaries in three different ways. First, some benefitted from the presence of the groups in their villages (educational effect or trend effect), second because they were included by beneficiaries in VSL and third through reproducing informal VSL groups. VSL are comparatively more attractive for them than MFI loans, or moneylenders (flexibility and cost). The study concludes that VSL association approach is effective in helping the extreme poor households build their resilience in the CHT, where households have limited access to other financial services.

Author: Nikhil Chakma

Click on the link to read the The savings and investment behavior of extreme poor Marma community households in resilience building: a case study on Green Hill village savings and loan association intervention in the Chittagong Hill Tracts


Working paper 20: Effects of livestock asset transfer on the resilience of the landless – A case study of NETZ livestock project in Bangladesh

Abstract: This paper presents findings from a study on the beneficiaries of the ‘Advancement of the Marginalised Adivasis Deprived of Economic Resources’ (AMADER) Project undertaken by NETZ, funded by DFID/Shiree-GoB. The focus of the research was on landless or near landless people who were considered extreme poor. The paper reports on how the project, which was organized around the transfer of livestock assets to extreme poor people, improved their resilience at the end of four years of intervention. Our findings support the argument that households with more land have a greater propensity to save and accumulate productive assets, making them more resilient than those with less land. The tendency of asset and savings accumulation for households with less than two decimals of homestead land is very slow, making their path to resilience extremely difficult. The study also explores factors other than homestead land that may influence the capacity of extreme poor to benefit from livestock transferred to them. These could include disability, internal stress (such as dowry), health and species of livestock purchased for rearing, market factors, livestock rearing practices and support of the employers, etc.

Author: Md. Korban Ali and Asim Kumar Roy

Click on the link to read the Effects of livestock asset transfer on the resilience of the landless – A case study of NETZ livestock project in Bangladesh


Working paper 21: Food Insecurity and Resilience among Extreme Poor Female Headed Households in Coastal Bangladesh

Abstract: The situation of extreme poor women living on their own is an area which remains under-studied in Bangladesh. This qualitative research was carried out in two coastal districts of Bangladesh with the aim to know about the livelihood and coping strategies as well as the challenges faced by FHHs in terms of managing food insecurity. Data was collected through in-depth interviews with 32 extreme poor female heads and 5 focus group discussions with female heads. The study finds that women survived through different livelihood options but faced extreme challenges in all cases. Household composition is found to be one of the most influential factors regarding a FHH’s coping decisions. Age and marital status are also key variables. Extreme poor FFH’s access to social safety nets and legal support depended on their political loyalty to other influential residents. High levels of food insecurity among FHHs is a very serious problem and leads to what we want to term as ‘food orphans’, i.e. infants and small children who are put into public or private orphanages or are sent to work as residential housemaids in richer families in exchange for food. Thus, children become the first livelihood shock absorbers for FHHs by supplementing family work and complementing family income running a high risk of intergenerational transmission of extreme poverty. The findings of this study suggest that FHHs tend to travel a passage of time led by inequality and draw attention to dimensions of vulnerability of FHHs which revolve around food insecurity. This paper demonstrates that the use of children to improve FHH food security is subjected to gender dimensions.

Author: Owasim Akram

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Working paper 22: The role of social protection allowance programmes in extreme poor households’ resilience: Social means to economic resilience?

Abstract: In recent decades, although Bangladesh made significant progress in reducing poverty, the number of extreme poor has increased by 0.314 percent annually on average. If this trend persists, the number of people living below the poverty line will increase from 57.3million (in 2013) to 59.8 million (in 2021). In 2010, a quarter of the country’s citizen (36 million people) could not afford an adequate diet (BBS, 2010). The increase of economic inequalities is influenced by inflation, natural disaster, informal and formal employment variation and market fluctuation which not only undermine the potential for economic growth but can jeopardize social cohesion. In the last few decades social protection programmes have gained recognition as an integral part of the anti-poverty strategy. Their potential to protect the poor from falling into deeper poverty and to uphold past achievements is generally acknowledged. In Bangladesh, the budget allocated to social protection increases every year– BDT 114 billion in 2008-09, BDT 154 billion in 2010-11 and BDT 198 billion for 2013-14. This study qualitatively investigated how the allowance allocated to extreme poor widows, elders and disabled people can facilitate or hamper their livelihoods and resilience. It compares the situation of allowance receivers to the situation of non-beneficiaries in the Satkhira district. There are three important findings emerging from this study. Firstly, the data shows that the expenditures of the receivers and non-receivers are generally higher than their income which often causes high vulnerabilities and pushes them into extreme coping strategies preventing them from building resilience. Secondly, it finds that although the allowance amount is relatively small and insufficient to significantly contribute to households’ graduation, it often enables recipients to stabilize their earnings and help them cope better with certain types of hazards (lean period for example). Thirdly, we argue that the allowance has important social implications for recipients which influence the financial and economic output of the allowance for them. In this way the social protection system being studied, acts as social means to economic resilience which the author calls social resilience.

Author: Sheikh Tariquzzaman and Sohel Rana

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Working paper 23: Occupational Health and Safety in Urban and Peri-Urban Bangladesh: An Important Cause and Consequence of Extreme Poverty

Abstract: Poor occupational health and safety damages many lives and livelihoods which impedes economic growth. Poor and unsafe work conditions are both a cause and consequence of extreme poverty. They reinforce each other negatively. The significance of occupational health and safety is particularly strong in countries like Bangladesh where it is not adequately addressed or explored. This study focuses on urban and peri-urban Bangladesh drawing from: 15 Life History (LH) interviews with people who became disabled during work, 10 in-depth interviews with vulnerable workers in high risk environments; and key informant interviews (KII) with five senior management officials in high risk workplaces. Other studies have also been consulted on occupation safety in rural and urban Bangladesh. Findings confirm that extreme poor people are not only disproportionately drawn into high risk and unhealthy jobs but also the accidents and health problems that arise from these jobs exacerbate poverty. Employers were found to be reluctant to take responsibility for workers and any support offered to injured workers was mainly done out of charity. Sub-contracting was found to be a potentially harmful practice of the business/industry owners which makes workers more vulnerable. The paper concludes that occupational health and safety in Bangladesh should be a higher priority in discussions of extreme poverty, its consequences and its solutions.

Author: Owasim Akram

Click on the link to read Occupational Health and Safety in Urban and Peri-Urban Bangladesh

The working paper was published at the International Journal of Occupational Safety and Health, Vol 4 No 1 (2014) 41 – 50. Click here to read Occupational Health, Safety and Extreme Poverty: A Qualitative Perspective from Bangladesh


Working paper 24: Understanding the effectiveness of access to khasland: Comparing khasland receivers to Non-Receivers

Abstract: Recent poverty literature in Bangladesh suggests that one key method of poverty alleviation is to create working opportunities for the poorest or to help them to achieve the ownership of productive means. Uttaran, a national NGO has been particularly effective in its attempts to distribute both Khasland and assets to extreme poor households in an effort to move them out of extreme poverty. Distribution of khasland is assumed to boost national GDP as individual households should be able to expand their agricultural and industrial produce for sale in markets. It is argued that if an estimated 3.3 million acres of khasland (Barakat, 2010) were to be distributed to the bottom 17.6% of the entire population, 6 million of extreme poor households (HIES 2010) in addition to IGA support, each household would have ownership of 55 decimals of khasland each, they might move out of extreme poverty. Moreover, individuals would become stronger consumers in the market which would stimulate demand and accelerate economic growth in Bangladesh, enhancing demand for employment and wages. This study highlights that access to khasland is a strongly political process where the collective movement played a pivotal role in shaping the livelihoods of land receivers. The paper shows that 1. khasland provides insurance and security through creating diverse income opportunities which can often mitigate the negative and long term impacts of shocks and allow khasland receivers to cope better with shocks 2. khasland allocation incentivises women’s engagement with labouring activities, household asset management, as well as their mobility within the village 3. Livelihood comparisons between khasland receivers and non receivers of khasland show that the income diversification effect of khasland and the potential for women to contribute to the household’s income gives household beneficiaries the opportunity to save 4. The norm of landless has changed. Now the father of a girl at daanga (highland) wants to marry off his daughter, which was previously unheard of 5. Being a landholder has changed their identity opening them up to the benefits of the market 6. Using one large piece of land has changed the structure of the market. They are the key market players as suppliers 7. Social setbacks may still have implications for retaining khasland. Though bhumihin (landless) leaders’ contributions are undeniable, they have a controversial role which is creating social insecurity to some extent. However, the leaders are negotiating with the external institutions and personnel to solve their community problems. So, by following a similar process and organizing a community movement to get the landless access to khasland, similar benefits may be realized.

Author: Sheikh Tariquzzaman and Sohel Rana

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Working paper 25: Exploring the Processes and Consequences of Child Labour in Building Resilience of the Extreme Poor: The Genealogy of Child Labour in Northern Districts of Bangladesh

Abstract: Globally some progress has been made in reducing the number of child workers − from 215 million in 2010 to 168 million in 2013. Bangladesh has also made some achievements in reducing the worst forms of child labour. Currently, 39.7% of its population is below 18 years. The Child Equity Atlas conducted in 2013 by BBS, UNICEF and BIDS jointly shows that the Child Labour rate has been reduced. It was 6% in 2011, down from 10.5% in 2001. This achievement came from different child protection initiatives such as stipend for primary and secondary schooling, free books distribution, overall poverty reduction and growing awareness among poor parents of the importance of sending their children to school. However, a global child-risk analysis advisory group, Maplecroft, listed 64 child-risk countries, including Bangladesh.
Despite increasing enrollment, a good number of children still do not go to school: more than 2 out of 10 children. This rises to 45 out of 100 children aged 6-10 years old in some upazilas (sub-districts), referred to as the worst of the deprived districts according to the Child Equity Atlas. Different surveys and reports on child labour in Bangladesh have found that children from poor and extreme poor families are mainly remaining out of school and work as wage labour.
“Pathway From Poverty”, a joint project of Shiree and Practical Action, has been implementing a programme in Rangpur, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha and Kurigram districts situated in the northern part of Bangladesh to lift people out of extreme poverty through a graduation model. Despite their progress in getting out of extreme poverty, different studies including shiree’s regular Change Monitoring System (CMS), reveal that there are many children in those households who work as paid labour. Besides, some of the upazilas of these districts scores the lowest in the Composite Social Deprivation Index (CDI) and still 4.5% of the children are in paid work according to Children Equity Atlas, at a national level report.
Although there have been several studies on child labour in Bangladesh, most of them lack historical perspective and contextual analysis of this phenomenon. The present study is mainly an ethnographic endeavor where Case Studies, Key Informant Interviews and Focus Group Discussions were used for collecting qualitative data. In addition, the findings of secondary researches were also used for analyzing and comparing child labour issues from a broader perspective. The study was conducted in Rangpur, Gaibandha and Lalmonirhat districts of the Rangpur division during November and December 2013.
The present study revealed that child labour has an intergenerational aspect. The then-grandparents were employed when they were very young. Parents could not understand the importance of schooling. The entrance of children into work was dependent on age and the family’s socio- economic condition. The children of those who had large areas of land available had opportunities to spend leisure time in tours and games but those who were poor farmers, their children did not stay for a long time without work. But schooling was not a popular thing at that time. Children of other occupational groups such as carpenters, different smiths and other skills-based artisan occupations were nurtured as part of an enculturation process into family enterprises and children were encouraged to learn through apprenticeships. They were not forced to work as that was part of culture and tradition. It was perceived that often older children needed to practice their skills whereas younger children were more likely to learn quickly. Also, we found that girls take part in household chores as followers of their mothers, which in this study is considered as children’s work and that often, girls were married off earlier than in other better-off households (around twelve years old for example).
This empirical research has found some differences between the two generations. There were a few parents who went to school. Those who went to school and completed three or four years education at least, were more likely to send their girls and boys both to school, delay marrying off girls in their households and were successful in using birth control. It does not mean that their economic situation was better than their precursors. These behavior changes happened as the necessity of education was felt by a cross section of people; along with participation in other development initiatives as well as with a gradual increase of public resources into educational stipend programs. In this study, it has also been revealed that there were some extreme poor households who could not ensure minimum compulsory primary education (five years) for their children. These children have been working as child labour. The causes of child labour were that their parents were non-literate too, parents did not have a skilled job, more children in their household, dependent on mother’s daily or domestic wage, perceived cost of continuing formal education, lack of skills to manage children with special needs, and unavailability of alternative opportunity for the children to continue formal schooling. From intergenerational data it has been revealed that if parents have skills in literacy and numeracy they have a more sustained income with other social benefits compared to households where either parent does not have that education. It was found that often the father with some education skills had started their livelihood as a child labourer with a skills base employment such as carpentry, agriculture trading, rickshaw repairing, tailoring or catering and then they became small entrepreneurs. Even among present child labourers who had some formal education and opportunity to engage with technical enterprises such as apprenticeships, their earning ratio was better and had better scope for gradual professional growth.
This study has found a distinct gender perception of child labour. However, the dominant practice of these societies is to marry off their girl children after reaching a certain age and believes that parents should not depend on a daughter’s income. In reality this situation is being changed and poor parents send their daughters for earning outside of their regions and even to different districts. Amongst all of them reported that when fathers were incapable of providing meals for their children, then they sent their girls to work outside the home. Girls in the extreme poor families are yet to get access to skills-based employment for complementing parents’ income, resilience and develop their own household in the near future. Extreme poor households having very limited material goods and low human skills are more vulnerable to issues of combatting their immediate daily hunger. If a household possesses skilled labour they are more likely to have a regular income and more resilience to shocks. Therefore, often children are pulled out of formal education temporarily in order to cope with shocks, this however, can significantly disturb their educational development. Social protection schemes could therefore, be designed for these children who are likely to drop out of school. The current study was confined to searching the ethnographic evidence of child labour and has attempted to make a causal analysis with building the economic resilience of the extreme poor. It has the limitation of seeing any association with other variables like its relationship with the national overall macroeconomy.

Author: Md. A. Halim Miah and Md. Imran Reza

Click on the link to read Exploring the Processes and Consequences of Child Labour in Building Resilience of the Extreme Poor


Working paper 26: Extreme Poverty and the need for a new political settlement. The Case of Bangladesh

Abstract: The first of the key arguments is that the extreme poverty is qualitatively different from other experiences of poverty, and that there is a compelling case to devise policies which specifically relate to and address the needs of the extreme poor. The assumption here is that there is little use in talking about extreme poverty if policy responses, be it from government or non-governmental sources, remain the same as before. However this observation needs to be taken a step further and in our second argument, we make use of a distinction between idiosyncratic and non-idiosyncratic poverty from the 2001 World Poverty Report. Thus within the category of ‘extreme poor’ we find a combination of those who are poor due to idiosyncratic, individual characteristics such as disability, mental health, chronic ill-health and morbidity, old age, being orphaned and perhaps desertion and abandonment; and those who systemically (or non-idiosyncratically) experience extreme poverty as a function of exploitative relationships with landlords, employers, moneylenders or mastaans through which key assets are expropriated or access to them prevented. The significance of this distinction is crucial. Programmes established to address the needs of the extreme poor risk spending considerable resources in targeting the extreme poor in an enclave way (especially those programmes with donor involvement), often at the risk of ignoring the implication of the richer, political class in the ongoing reproduction of non-idiosyncratic extreme poverty. Enclave approaches resemble the oxymoron of official charity in the absence of rights to entitlements. Our third argument draws from this insight and offers an alternative perspective. Extreme poverty is not a ‘problem’ of the most unfortunate in society, it is a ‘problem’ of society itself. If sustainable progress is to be made in addressing the needs of the extreme poor, radical changes are required in society. This aim is encapsulated in our call for a new political settlement in Bangladesh, which goes beyond the immediate programme intervention approach of initiatives like Shiree, and takes us into the realm of generic social protection and effective safety nets. A call for a new political settlement is in effect a call for a revised and more obvious wellbeing regime for Bangladesh (Gough and Wood et al, 2004).

Author: Joe Devine and Geof Wood

Click on the link to read Extreme Poverty and the Need for a New Political Settlement


Working paper 27: Health and Wellbeing in the Lives of the Extreme Poor

Abstract: Examining the relation between poverty and health is critical to understanding the potential impact of development interventions on people’s overall well-being. In this paper, we trace out some key ideas which together constitute a point of departure for thinking about the significance of health in understanding livelihoods.
Health is a universal prerequisite for successful and critical participation in one’s form of life. Our analysis will show the idea of ‘security’ as an objective need that could be added to form a trio of interdependent universal human needs. Thus, health is best seen as a form of security as well as a proxy for it; and security is understood as both an input and outcome of autonomy.
Second, the argument linking poor health and poverty is by now irrefutable. Poverty has a very high cost for health. It makes people sick and in some cases, irreversibly so. It also reduces people’s ability to deal with the consequences of ill health because resources tend to be few and entitlements weak. At the same time, to complete a vicious ‘poverty cul de sac’, being able to forge a decent livelihood requires good health. As a result, health is always more precarious, less certain, more insecurely present among the poor.
Third, the link between poverty and ill health is particularly germane to the context of Bangladesh. Although Bangladesh has made good progress in key health indicators notably in relation to the MDG 4 target (under-5 mortality rates) and the MDG 5 target (maternal mortality ratio) (Countdown 2012, NIPRT 2012), the country still faces formidable health related challenges. Food insecurity remains a critical and volatile issue in Bangladesh and although the number of people suffering from malnutrition has decreased recently, it remains very high. Ill health therefore is a common occurrence among the poorest in Bangladesh and a major factor associated with movements into poverty.

Author: Joe Devine, Geof Wood, Rie Goto, Lucia da Corta

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Working paper 28: Building Resilience: A Gender Sensitive Analysis of ‘Shiree Interventions’

Abstract: Women’s participation in the labour force is not only important for households’ development but also for national economic growth. Yet, it is often restricted by the traditional norms, which enforce their economic dependency on men. This is particularly the case in extreme poor households where women are often in a more submissive position.
This study investigates the impact of Save the Children’s Household Economic and Food Security (HEFS) asset transfer programme on intra-household relationships and livelihood dynamics of extreme poor households using a gender lens. The key component of the programme is based on an asset transfer of usually one to two key assets. Using mixed-methods, the paper explores how the intervention contributes to building extreme poor’s resilience defined as the “capacity of a household to cope with different household shocks and hazards in their normal day to day life and return to the original situation”.
One main finding of the study is that the project intervention not only created the opportunity for women to become involved in income generating activities but also allowed them to support their husbands to maximize their own income generating opportunities. It shows that women can play a key role in building resilience of household by supporting the household to better cope with shocks and prepare for hazards.
Another major finding is that it confirms that engaging women in asset-based transfers has the potential to significantly transform intra-household relationships and livelihoods of the extreme poor. Although it was reported that women’s mobility and autonomy was still being challenged, the data suggests that some women who used to employ negative coping strategies now participate in decision-making and have gained more control over household incomes. The transfers seemingly created more consultative and collaborative relationships between husbands and wives which may lead to better resilience (through dual income, secret savings, child care and asset accumulation).

Author: Sohel Rana, Sonia Jesmin, Abdullah-Al-Harun, Dr. Muzaffar Ahmed, Dr. Julie Newton, Dr. Mathilde Maitrayot

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Working paper 29: Economics of Disability in Bangladesh

Abstract: This paper attempts to estimate the economic costs of disability in Bangladesh. Disability tends to reduce economic output by reducing or eliminating the economic contribution of the members with disabilities, their family members, relatives and close friends. The amount by which economic output is reduced in this way constitutes the net economic cost of disability. Four cost components have been taken into consideration in the analyses, which includes: costs due to lack of access to employment; costs due to children with disabilities losing out on school; costs due to adults helping people with disabilities; and costs due to children helping a family member with disabilities. The cumulative cost of the four components is approximately US $1.18 billion per annum which is about 1.74 percent of Bangladesh’s GDP.

Author: Zulfiqar Ali

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Working paper 30: Revisiting Extreme Poverty and Marginality in Bangladesh: How Successful are the Policies and Programs in Reaching the Extreme Poor?

Abstract: The paper explores the current state of extreme poverty and marginality in Bangladesh both conceptually and empirically. It also tries to make comparisons between the two in the context of Bangladesh. In addition, the paper also tries to examine whether and to what extent the existing anti-poverty programs have been successful in reaching out to the poorest in the country. Finally, the paper came up with some suggestions as to how to target the poorest of the poor effectively and help them to overcome extreme poverty. Traditionally development programs have not differentiated between the severity levels of the poor, treating the poor as a group with similar characteristics and needs that require homogenous forms of assistance. It is now widely recognized that effective poverty alleviation efforts require more than a unidirectional approach, and must be adapted to the specific needs and capacities of people at different levels of poverty. The complex and interconnected nature of the factors that cause, contribute to, and perpetuate extreme poverty suggest that the value of holistic perspectives in unpacking the dynamics of extreme poverty if significant improvement in any aspect of their lives is to be made. This seems to be one of the opportunities as well as challenges of targeting extremely poor households in Bangladesh.

Author: Zulfiqar Ali, Mustafa K. Mujeri

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Working paper 31: Feeding practices and nutritional status of extreme poor young children in families of working mothers in the slums of Dhaka

Abstract: In Bangladesh, differentials in nutritional status between children living in slum and non-slum families are prevalent: children in families in slums in City Corporations are likely to have poorer nutritional status than their non-slum counterparts. Furthermore, mothers in slum households are more likely to be engaged in cash generating activities, and this impacts upon feeding practices and by implication, the nutritional status of young children. Little attention has been paid to the investigation of feeding practices of young children in families of working mothers in slums. However, understanding the determining factors of feeding practices is important to improve the nutritional outcomes. The aim of this study is to understand the contributing factors of feeding practices of children living in families of working mothers in Dhaka slums. The study adopts a qualitative approach and is informed by In-depth Interviews (IDIs), 5 Key Informant Interviews (KIIs) and Focus Group Discussions (FGDs) with family members, community leaders and program people. The main findings of the study are that the feeding practices of children in families of working mothers are determined by mothers’ occupation, basis civic facilities and the limited buying capacity of families. Although the mothers have good nutritional knowledge, they are forced to continually negotiate between the demands of work and feeding. Household composition, access to cooking facilities and levels of poverty also were found to be significant determining factors too.

Author: Ashraful Kabir

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Working paper 32: Migration and its effect on extreme poor households’ trajectories

Abstract: In the development discourse, migration is seen a contested concept because it can produce both desirable and undesirable outcomes. This paper focuses on analysing migration as a livelihood option for extreme poor households drawing upon Stimulating Household Improvements Resulting in Economic Empowerment (SHIREE ) programme data. In the qualitative longitudinal household tracking tool of SHIREE programme, we found different kinds of migration contexts, notably: rural to urban migration, seasonal migration, border crossing migration, and natural disaster related migrations. Our study found that low incomes, loss of earning opportunities, evictions, health shocks, lack of specialized skills, bonded labour and fraud were factors underpinning unsuccessful migration. On the other hand, migrations that developed social networks, had support from NGOs, resulted in reduced dependency ratios, and chose the right destination tended to be positive experiences that helped improve migrants’ wellbeing.

Author: A K M Fazlur Rahman and Sohel Rana

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Working paper 33: Access to Market and Outcomes: Experience of the Extreme Poor

There is growing evidence that poor producers benefit from market-led income generating intervention (Magingxa and Kamara 2003). For this reason, the role of market-led income generating activities in combating poverty has attracted significant interest both from international development organizations and poor communities themselves. Theoretically at least, it is claimed that market engagement has the potential to broaden income opportunities and to improve livelihoods (IFAD, 2003). However, in many developing countries like Bangladesh, those who live in poverty and extreme poverty are unable to participate in market activities because basic supporting institutions are missing (Mair and Marti 2007) and because the wider political economy conditions do not favour the poorest. It is therefore important to step away from abstract assumptions and look in detail at how improved access to markets can actually lead to poverty reduction. This is the driving focus of this paper.

Author: Mohammad Ali Ahsan

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Working paper 34: How ethnic minorities became poor and stay poor in Bangladesh: a qualitative enquiry

Introduction: Little has been written about the experiences of ethnic minorities in contemporary Bangladesh. This working paper reflects on the status of ethnic minorities in both the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) and plain lands, examining the ways in which their identities are situated in the nation, experiences of poverty and in particular relationships to land. The power dynamics underlying the relationships between these communities and Bengalees are often neglected, and it is all the more important to focus on these given that development agencies often ignore issues of power and politics.

In Bangladesh there is a disagreement between government statistics and indigenous leaders about the number and size of the ethnic minority population. The exact number of ethnic minorities in Bangladesh is unknown. Officially the Bangladesh Government recognizes 27 ethnic minorities in the Small Ethnic Minority Cultural Institute Act of 2010. However different rights based organizations claim that more than 45 ethnic minorities lived in Bangladesh before Independence in 1971 (Barman and Neo, 2014). There are also disagreements over the size of the ethnic population. The latest population survey in 2011 shows that ethnic minorities represent 1.10 percent of the population in Bangladesh, in other words a total of 1,586,141 citizens. However, ethnic minorities claim that the exact number is closer to 2 million (Barman and Neo, 2014). Not only are there differences in statistical estimations but the latest censuses actually exclude questions about ethnic minorities. In other words, we have no updates on the ethnic population since 1991. Without basic demographic information, it is far easier to ignore the presence and concerns of ethnic minorities. The Government’s budget allocation of BDT 160 million for the estimated two million indigenous people of the plains was heavily criticized and described as a “mockery towards the indigenous people by the state” and “unjust” (Saha, 2014).

In this paper we explore the nature of the relationship between the Bangladeshi state and the multiple non-Bengalee ethnic minorities1, using primary qualitative data. The first section provides evidence of a phenomenon of exacerbated extreme poverty affecting non-Bengali ethnic groups. The second section presents a typology of the state’s hegemonic nation-identity discourse. The third section gives details about the primary data collected from Chittagong Hill Tracks (CHT) and plain land-based ethnic groups and secondary data used for this study. The fourth section argues that livelihood improvements are constrained by relational politics of ethnicity. The fifth section looks at the implications of the Bengalee domination for non-Bengalee extreme poor’s interaction with the state and their access to services.

Author: Nikhil Chakma and Mathilde Maitrot

Click on the link to read Working paper 34: How ethnic minorities became poor and stay poor in Bangladesh: a qualitative enquiry


Working paper 35: Seasonal food security strategies of the ‘extreme poor’ of Haor in Bangladesh

Abstract: This working paper presents findings from research on seasonal fluctuations of food security and different food strategies of the extremely poor people in the North-East Haor region of Bangladesh. The study uses a mixed-method approach analysing both a quantitative data set and a collection of qualitative data including case studies, focus group discussions and participant observation during the monsoon. The study finds that the poorest define food security as taking protein food stuff in their meals, having regular income and job opportunities round the year. Fish intake is significantly related with seasonal fluctuations of weekly expenses in fish, savings, loan taking, number of Income sources, and with duration of migration of both males and females. In addition, the research also suggests that a capital based sustainable livelihood framework is limited in explaining access challenges, power relationships, cultural value patterns and historical aspects and understandings of the food strategies of the poorest. Distress food strategies include changes to the frequency of food consumption, quantity and quality of meals, alternating food choices, starving and borrowing, buying food on credit and giving more food to income earners.

Author: Arafat Alam

Click on the link to read Working paper 35: Seasonal food security strategies of the ‘extreme poor’ of Haor in Bangladesh


Working paper 36: An analysis of the extreme poor’s experiences of the contemporary agrarian structures in Bangladesh

Introduction: Bangladesh has long been considered one of the world’s poorest countries, with 17.6% of the population living below the lower poverty line (HIES, 2010), the threshold used to distinguish the extreme poor from the poor. However, in recent years the country has achieved good economic growth, and the incidence of poverty was reduced by 36% between 2000 and 2010. The trend can partly be attributed to the pro-poor strategy of the Government, which has focused on economic growth, the promotion of human development and the provision of social safety nets (IDB, 2011). Consequently, the country is now classified as a lower middle income, according to the World Bank (2015).

The rural poor are historically extremely reliant on the agricultural sector. As the country has become richer, there has been a gradual sectoral shift from farm to non-farm activities, and labour has been employed elsewhere. For example, many poor women in particular have made successful livelihoods in the ready-made garments sector. Despite this, the reliance of the rural poor on agriculture remains high. In 2013, it was estimated that the agricultural sector accommodates 47.5% of the total workforce of Bangladesh and its GDP is around 18% (Unnayan Onneshan, 2013).With such a high proportion of the population reliant on agriculture and land-related activities, landholding plays a vital role in the fight against poverty. Strong inequalities in land ownership are a significant driving factor of poverty and extreme poverty. Landlessness remains a reliable and strong indicator of extreme poverty……..

Author: SK. Tariquzzaman

Click on the link to read Working paper 36: An analysis of the extreme poor’s experiences of the contemporary agrarian structures in Bangladesh