https://dfid.blog.gov.uk/2009/06/10/a-few-days-in-the-field/

A few days in the field

CLP Beneficiary, Kurigram
CLP Beneficiaries at a Group Meeting, Kurigram

I’m just back from a trip to the far north west of Bangladesh, near the Indian border. It was a very welcome, cool and quiet change from Dhaka. I first took part in a review of joint donor support to the health sector with colleagues from DFID, the World Health Organisation and the Government of Bangladesh. After finishing the review, I travelled further north to make a presentation on poverty levels in Bangladesh at a regional workshop. This was organised by the Chars Livelihoods Programme (CLP), which works with rural households living on the fragile sand islands in the mighty Jamuna River and which DFID funds.

Both programmes are producing great results. Our health review team visited a District hospital where mothers who would never normally have access to safe delivery facilities had very recently given birth thanks to a voucher scheme funded by DFID and a number of other donors. Fifty miles away in the Chars I and the other workshop participants visited a village and met a number of women - some of the most vulnerable people on the planet - who had been given assets of their choice (typically a pair of cows) and had their homes raised on clay plinths above the seasonal flood level, as well as a range of other support to enable them to become self-sufficient. Some have since rented land to grow crops for sale and others have started small businesses; almost all now have substantially higher incomes, more to eat and better protection from the river. Both of these programmes contribute to the Millennium Development Goals, and produce results that few people interested in the welfare of the poorest would argue with.

And yet there are also great differences. The health programme works largely through Government systems, aiming to build capacity and achieve long term systemic reform so that services can continue once our support has gone. This brings with it greater uncertainties, a much slower process and less control over the use of our money compared with the CLP, which gets resources into the hands of the poor very quickly but channels most of its support outside Government systems and would be unlikely to continue to operate were it not for ongoing funding. The Government of Bangladesh has approved and formally sponsors the outsourced CLP model, but it remains to be seen whether they will expand such approaches to public services and safety net delivery using their own funds.

The question of which model is more appropriate lies at the heart of the development debate. Owen Barder has recently written an article arguing that commitment to long-term sustainability should not blind us to the need to provide welfare to the poorest people in the world while their countries’ economies and governments develop, a complex and gradual process upon which aid can only have effects at the margin. And the CLP aims to build sustainability in a different way by connecting people to local markets and helping them build the independence to assert their rights and demand government services. At the same time, a successful country-wide Government health programme will reach millions of people and has the potential to produce direct results many years after our support ends.

Donors have come a long way in recent years in thinking through and balancing these issues. It is clearer than ever that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to development. Sustained engagement with the local context, a variety of approaches and rigorous, transparent evaluation are the only way to produce results that British taxpayers can consider worthwhile and that are maintained well into the future.

5 comments

  1. Owen abroad » Aid to government, aid to NGOs - both working in different ways

    [...] In Bangladesh, Adam Jackson has posted some interesting reflections on his visit to a health programme (in which DFID supports the government) and a Chars Livelihood Progamme. Our health review team visited a District hospital where mothers who would never normally have access to safe delivery facilities had very recently given birth thanks to a voucher scheme funded by DFID and a number of other donors. Fifty miles away in the Chars I and the other workshop participants visited a village and met a number of women - some of the most vulnerable people on the planet - who had been given assets of their choice (typically a pair of cows) and had their homes raised on clay plinths above the seasonal flood level, as well as a range of other support to enable them to become self-sufficient. … Both of these programmes contribute to the Millennium Development Goals, and produce results that few people interested in the welfare of the poorest would argue with. [...]

    Link to this comment Reply
  2. Halima, DFID

    Enjoyed reading this post. The CHARS have always captured my imagination.

    "The Government of Bangladesh has approved and formally sponsors the outsourced CLP model, but it remains to be seen whether they will expand such approaches to public services and safety net delivery using their own funds."

    Ultimately, though, DFID can make the case for alternative ways of supporting the poor by demonstrating results, showing the evidence, and going where governments themselves might be shy to go but subsequently might be persuaded to adopt the approach if the results are right.

    In the UK we tried, tested and piloted several approaches to tackling poverty - mixing the universal model with targeted geographical interventions. We are still learning and improving - in today's climate where value for money is key, it's only right that we seek to improve on our previous best efforts.

    Link to this comment Reply
  3. Mufid Ahmed

    Object of the goal is excellent ........but needs to fucous on sustain able plan for long run which could possible to implement through only Social Enterprise.

    Mufid
    Bangladeshi living london.

    Link to this comment Reply
  4. Dr Akhter Uddin Murad

    Maternal and child mortality rate is too high in Bangladesh.Government of Bangladesh trying to reduce the mother & child mortality rate.so far I know that this Program is very beneficiary for the rural areas. but it should be more active by the involvement of local NGOs such motivational program, transportation, primary health care, some times taking surgical help from local private hospital. lack of awareness, advertisement, and
    lack of skilled personal in remote places also problem for this project.

    Link to this comment Reply
  5. Dr. K. Maudood Elahi

    This is in (late) response to Mr. Adam Jackson's experience in NW Bangladesh. Yes, that part of Bangladeh is quite different from others. A travel from Dhaka to NW bangladesh is indeed a great relief. For several years I have been engaged in my research on the Monga crisis in greater Rangpur - I have enriched my experience in various ways from this work. You may be interested in the following book of mine on the Monga syndrome and people surviving there:

    Elahi, K. M. and Ara , I. 2009. Undestanding the Monga in Northern Bangladesh. Dhaka: APPL.

    Link to this comment Reply

Leave a comment