Bangladesh has made great strides in the fight against poverty, but the country continues to face numerous obstacles. Nearly one-third still live below the poverty line and over 41 percent of children under 5 suffer from stunting. After declining for two decades, the rate of acute malnutrition has recently shown a disturbing increase. Agricultural productive capacity is still low and the country remains dependent on food imports, so it is subject to the volatility of global food prices. Vulnerability to cyclones, floods, and other environmental devastation hamper long-term efforts to tackle some of these challenges.
In May 2010, USAID’s Office of Food for Peace awarded ACDI/VOCA a five-year, $45 million PL 480 Title II program to reduce food insecurity among vulnerable households in the Khulna Division of Bangladesh. This funding is supplemented by a contribution from the government of Bangladesh. Implemented in collaboration with Project Concern International (PCI), iDE, and three local NGOs, the Program for Strengthening Household Access to Resources (PROSHAR) is an integrated initiative that improves livelihoods; increases local knowledge of, and access to, quality basic health and nutrition services; and strengthens the capacity of institutions and households to respond effectively to shocks caused by rapid-onset natural and chronic disasters. Program activities focus on three major objectives:
Objective 1: Increase income and access to food for poor and ultrapoor households
PROSHAR is introducing new crop varieties; providing training in appropriate production technologies; strengthening market actors to increase services related to quality inputs; and providing technical advice on bulk selling and purchasing in order to increase the incomes of poor and ultrapoor households. PROSHAR is promoting technologies to improve profit margins and the nutritional value of crops in commercial and homestead agriculture.
Key technologies and methodologies that are proving to have the greatest uptake by producers include: maintenance of proper crop spacing; balanced fertilizer use; improved pits and heap systems; multistoried cropping; relay cropping; aquaculture pond cleaning and liming; fish disease management; and poultry/livestock vaccination and de-worming.
With the support of iDE, PROSHAR works to systematically link producer groups with the private sector and build the capacity of PNGOs to promote market linkages. Women’s empowerment remains a key crosscutting theme in PROSHAR, with the program recognizing the important role women play in household food security. During FY2013, producer groups with women in leadership positions increased from 15 percent to 76.3 percent.
In the off-farm sector, PROSHAR is promoting alternative income-earning opportunities, such as bamboo products (fish traps, baskets), karchupi (embroidery), and nakshikhata (hand-embroidered blankets).
Objective 2: Improve health of pregnant and lactating women and children under 5 (with particular attention to children under 2)
Beneficiary mothers are learning about health, nutrition and hygiene practices, and participating in antenatal and postnatal care. In addition, children aged 6-23 months of PROSHAR-participating households are involved in growth monitoring and promotion activities. Maternal leaders are being trained to identify severe acute malnutrition cases to facilitate timely referrals to clinics. Direct distribution to vulnerable households is providing additional resources to meet caloric needs during normal times and lean seasons.
All activities are held in coordination with the government of Bangladesh, UNICEF, WHO, and other national and local health service providers. PROSHAR is training government health workers, family welfare assistants, and skilled birth attendants in the community to strengthen their capacity to meet the needs of mothers and children. PROSHAR is also forming and training community groups to strengthen community-clinic-hospital referral links.The program promotes proper maternal and newborn practices among women and other family members in accordance with Bangladesh’s Ministry of Health strategy.
Behavior change communication (BCC) interventions reach community members through care group trio sessions, community meetings, community mobilization, and dissemination of BCC materials. Care group trios are an innovative BCC method promoted by PCI within PROSHAR that targets fathers and mothers-in-law as the most influential members of a household in supporting childhood nutrition and sanitation. Mothers, fathers, and mothers-in-law meet with their peers in the community to receive BCC messaging, and then meet as a household to receive messaging and materials, and gauge progress.
Tippy taps are low-cost, low-tech hand washing stations introduced to care group trios using the new BCC model. PROSHAR’s FY2013 annual survey revealed that, as a result of the focused messaging, 37.8 percent of beneficiary households had adopted a proper hand washing station in their homes.
Objective 3: Help institutions and households prepare to respond effectively to shocks
PROSHAR activities focus on the 13 unions most affected by rapid onset natural disasters. Activities include mobilizing communities and helping them to map their risks and resources, forming community-based disaster management volunteer groups at the ward level to support disaster warning and response, conducting disaster preparedness trainings, and preparing risk-reduction action plans.
In partnership with the Center for Environmental and Geographic Information Services, PROSHAR is conducting community risk assessments to generate multihazard vulnerability and resource maps and initiate community-level risk-reduction interventions.
In close coordination with the government of Bangladesh, PROSHAR is helping to revitalize upazila and union Disaster Management Committees (DMCs) that are responsible for communicating early warning messages to communities, convening meetings during disasters, and developing disaster risk-reduction plans. PROSHAR also provided upazila and union DMCs in the most vulnerable unions with early-warning, search-and-rescue, and first-aid materials.
As an avenue to improve infrastructure, the government of Bangladesh’s contribution is being used primarily to fund PROSHAR’s Cash for Work program, which supports infrastructure to mitigate the impact of disasters.
PROSHAR builds sustainability by strengthening the capacity of communities and public and private sector stakeholders to work together to address community needs. PROSHAR also provides grants and technical oversight to local NGO partners and service providers to directly involve them in PROSHAR activities and to improve their organizational and technical capacity for the future.
For more information contact Gunner Hamlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.