Development projects reduce rural poverty in Bangladesh

Development projects in Bangladesh supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are making substantial progress in helping reduce rural poverty by improving agricultural productivity. Technological innovations and microenterprise development are among the key factors highlighted by a new country programme evaluation that will be presented on Sunday.

The country programme’s target group includes people living in extreme and moderate poverty. Its targeting strategy starts by identifying geographic areas of poverty and then assessing household assets and needs – including food supply – in those areas. For example the haor areas in Sunamganj, and char areas in newly accreted land near sea in Noakhali, are remote and hard–to–reach inaccessible locations covered by the IFAD country programme.

The evaluation reviews the ten-year period between 2004 and 2014. The findings reveal a responsive and productive partnership between the Government of Bangladesh and IFAD. Overall, the country programme, which is directly benefitting 9,702,563 households, has produced significant results in alleviating rural poverty, especially in increasing rural household income and assets in the project areas.

The programme has contributed significantly to microfinance, rural infrastructure, community-based resource management and enterprise development. Progress was made in strengthening social capital and promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment.

On the other hand, the evaluation underlines that there are pockets of unmet need in rural credit and stresses the need for diversification and policy support for emerging entrepreneurs.

“IFAD maintains a strong and long-standing partnership with Bangladesh in agriculture and rural development. The findings in this evaluation show how IFAD’s strategic focus and development priorities have been well nested within the Government’s strategies and respond to the emerging needs of the country and its economic realities,” says Hoonae Kim, Director, Asia and the Pacific, IFAD.

Given the concentration of poverty, changing demographics, shrinking rural space and climate change vulnerabilities of the country, the evaluation emphasizes that IFAD’s role and strategy in the country faces critical challenges and future programmes will require creative rethinking and timely adjustments aimed at contributing to a more sustainable and inclusive rural development in Bangladesh. These include enhanced support to the transformation of small-scale agriculture (including fisheries and livestock) into a more dynamic and commercially profitable sector, promoting wider access to microcredit, and continuous attention to environmental protection and climate change adaptation.

“The evaluation will provide insights for the formulation of IFAD’s future strategy in the country,” said Oscar A. Garcia, Director of the Independent Office of Evaluation. “Policy dialogue, partnership-building and knowledge management will require serious attention and follow-up work. Due diligence, accountability and matching resources to concrete results will help to unlock the full potential of the country programme.”

The evaluation report notes that issues of long-term sustainability and further scaling up of results still need attention. These will require policy dialogue, strategic initiatives and decisive action if the benefits achieved to date are to continue for the future generations. IFAD’s remarkable project level (micro) successes require a stronger policy level (macro) uptake to reap the full potential of benefits.

Bangladesh is among the top three recipients of IFAD funding in the Asia and the Pacific region. Since 1979, IFAD has provided US$673.9 million to finance 30 projects in the country for a total project cost of almost $1.7 billion. Government’s and beneficiaries’ contributions constitute $366 million, while cofinancing by other development partners amounts to $614 million. Cofinancers include the Asian Development Bank, Danish International Development Agency, KfW Development Bank, Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, United States Agency for International Development, World Bank, World Food Programme, and the governments of the Netherlands and Spain.

The country has benefited from activities financed by several IFAD grants geared toward research and knowledge management initiatives for a total of $3.9 million. Bangladesh has also benefitted from several global and regional grants supporting capacity-building and knowledge sharing.