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Bangladesh safety net schemes miss target groups: survey
Publication Date : 17-01-2013
Bangladesh now runs as many as 80 social safety net programmes, but many of them are missing the targets they have been designed for.
For instance, the poorest 40 per cent of the population, who are supposed to receive 100 per cent primary school stipend from the government, get only 55 per cent and the rest goes to the relatively richer 60 per cent.
Bangladesh Integrated Household Survey (BIHS), a USAID-funded six-month nationwide survey, revealed this yesterday.
International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) conducted the survey among 6,500 households representing all districts in the country.
Presenting survey data at a workshop in a hotel in the capital, Akhter Ahmed, chief of party of the IFPRI-run Policy Research and Strategy Support Programme, said if the effectiveness of the safety net programmes are enhanced, they could serve the poor better in Bangladesh.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury, Food Minister Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, State Minister for Women and Children Affairs Shirin Sharmin Chowdhury and US Ambassador in Bangladesh Dan Mozena also spoke at the workshop “Feed the Future Zone and the Rest of Bangladesh: A Comparison of Food Security Aspects.”
Quoting from the BIHS data, Akhter said the government's old-age allowance is split almost 50:50 among the poorest 40 per cent and comparatively better-off 60 per cent of the surveyed population.
Similarly, a sizeable segment of the benefits under some other safety net programmes like vulnerable group development (VGD), vulnerable group feeding (VGF) and gratuitous relief (GR) are also reaching out to the comparatively richer segment of population, which should not be the case, he said.
The survey data will be used to assess the impact of food security programmes in Bangladesh, including the US government's Feed the Future (FTF) Initiative that US President Barack Obama initiated in 2010. Bangladesh is one of the 21 FTF-beneficiary countries.
The survey shows, as many as 36.3 per cent of the farmers in the country are marginal with less than 0.5 acre of land, while 44.6 per cent are small farmers with average farm size in between 0.5 and 1.49 acres. The percentages of medium and big farmers are 11.8 and 7.3.
The data show that small farmers irrigate more of their land on a percentage basis, use more fertiliser per hectare, and have higher yields than the big farmers. However, small farmers have much lower access to credit and they access extension services at a much lower rate than large farmers.
Women in Barisal division are the most empowered in the country while their counterparts in Chittagong division the least.
The survey rated the women empowerment aspects by taking into consideration the five domains of empowerment (5DE) -- production, resources, income, leadership and time. That means how much choices the women can make in these domains determine the level of empowerment they enjoy.
According to the survey, on average, 24 per cent of the country's women enjoy empowerment. It is 34 per cent in Barisal, 31 per cent in Dhaka, 29 per cent in Rajshahi, and 23, 22, 15 and 12 per cents in Khulna, Rangpur, Sylhet and Chittagong divisions.
Speaking as the chief guest, Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said in order to cope with the increasing population and alarmingly depleting farmlands, "we need to re-direct focus on the southern zone, which was once the food basket of Bangladesh. We have to develop stress-tolerant crops and enhance the productivity in the south."
Economist Hossain Zillur Rahman echoed the agriculture minister, and said in the past, attention was given to the East and the North zones to increase rice production there, leaving the South underdeveloped in agriculture.
Zillur, also a former adviser to a caretaker government, however, said the Southern region offers hopes for future food security. "South remains the last untapped area to double agricultural production. Future feeding potential will come from the South."
Mentioning that the country's population is projected to reach 185 million by 2020, Food Minister Razzaque said Bangladesh faces formidable challenge in ensuring food security for the future.
In an effort to boost crop production, the government has initiated the second phase of Green Revolution with a focus on agricultural research that emphasises developing stress-tolerant seeds.