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an experiment
BOOK: 3/10 in pro-poor
PETRRA policy briefs
Edited by Noel P. Magor, Ahmad Salahuddin,
Mamunul Haque, Tapash K. Biswas and Matt Bannerman

Poverty Elimination Through Rice
Research Assistance (PETRRA), 1999-2004
a project funded by DFID, managed by IRRI in close collaboration with BRRI
Book 3. PETRRA policy briefs

3.1 From technology to livelihoods

3.2 Technology, entitlements and freedom of choice

3.3 Pathways from poverty:
household level processes of graduation

3.4 Promoting rural non-farm economy of Bangladesh

3.5 From technologies and enterprises to
more sustainable livelihoods

3.6 Mapping poverty of rural Bangladesh:
implication of pro-poor development

3.7 Nature and impacts of women's participation in
economic activities in rural Bangladesh

3.8 Rice seed delivery system and
seed policy in Bangladesh

3.9 Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

3.10 Liberalisation of the crop Sector:
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?

3.11 Biotechnology for rice improvement

3.12 Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth
brief no. 3.1

From technology to livelihoods
Alastair W. Orr, Fatima J. Seema, Shaila A. Nabi and Jakirul I. Peter

INTRODUCTION continue to play in eliminating rural
poverty is easily overlooked.
Agriculture's role in eliminating poverty in
Bangladesh has been challenged by the This policy brief explores these wider
growth of the rural non-farm sector. This dimensions of impact on livelihoods for
has led to claims that 'hands not land' four selected technology SPs. They
provide the main pathway from poverty. were deliberately selected because they
According to this view, agriculture will were technically successful, represented
continue to be important for food security, different types of technology and covered
but it will no longer play the dynamic role the different regions where PETRRA
it once did during the green revolution. Now worked. The SPs and locations visited are
that Bangladesh is self-sufficient in rice, given in Table 1.
other sectors of the economy will provide
the engine of growth. The main questions addressed by this
brief are:
Agriculture's obituary seems premature,
however. Evidence from Poverty How has the new technology changed
Elimination Through Rice Research livelihoods among participating
Assistance's (PETRRA) technology sub- households and in the community as a
projects (SPs) convincingly demonstrates whole?
that agriculture and particularly rice have
Table 1. Sub-projects, locations and agencies for case studies

Sub-project Lead agency District visited Local partner

Seed health IRRI Bogra RDA

Integrated crop BRRI Thakurgaon RDRS
management (ICM)

Rice-duck BRRI Sylhet FIVDB

Coastal water BRRI Khulna HEED

lost none of their relevance in creating How has the new technology changed
new economic opportunities for resource- livelihoods for women?
poor households, and that they may have
How profitable and how appropriate
a much wider impact on livelihoods than
has the new technology been for
simply improving crop yields or
resource-poor farm households?
household food security. Unfortunately,
the linkages between technology and To answer these questions, we visited each
livelihoods are not always captured in SP and discussed these issues with
technical evaluations. As a result, the participating households. We held
dynamic role that agriculture may meetings with mixed groups, with
brief no. 3.1
From technology to livelihoods

separate groups of men and women, with spread out to include changes in assets, as
farm households, and with local households invest extra income, and in
government representatives. We used new livelihood strategies, as households
mainly qualitative methods and the results change the way in which they use
are not a definitive 'livelihoods audit'. But resources. But the ripples do not stop at
they do capture the surprising range of the boundary of the household. They
impacts by what might appear to be travel outwards to include changes in
narrow, 'technology' projects, which has villages, in social relationships, or even in
implications for how agriculture might be social norms, such as how women might
used as an entry-point for programmes to behave. And they may travel even further,
eliminate rural poverty. Detailed results changing relationships with the Union,
may be found in the original report (Orr, research institutions, and with private
Seema, Arifa Nabi and Peter, 2004). business.
Figure 1 shows a generalised picture of
KEY LINKAGES the type of livelihoods impact that were
found in these four technology SPs. The
The impact of new technology is like concentric circles represent different types
throwing a stone into a pond. The of impact. The different levels represent
immediate impact is felt at the household different parts of the sustainable
level, with changes in the use of livelihoods (SL) framework. Impact begins
resources, and in outcomes like food with outcomes, then moves to changes in
security or income. Other outcomes may capital assets, before moving to changes in
be less easy to measure. Higher incomes livelihood strategies or the way that
may reduce vulnerability by improving the households make a living. Beyond the

Figure 1.
From technology to livelihoods: a generalised model

household's ability to cope with a crisis, or household, impact then leads to changes
result in better health, or give a new in 'structures' or institutions (including
feeling of wellbeing and confidence. The social norms) and 'processes' or the way
ripples from new technology may also in which new technology reaches farmers.

brief no. 3.1
From technology to livelihoods

LIVELIHOOD IMPACTS sickness we can go to the specialist in Rangpur"
Changes in outcomes
Reduced vulnerability
More income "When we harvested only one crop we had to
borrow money or rice from the wealthier families
New technology raised income during the season" (coastal water).
significantly, especially if the cost of non-
purchased inputs is excluded (Table 2). "Duck rearing is a safety allowance for the
Income came not just from higher yields household, if they need any cash money they can
but from reduced expenditure on inputs. easily sell eggs or ducks" (rice-duck).

Table 2. Changes in income resulting from new technology

Sub-Project New technology Net returns over existing Unit
practice (cash-cost basis)
Seed health Healthy rice seed 75 Tk./20 kg.

Seed health MV boro with healthy seed 8,667 Tk./hectare

Seed health MV t. aman with healthy seed 15,335 Tk./hectare

ICM MV t. aman + rabi crop + boro 12,549 Tk./hectare

ICM Improved irrigation -- Tk./hectare

ICM Supplementary irrigation for 11,675 Tk./hectare
MV t. aman

Rice-duck MV rice+ Khaki Campbell ducks 511 Tk./0.06

Rice-duck Rearing 30 ducks for sale 6,535 Tk./year
Coastal water MV boro 11,105 Tk./hectare
Coastal water MV t. aman 28,499 Tk./hectare
* Farmers reported this as the maximum feasible area of rice-duck that could be managed by one household

Improved food security "We used to sell right after harvest but now we
can wait for prices to rise" (ICM).
Higher income had an immediate impact
on household food security, since income Increased confidence and self-esteem
was made mostly in the form of rice. On
average, new technology raised rice "We used to blame poor yields on bad luck
self-sufficiency by 1-2 months/year. (kopal kharap). Now we know it is knowledge
Household case-studies sometimes
showed increases of 3-6 months.
"We are able to eat enough three times a day"
"She is with seed health about 7 seasons and 4
years ago she needed to purchase rice for 3-4
months. For the last 2 years they do not need to
purchase any rice grain" (seed health).
"Duck rearing is a safety allowance for the
Better health household, if they need any cash money they
can easily sell eggs or ducks" (Rice-duck).
"If village doctors are not able to identify our

brief no. 3.1
From technology to livelihoods

that makes production good or bad" (seed "With the profits from rice sales he has managed
health). to buy a cow, tin sheets for his house, and hire a
"Before we weren't treated politely when we private tutor for his son who is studying in Class
visited the house of a well-off person, who 5" (coastal water).
assumed we came to borrow something. Now they Financial capital increased through the
greet us, ask us to take a seat, and ask the sale rice seed, seedlings, paddy, mustard,
purpose of our visit" (ICM). and eggs. This made it easier for
"Before we weren't invited to the salish, and our households to save, buy clothes, invest
word wasn't trusted. Now well-off people trust in education for their children, get
us as witnesses in village disputes" (ICM). service loans from NGOs, or rent land
for cash rather than crop-share.
More harmony within the household "We can save some money from expenditures on
food because of good production from rice"
"When we used to fail to preserve good quality
seeds, husbands used to quarrel with us asking
why we failed". "Rice-duck has provided them with a little extra
"When you are poor, you don't want to consult income, reducing the need for loans to educate his
with your wife or family members. 'Taka thakle, eldest daughter" (rice-duck).
budhhee bhalo', so you feel like consulting others" "We were wearing short-length 'Tatial' sari which
(ICM). we purchased for Tk. 60, now we wear saris
worth Tk. 200-300" (ICM).
Changes in assets Natural capital increased, as households
Human capital increased through adopted higher-yielding MVs, used land
improved knowledge of MV rice in the dry season, introduced irrigation,
cultivation, and new skills in seed- and expanded the area they cultivated.
cleaning, duck-rearing, water "This is the first time we are getting rice crop two
management, and fertiliser use. Some times a year" (coastal water).
skills were being transferred to other
activities, for example, duck vaccine to Changes in livelihood strategies
poultry, and seed cleaning to maize; Women's involvement in agriculture
Physical capital increased as savings increased as they learnt new skills. They
were invested in new assets. Replacing began to participate in field operations,
thatch with corrugated iron roofing sometimes for the first time. Women
saved the need for annual repairs; mentioned activities like preparing rice
seedbeds, weeding, harvesting and
carrying crops from the field, and
finding feed for ducks.
"At first she felt shy to work in the rice fields. If
her father or uncle saw her, she used to hide in the
'Tong' " (seed health).
High-risk strategies were replaced by
strategies with lower risks and higher
"Sesame was risky to harvest compared to rice
"We used to sell right after harvest but now
we can wait for prices to rise" (ICM).
because it can be washed away during monsoon"
(coastal water).

brief no. 3.1
From technology to livelihoods

"We are not interested to sharecrop any more, we "Before we were afraid of RDA. It is a well
want to work with our own agricultural land" protected area and big officers may not talk with
(ICM). us. Now we are proud to talk to scientists"
(seed health).
Agriculture provided finance for
seasonal, non-farm strategies. Farmers learnt about the new
technology through 'learning by doing'
"We are able to start small businesses like grocery
rather than formal training. This
shops, vegetable selling, selling molasses" (ICM).
provided the basis for community based
Changes in structures extension, with participants training
their neighbours and farmers from
The success of these projects other villages. Participants held field
reflected inclusion of all stakeholders. days to share knowledge with others.
Projects were implemented mostly in
partnerships with NGOs or local "This training is more practical and real, we can
government. New linkages were created practice it in our real life" (ICM).
involving farmers, researchers, and local "Training alone isn't enough to disseminate new
government representatives. technology. Demonstration, close linkage with
"In the first year, non-participating farmers researchers, and continuous learning is essential to
protested against building embankment on canal. disseminate and communicate any new
They thought their sesame crop would be technology" (union parishad [UP] chairman,
damaged. The member of parliament (MP) made seed health).
them understand and manage the problems. He
also helped leasing-in the canal from local
government" (coastal water).
"Now block supervisors come to us and even ask
us for solutions" (seed health).

Changes in processes
Changing attitudes among scientists.
Farmers' views and knowledge helped
adapt the new technology to make it
more relevant and appropriate for their
circumstances. For example, farmers
showed seed health researchers that
they could save labour by rogueing only
a part, rather than the whole field, and
that beating rice stalks three times
before threshing removed empty grains.
Rice-duck farmers showed that ducks
could be successfully reared using local
resources, witthout the need for
expensive feed.
"What I did in the last 12 years was
meaningless. For the first time, I realise that I am Training women, not only in seed
doing research with farmers on their real life storage and crop processing, but in the
problems. I was a well-suited scientist and now whole range of new rice technology,
my attitude is completely changed" (seed including seedbed preparation, fertiliser
health). use, and pest management. This allowed

brief no. 3.1
From technology to livelihoods

them to share decisions about rice Impact was significant not just because of
cultivation with their husbands and gave its scale but because it involved rice. The
them confidence to work in the rice centrality of rice makes it a strong entry
fields. point for changing livelihoods. Time and
again, households told us that having
"If insects attack rice, women can identify the
more rice allowed them to buy more
problem and inform their husbands to look for
assets, eat better, be healthier, and also
solutions" (ICM).
change their behaviour, quarreling less,
being more willing to discuss problems,
GENERAL CONCLUSIONS and a general increase in wellbeing and
peace of mind. Increase in income for a
While each project was different, they poor household, and you will increase
shared some common features, which expenditure on rice. Increase in rice
provide useful lessons. production, cash, time and energy are
What is most striking is the sheer scale released for other activities;
of the livelihood gains. Agricultural Income from new technology was
technology - particularly new rice reinvested in agriculture as well as non-
technology - can have a big impact in a farm assets and strategies. There was no
very short time. To raise rice self- fixed pattern of investment, which
sufficiency by 3 months in just one year depended on household circumstances.
or just one season is no mean feat. It But it was common to find households
compares favourably with the smaller, buying cows (which produce more assets
more gradual impact of NGO micro- in calves), buying inputs, renting more
credit programmes. Agriculture's impact land, and switching from crop share
is high because: contracts to mortgage or khaikalashi,
Returns from land are higher than which are more favourable for tenants.
ones from micro-enterprise or wage There was a noticeable preference for
labour, and rice can be grown in two own cultivation over non-farm jobs like
seasons; labouring or van-driving, which were
low-paying, sometimes risky, and took
Payback period is short because one husbands away from home. But
season is only for 3 months; and households were also looking towards
Costs are low because technology the future. And here they were making
builds on strengths and exploits sacrifices for their children, investing in
unused resources (water, fallow land, education and hiring private tutors to
household labour). give them a better future. This included
education for daughters, so that they
might earn an income after marriage.
Another way that PETRRA's SPs made
an impact on livelihoods was through the
way they were implemented. This was
particularly important for changes in
structures and processes. Two examples
stand out.
Women received training in all aspects
"If insects attack rice, women can identify of new rice technology. Previously,
the problem and inform their husbands to women used to receive training only in
look for solutions" (ICM).
activities for which they were

brief no. 3.1
From technology to livelihoods

traditionally responsible like seed water). They can 'broker' services for
storage or crop processing. This villagers from researchers and NGOs,
reinforced existing gender roles and and block supervisors more effectively
excluded women from many of their if under local control. In working with
husband's decisions about agriculture. local government, care will be needed
Training women has empowered them so that the focus on the resource-poor
to share in decision-making and is not lost;
supervise hired labour. This has
New technology in these four
increased women's self-esteem and they
projects was knowledge-intensive.
have received respect from men. We
This knowledge was not easy to
noted a growing 'feminisation' of
communicate through one-off
agriculture as women became more 'demonstrations' or simple
involved with field activities. Men 'recommendations'. Farmers had to
appreciated this, because it saved hiring learn by doing. This required a new
labour and freed their time for other mode of working for scientists
productive activities. We also found that involving farmer participation, intensive
men whose wives worked in the fields training and close supervision. This
were sometimes prepared to share required partnerships with local
childcare and some domestic tasks; organisations that not only knew the
Gender-awareness has replaced a naïve, target group (resource-poor farmers)
unitary model of the farm household but knew how to work with them and
with one based on separate gender could incorporate training into their
roles. This is useful for analysis. But it programmes;
has also led to separate 'spheres of For the three partner NGOs - RDRS,
knowledge' when it comes to new HEED, and BDS - this was their first
technology. By treating women and
men equally, as members of one
household, PETRRA has given women
access to knowledge that they were
denied before. In operational terms,
therefore, treating the household as a
single unit has given women unlimited
access to new knowledge, with
remarkable results. This may have
implications for choice of strategies, if
women have different priorities from
men. If women are more concerned to
ensure that children are well-nourished,
this could lead to greater emphasis on
household food security rather than
cash income;
Local government can play a key
role in scaling up and technology
dissemination. UP chairmen are
accountable to the electorate and have
authority to initiate change. Their "We can save some money from expenditures
participation is essential for use of on food because of good production from
rice" (ICM).
common property resources (coastal

brief no. 3.1
From technology to livelihoods

experience of working directly with focus, participatory, gender-aware, and
rice. Their main activity was micro- partnerships -- will be fundamental. And
credit for non-farm activities. Their so will be the support of policy makers in
involvement with agriculture was reaffirming the power of new technology
focused on homestead gardening. Now to transform livelihoods.
that they have seen the potential of new
rice technology for their target group,
they are keen to continue. This marks
an important shift in their perception of
agriculture as a pathway from poverty;
PETRRA's ethos - people-focus,
participator y, gender-aware,
partnerships - has been a positive
experience for rice scientists.
PETRRA's experience clearly shows that
rice technology can have a much wider
impact on livelihoods than might be
suspected. This suggests that agriculture
still has the potential to play a dynamic
role in the elimination of rural poverty.
Achieving this goal will require a national
poverty strategy that makes full use not
only of 'hands', but also 'land' and above
"Before we were afraid of RDA. It is a well
all, 'heads'. But for agriculture to play this protected area and big officers may not talk
dynamic role effectively, PETRRA's with us. Now we are proud to talk to
legacy of value-based research - people- scientists" (seed health).

This brief is the output of 4 case studies for seed health improvement, rice-duck farming, coastal water
management and ICM technology sub-projects conducted for an understanding of impact from technology to
livelihoods. The detailed case study reports are available in PETRRA website

Suggested citation:
Orr, A. W., Seema, F. J., Nabi, S. A. and Peter, J. I. 2007. From technology to livelihoods. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin,
A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor agricultural
research. Policy briefs no. 3.1. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance
Project, International Rice Research Institute. 8 p.
brief no. 3.2

Technology, entitlements and freedom of choice
Abdul Bayes

Not long ago, the Nobel laureate in Habiganj, Gazipur and Rajshahi, 30
Economics, Amartaya Sen, described farmers from each area have received
development as expansion of the set of training on seed health management. The
choices of the people. 'Beggars cannot farmers and their spouses received
be choosers' - goes the adage with the training on 'why', 'how' and 'where' seeds
implications that at pitifully low levels of should be kept safely for the sake of
income, people have to prefer either 'this' survival.
or 'that' commodity bundle, but not both. The project was in operation for four
Economists call it a 'corner' solution in an years and we wanted to obtain the
indifference curve analysis of consumers, reactions of farmers on the socio-
generally taught in first year economics economics of SHIP. We especially wanted
classes. But as the income goes up, people to know-how their livelihoods were
tend to have a choice among commodity changing as a result of SHIP activities.
bundles to saddle at a point where the Submitted below are some of the
budget line ( a proxy for ability) is tangent observations drawn from a few farmers
to the indifference curve (a proxy for who are very poor.
preference). Quite obviously, a tangent
solution is preferable to a corner solution Case of an owner-tenant
as far as consumer welfare is concerned.
Faruk Hossain (40) of Babuganj, Barisal
has to feed a family of seven. He was
'SHIP' technology
working as a day labourer in addition to
Technology adoption in agricultural cultivating his meager amount of land. He
practices could be one of the keys to has no education nor is his land
raising income. The rise in income could endowment very high: only 60 decimals
alter the matrix of choices faced by the of owned land. He has to rent roughly 40
household or consumer. First, technology decimals from others to be on an even
for the very poor enables entitlement by keel. Hossain and his wife took up the
increasing the supply of food (for poor, training with good spirit. During the last
production itself is entitlement as they aman season, he cultivated BR11 to
consume what they produce) and then harvest home 14 maunds per Jaistha (20
enhancement of entitlement could lead to decimals). Just four years ago, before
a variety of choices that the poor could there was any SHIP or associated training,
hardly think of in the pre-technology Hossain used to get 8 maunds from the
state. same amount of land. In the boro season,
To this effect, the impacts of the he cultivated kajla and harvested home
technology of the seed health 12 maunds compared to 10 maunds per
improvement project (SHIP) is a case in Jaistha previously. The Faruk family also
point. In seven areas of Bangladesh: learnt how to use less fertiliser and
Chuadanga, Barisal, Rangpur, Bogra, pesticides.
brief no. 3.2
Technology, entitlements and freedom of choice

The increased yield from paddy and the and also that. "agey pochhondo karey koi
sales of seeds that he recently embarked jantam na. Avabider abar pochhondo ki! Ekhon
upon, seem to have altered the matrix of obostha besh bhalo. Majhe moidhey shad metai."
choices that he confronted in the past. (We had no choice in the past. Those in
Now the family has three meals a day. want, have no choice! Now conditions
Four years ago, the family had only one have improved and we try to fulfill some
rice-meal, sometimes just bread and at desires).
times were without food. "Ekhon tin bela
gorom bhat khai, agey ek bela ruti, onno bela na A tenant and a training
kheye kataitam. Shoptahe duita murgi-o khai."
We now take up the case of a pure tenant.
(Now we have warm rice three times a
Abdul Kader of Sreepur village (under
day. Earlier, we used to have only one
Gazipur district) lost his father in
rice-meal and had to starve occasionally.
childhood and his grandfather deprived
We can also afford to have two chickens a
him of his due share of the inheritance.
He has no education. Born landless,
Faruk was a day labourer working in Abdul Kader has been striving hard for
others' fields to supplement his farm decades to feed seven members through
income. "Ekhon bhabchhi aar bodli khatbona. renting out land. Though, his eldest son
Nijer jomite kaj korbo. Amar foshol-e jotheshto." contributes Tk. 3,000 a month working as
(Now I am thinking of giving up working a carpenter, that is meagre as his
as a day labourer. Production from my household requires 3-3.5 kg. per day of
own farm is enough to feed my family). rice just to survive. In the just finished
Faruk has understood the significance of boro season, he cultivated 4 bighas (1 bigha
education and therefore, devotes a part of = 0.33 acre) of land and in the last aman
the increased income on childrens' season, 6 bighas. To repeat, all his
education. In the past, he could hardly cultivable lands were rented out to
afford to send the children to school surrender 50% of the output to the
despite the desire to do so. owner. Like many others, Abdul Kader is
a pure tenant in Sreepur village.
Faruk has never used soap. Now the
family uses two bars of Lifebuoy soap Kader reaped a harvest of 20 maunds per
every month. Furthermore, the family has bigha of paddy from producing BRRI
switched from eating kajla rice (relatively dhan28. He and his wife made full use of
coarse rice) to BRRI dhan29 (relatively the training on good quality seed. In the
fine quality rice). absence of such training, when they
followed the traditional path of seed
Faruk now receives, after surrendering preservation, the yield was 17 maunds per
half of the produce for rent in land, bigha. In the aman season, he produced
about 1,100 kg. of rice a year. After BR11 to harvest 16 maunds per bigha
meeting his family's need of about 1,000 against 12 maunds per bigha in previous
kg., he sells the rest to the market. In days. In those days, Kader and his wife
addition, he also sells seeds to neighbours. used to keep seeds in a sack only to see
Thus, the training from SHIP increased that the seeds were spoiled due to air
the food entitlement of the household to contamination. On many occasions, their
which Faruk Hossain belongs. At the seed beds were damaged (jala mara gechhe)
same time, the increased income and food putting them in dire straits. They were
security have altered the choices of the heavily indebted to village mohajons and
family. Earlier, the family could only have neighbours as they had taken a huge loan
this or that. But now they can have this which could not be repaid.

brief no. 3.2
Technology, entitlements and freedom of choice

Fatema Begum, Kader's wife says. "For the pari nai." (Now, if we wish, we can eat fish
last four years, we did not borrow money for twice a week, earlier could not despite the
cultivation. Before that, we borrowed money from desire).
'mohajons', say Tk. 1,000 and had to pay
Third, "agey amader graamey borga paoa
Tk. 100 per month as additional." During the
jaitona karon foshol hoitona abong amra khoroch
last boro season, they sold seedlings worth
korteo partamna. Ekhon bhalo foshol deikha
Tk. 3,000, before which they had sold
malikera ghoore jomi deyar joinna. Ar amra
seedlings worth Tk. 1,400 and before that
chinta kortechhi aro borga nimu ki nimuna."
Tk. 1,200. The seedlings are bought not
(In the past, there was a scarcity of rented
only by neighbours when theirs fail to
land as crops failed and we, the poor,
grow, but also by villagers from far and
could hardly bear the costs of raising
outputs. Now seeing the yield rate from
However, in the last boro season, Kader's qood quality seeds, owners are running
family got 80 maunds from four bighas. after us and asking us to till their land. We
After surrendering half of the output, they are thinking whether to rent in more or
brought home 40 maunds of paddy. There not).
is also increased yield from BR11 and The participants of SHIP in Sreepur
together they got 86 maunds of paddy in village who are mostly poor, feel that the
one year. After meeting household needs, increased yield and the food security that
this tenant family emerges as a surplus resulted to a reduced quantity depend on
rice producer. A part of the excess is sent NGOs. They believe they can save at least
to the market to buy a sari for Fatema or Tk. 300 per bigha from the economic use
to pay tuition fees for the daughter. of seeds, seedlings and by very little use of
Fatema, choked with emotion, while insecticides. This has been supported by
explaining that previously she could not the judicious use of fertilisers. All of these
provide education for her son due to developments came from the training on
poverty and never did she own two saris. seed health. The cash cost needed to
"I worked as a maid in somebody's house just cultivate one bigha with BRRI dhan28
three to four years back. Managing food for the comes close to Tk. 300 implying that
family forced me to be a maid and my husband a there is no need to search for credit
'muni' (year long labour in a household). Food sources.
shortage stays away these days due to the hard Fatema Begum and Salma Khatun, both
work we put in the fields." wives of pure tenant farmers always have
"Ekkhuni cholen amar barit, bish-trish mon smiles while talking. They visit fields
dhan achhei." (Accompany me to my house, occasionally just to see for themselves the
you will find 20-30 maunds of paddy). output of the hard labour they put into
seed health activities. "Boroloker boura
What are the basic differences in the mathey jayna karon dorkar nai. Amra gorib.
Kader family that have emerged over the Goriber boura mathey na gele ki chole?" (Wives
years? Fatema Begum replies supported of rich farmers do not visit fields as they
by her husband and another pure tenant, do not need to. We are poor. We must
Abdul Malek, "Sir agey achhilam kamla visit fields).
maiya, ohon oichhi krishak maiya." (Sir, I was
I was told that their husbands now always
a maid servant, now I am a farmer).
discuss seeds and agricultural practices
Second, "ekhon ichha korle shoptahe dui-tin with them. They have moved from food
din machh khaite pari, agey ichha thakleo khaite deficit to food surplus households.

brief no. 3.2
Technology, entitlements and freedom of choice

Seed and Eid in the market. And finally, the resource
"Why do you laugh so much while savings, to the tune of Tk. 300-4,000 per
talking"?- we asked them seeing their 33 decimals on account of good
happy faces. "Char bosor agey aile ai hashi management, paved ways for a better
dehten na Sir. Goto char bochhor dhoira eid-eid living. The choices made by the trained
bhab." (You would not have noticed a farmers, mostly poor ones, expanded.
smile on our faces had you visited us four They have increased the quantity of food
years ago. For the last four years we have intake, are moving towards better quality
always been in a festive mood). food, better housing and clothing and
most important of all, devoting a part of
Light at the end of tunnel the increased income towards educating
children. All these were mere dreams just
There are, admittedly, many pro-poor four years ago.
projects in Bangladesh but nothing seems
to sound more friendly to the poor than From corner-to-center
SHIP. Seed management had never been
an important subject for discussions in Their production and food entitlement
the age-old cultural practices. But for went up and, at the same time, their set of
decades, farmers have been robbed of choices expanded. Within a span of four
10% of the output due to low quality years, they moved away from a situation of
seed. Now the training from SHIP has 'corner' solution to a position of
enabled farmers to preserve seeds in a 'tangency' solution. They can now buy rice
scientific manner. As a result, output has as well as non-rice commodities. Training
risen by 10-12 % per unit of land. For the that engaged both men and women helped
resource-poor farmers, the increased yield raise output substantially to put the
meant a lot. First, it increased food poorest of the poor in a village on an
security to the household. Second, it even keel. To me, some development as
enabled quality seed for sales at 7-10% espoused by Amartaya Sen seems to have
higher price than other sources of seeds happened in that village.

Suggested citation:
Bayes, A. 2007. Technology, entitlements and freedom of choice. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin, A., Haque, M.,
Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor agricultural research.
Policy briefs no. 3.2. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance Project,
International Rice Research Institute. 4 p.
brief no. 3.3

Pathways from poverty: household level
processes of graduation
Alastair W. Orr and B. Adolph

The Millennium Goal to halve extreme Institute (NRI)-UK with local
poverty worldwide by 2015 requires a partnerships from BRRI, BARD, and
better understanding of the possible exit RDA. Unlike the BIDS panel survey, the
routes from poverty. In Bangladesh, where study was not designed to give results that
poverty is falling slowly at only 1% a year, were nationally representative or a firm
the need to accelerate graduation from basis for policy recommendations. Instead,
poverty is acute. Yet while we know a lot the objective was to complement the
about poverty itself and what keeps people quantitative data from the panel survey by
poor, we know much less about movement providing insights on the process of
out of poverty. What strategies do graduation from inside the household.
households use to graduate from poverty
and what factors determine success? Data and methods
One way of answering these questions is Research was conducted in three villages
to survey the same households 'before' (also surveyed by the panel survey) that
and 'after' they escaped poverty. A recent were selected for differences in access to
panel survey conducted by Bangladesh new rice technology, agro-ecosystem, and
Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) infrastructure (Table 1).
has shown, for example, that households Table 1
that graduated from poverty between District Comilla Bogra Barisal
1988-2002 increased the share of income Village Bhabanipur Darikamari Dariabad
from non-farm sources, adopted modern Location Rural Peri-urban Remote
rice varieties, and acquired more land Rice aus - t. aman - boro
(Sen, 2003). But this method also leaves cropping
t. aman -

some questions unanswered. Graduation
is not just a point of arrival and Field research took one year and included
departure, but a process. How did site characterisation using participatory
households identify strategies for rural appraisal (PRA), participatory
graduation? How did they sequence these poverty assessment (PPA) to learn
strategies? How did they cope with villagers' perceptions of poverty and poor
shocks? How did they succeed where groups, and detailed case studies of 30
others failed? Questions like these require households. Changes in poverty are based
a qualitative approach that explores the on villagers' own perceptions rather than
complexity of household decision making on objective measures.
that successfully resulted in a pathway
from poverty. The poverty paradox
This policy brief outlines results from a
qualitative study of how households
Slowly decreasing poverty…
graduate from poverty in Bangladesh. The Households in the Comilla and Bogra
study was led by the Natural Resources villages reported a decrease in poverty
Pathways from poverty: household level brief no. 3.3
processes of graduation

between 1988-2002, though the share of mobility among households that started
households who saw themselves as 'poor' poor. Figure 2 shows that:
remained high. The exception was in the Graduation from poverty was not
Barisal village, where poverty slightly unusual or exceptional, with twice as
increased (Figure 1).
Figure 1. Changes in poverty, all households

Before Now









Comilla Bogra Barisal

But high rates of graduation… many households moving out of
Contrasting with this slow decline in poverty as becoming poorer.
poverty was the high level of economic Graduation was widespread and was

Figure 2. Poverty dynamics among poor households

Comilla Bogra Barisal








Same Up Down

brief no. 3.3

not confined to particular locations or almost fainting from mental exhaustion to
rice ecosystems but occurred in all three manage the money, Minara Begum proposed to
villages. receive money from the Grameen Bank."
The process of graduation "She earned about Tk. 250 per month through
Case studies of households that graduated making bamboo crafts and would spend it for
from poverty revealed certain common ensuring their children's education. She bore all
features. Figure 3 brings these features the educational expenses of her children."
together in a schematic model of the
process of graduation. Each component is Structure
illustrated by relevant quotations from Household structure was important
household case studies. because separation from other family
Figure 3. The process of graduation


Strategy Sequence


Structure Skills


Shared vision
At the heart of the graduation process is members was often necessary for
the vision of a better future. This vision households to save. Otherwise, everything
has to be shared by the household's key went to support the joint family. Among
decision-makers for graduation to begin, better-off households, however, a joint
let alone succeed. Partnership between family structure was important because it
husbands and wives is important in allowed them to pool resources, reduce
setting goals, agreeing on livelihood the need for external help, and reciprocate
strategies, and on how much to save. Part assistance from other family members.
of this vision is the recognition by both "Harun Bepari would do everything jointly with
parties of women's productive role in his father and did not save anything of his own."
generating income and savings.
"From 1999-2000 Sarwar got financial support
"From the very beginning their motive was to save from his immediate younger brother Monir…
some money for doing something better."
because Sarwar maintained the whole of his
"From 1996 onward when Nurul Islam was family when his father died."

brief no. 3.3

Support canal using khachi. He never hired labour. All
Few households graduated without some intercultural operations were done by himself."
form of external support. This took "They had an idea that they might get
various forms. Business partnerships cut Tk. 30,000-35,000 selling the land and the
costs and shared risks. Patronage was next day Shamsul Haque went to the gram
important, where a family friend or samity chairman and asked him for a
wealthier relative helped secure a job for Tk. 80,000 loan."
an elder son, provided a loan, or acted as a
'broker' in a business deal. Patronage was Skills
also important in helping households cope Graduating households acquired new
with shocks. Support also included access skills through apprenticeships, watching
to credit from formal or informal sources. others, or learning by doing.
"As he had no financial capital, he was the "Nurul Islam had been working as the helper of
partner of another person." a mason with full care from the very beginning
" From a business source, Mr. Mannan became and within 6-7 years he was able to learn almost
acquainted with… a big merchant whose nephew all the works."
was a colonel in the army. He committed Mr "When he had sold his shrimp to 'aratdar'
Mannan to manage a job for his son Nannu in (wholesalers), he observed and learnt how the
the Bangladesh Army... ." wholesalers bought and processed and where they
"He took a loan from one of his brothers-in-law sold."
for Tk. 80,000. He also took a loan of "In most of the cases, he repaired the rickshaw by
Tk. 100,000 from several of his relatives. By himself with the help of a maker. In this way he
that loan Shahjahan sent his younger brother to learnt how to repair rickshaws, vans, and
the Middle-east." bicycles…"

Savings Strategy
Savings took different forms at different Figure 4 classifies the major livelihood
stages in the process of graduation. In the strategies households used to graduate
early stage, households saved through from poverty. One household might use
stinting or cutting household expenditure. several strategies. Non-farm activities were
They remembered this as a time the most popular strategy, followed by
of extreme hardship. Subsequently, agriculture and overseas migration.
households saved by minimising cash Villages differed in their choice of
outlay, for example by avoiding the need strategy, reflecting the mix of opportunity
to hire labour. In later stages, households available in different locations and a
took formal loans to finance lumpy 'snowballing' effect as households copied
investments, but for bigger and successful neighbours. Overseas migration
presumably more risky investments, was the most common strategy for
households preferred to liquidate assets or graduation from poverty in the Comilla
village, whereas in the peri-urban Bogra
borrow informally from friends and
village non-farm activities (e.g., rickshaw
pulling) were more common.
"They minimised this deficit by taking one or two
rice meals a day and sometimes borrowing rice Sequence
from a neighbour.. He thought he would save
Strategies usually followed a sequence.
money each year for his future."
Households first tried to establish a food
"He irrigated his crops using tidewater from the security platform, usually renting land and

brief no. 3.3 Pathways from poverty: household level
processes of graduation

Figure 4. Strategy for graduation




Family structure

investing in new rice technology. Results Implications for policy
from our mini-survey showed that Qualitative insights from three village
graduation was associated with an studies cannot by themselves produce
increase of 2-3 months in the number of policy recommendations, but they may
months that households ate their own complement and reinforce policy
rice. This was important for their peace of recommendations derived from national
mind. survey data.
"He thought that if it could be possible to Bangladesh's slow decline in poverty
cultivate rice… he would not think about rice. co-exists with surprisingly high rates of
As a result, it would be helpful for his future graduation from poverty. One in three
improvement." households that started poor succeeded
in moving out of poverty. Indeed, poor
"He was engaged in agriculture as a sharecropper
households were more likely to improve
to ensure food security all the year round so that
their position than get poorer.
he could be psychologically stable... ."
Furthermore, graduation was
Households selected livelihood strategies widespread and not confined to one
that simultaneously reduced the need for location or rice environment. Thus,
cash expenditure and also gave cash poverty is not inescapable, pathways
income (Figure 5). For example, buying from poverty exist, and policy has been
draught animals was a good investment effective in creating economic
for a sharecropper because it saved the opportunities for graduation.
cost of hiring and also provided him with Graduation can be accelerated by new
income when he hired them out to other policy measures, however. From our
farmers. Similarly, irrigation pumps and case study evidence, the process of
power tillers saved cash costs and earned graduation would have been easier if
income. Thus, livelihood strategies were there were services providing micro-
carefully sequenced to ease cash flow. credit for agriculture (not just non-farm

Pathways from poverty: household level brief no. 3.3
processes of graduation

Figure 5. Sequence

Power pump - fish ponds

Power tiller - tiller hire

Power pump - water sales

Cows - milk

Own bullocks - animal hire

Sharecropping - rice

Day labour - wages


activities), advice for small businesses, Policies to create economic opportunity
technical advice on agricultural must be matched by policies that reduce
diversification, and on the marketing of vulnerability. Among our case studies,
high value crops. Hence, households graduation was frequently frustrated by
need, not only new forms of credit but 'shocks'. These included the high cost
also access to knowledge and of effective health care, lack of
information. personal security and the danger of
theft, and police corruption. Without
If opportunities for graduation exist,
effective health and legal systems,
why do so many households remain
graduation from poverty was made
poor? Qualitative research helps answer
more difficult. Policy measures to
this question. Graduation from poverty
reduce the impact of these shocks
is a multi-dimensional process, and does
would also reduce the number of
not depend on a single, decisive factor.
'tomorrow's poor' or those at risk of
Our schematic '7-S'' model suggests
falling into poverty. In sum, accelerating
that there is no magic bullet for success
poverty decline in Bangladesh requires a
but that all components are equally
twin-track strategy that both promotes
important. We might even go further
opportunities for graduation and
and say (borrowing from evolutionary
reduces vulnerability.
biology) that success stems from
avoiding many separate possible causes The primary pathway from poverty was
of failure. From this angle, helping through the rural non-farm sector,
households to graduate from poverty is but this should not detract from
not only about policy measures to the importance of agriculture for
provide opportunity, but about livelihoods. Household food security
measures that help poor households remained a key livelihood outcome,
overcome the shocks and stresses that with graduating households investing in
prevent graduation. land and new rice technology. Indeed,

brief no. 3.3 Pathways from poverty: household level
processes of graduation

improved access to land was almost a
litmus test for graduation. As wealthier
households moved out of agriculture,
space was created for poorer
households to rent land. Households
combined and sequenced livelihood
strategies to mix the security associated
with land and the disposable income
from non-farm employment. Are we
witnessing 'an agrarian revolution from
below' as poor households move into
the space vacated by middle and large 'Part-time' farmers have different needs
farmers? from those for whom farming is a full-
Changes in access to land are also time occupation. They are more likely
changing the traditional client base for to be concerned with household food
agricultural research and extension. security than with crop diversification
Farming for these new entrants is or commercialisation.
combined with non-farm activities.

Sen, B. 2002. Drivers of escape and descent: changing household fortunes in rural Bangladesh,
World Development, 31 (3): 513-534.

Suggested citation:
Orr, A. W. and Adolph, B. 2007. Pathways from poverty: household level processes of graduation. In: Magor, N. P.,
Salahuddin, A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M,. editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor
agricultural research. Policy briefs no. 3.3. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research
Assistance Project, International Rice Research Institute. 8 p.
brief no. 3.4

Promoting rural non-farm
economy: is Bangladesh doing enough?
Mahabub Hossain

This policy brief deals with the current Mandal, former member of the Planning
status of rural non-farm (RNF) economy Commission and Dr. M. Asaduzzaman,
of Bangladesh. It documents the changes research director at BIDS co-authored the
observed in the RNF sector. It also other paper of this dialogue. industries
identifies the constraints for faster growth minister M. K. Anwar and former
in this sector and suggests some policy agriculture minister Begum Matia
measures for promoting it in Bangladesh. Chowdhury attended the dialogue as chief
The background information for this and special guest, respectively. Professor
policy brief is drawn from the official Rehman Sobhan, chairman of CPD, was
statistics published by the Bangladesh the chair of this important dialogue.
Bureau of Statistics and findings from a Inputs from the dialogue participants as
nationally representative household well as from the research papers are
survey conducted by the Bangladesh included in this policy brief.
Institute of Development Studies (BIDS)
and the International Rice Research
Institute (IRRI), henceforth called the INTRODUCTION
BIDS-IRRI survey. The benchmark Meeting the growing needs of generating
survey was conducted in 1987-'88 productive employment for the ever
covering 1,245 households from 62 increasing working age population in rural
villages in 57 districts selected through a Bangladesh is a formidable challenge. The
multi-stage random sampling method. importance of RNF activities in
The same households were surveyed
generating employment and incomes
during 2000-'01 period to assess the
during the process of economic
changes in rural economy during the
development is widely recognised. In
1987-'88 to 2000-'01 period. The 2000-'01
Bangladesh, RNF accounts for over 40%
survey covers a sample of 1,880
of rural employment. The RNF sector
households. Research findings were
grew at 5% per annum between late
presented at a dialogue on 'Promoting
eighties and mid nineties. In 1995-'96, it
rural non-farm economy: is Bangladesh
contributed 36% to the country’s total
doing enough?' The dialogue was
gross domestic product (GDP) compared
organised by the Centre for Policy
to about 31% by agriculture.
Dialogue (CPD) on July 18, 2002 at a
hotel in Dhaka. Based on the research The RNF activities include activities
findings of the Dynamics of Livelihood outside agriculture that include livestock,
Systems (DOLSys) sub-project, the fisheries and forestry. Non-farm activities
DOLSys Team Leader Dr. Mahabub can be classified into three categories:
Hossain made a keynote presentation on i) Mostly manual labour based; ii) Human
the current status of RNF sector in capital based occupations; iii) Physical and
Bangladesh. Professor M. A. Sattar human capital intensive activities. Mostly
brief no. 3.4
Promoting rural non-farm economy of Bangladesh

manual labour based activities include which experienced substantial increase in
self-employed subsistence-oriented physical output, as well as an increase in
cottage industries, wage employment in relative prices compared to other
rural business enterprises, transport agricultural produce. The fisheries income
operation, and construction labour. grew by 7.8% per year in the 1990s,
Human capital based occupations include compared to 2.3% during the previous
salaried service in public and private two decades. The income from livestock
organisations, teachers and imams, village activities picked up in the 1980s and
doctors, and various types of personal continued to grow at a robust rate of
services. Physical and human capital 7.3% in the 1990s. Only the forestry sub-
intensive activities include commercial sector grew at a moderate rate of 3.8%
type rural industries, including agro- per year. Thus, agriculture has become
processing, shop-keeping, peddling, petty much more diversified than it was at
trading, medium and large scale trading, independence. The share of livestock,
and contractor services. fisheries and forestry in agricultural
incomes was only 20% during 1973-'74;
by 2000-'01 they contributed nearly 44%
CHANGE IN THE RURAL ECONOMY to agricultural incomes.

Agriculture performed relatively well in The official national income statistics in
the 1990s. The growth of agricultural Bangladesh does not provide a rural-
incomes is estimated at 3.5% in the 1990s urban breakdown of employment
compared to 2.6% over the 1974-'90 incomes. So it is difficult to draw a reliable
period. The acceleration of agricultural picture of nature, composition and
growth has contributed substantially to growth of the rural non-farm sector in
improved performance of the overall Bangladesh. The BIDS-IRRI sample
household survey in 62 villages showed
economy. The national income grew at
that the employment in the rural non-
5.3% in the 1990s compared to 4.1%
farm sector has increased by 4.5% per
during the previous two decades.
year while the number of workers
The acceleration in the growth of employed in agriculture has declined by
agricultural incomes, was mainly on nearly 1.2% per year. In 2000-'01, 52% of
account of non-crop agricultural sectors the earning members of the households
particularly from livestock and fisheries in Bangladesh reported RNF activities as

brief no. 3.4
Promoting rural non-farm economy of Bangladesh

their primary occupation and another imported annually), growth of equipment
14% as secondary occupations, which manufacturing (numerous metal
means that nearly two-thirds of the rural workshops/factory, income raised),
workers are involved in rural non-farm support services for farm equipment
activities. Non-farm activities account for (1.7 million owners/managers, 0.76 million
52% of the income in rural Bangladesh. operators of manual irrigation device, 0.16
Over the 1987-'00 period the household million rural mechanics, created 11,000 full
income grew at 3.8% per year. Most of man-years of employment), increased
the growth came from the rural non-farm trade in agricultural inputs (4,000 fertiliser
sector (mainly from services and trade dealers, numerous retail traders, etc.),
and business and rural transport increased cereal production and
operations). The income from RNF subsequent grain storing, trading, rice
activities increased at 6.8% per year parboiling and milling etc. Agricultural
compared to only 1.4% per year growth in diversification i.e., poultry, fisheries, plant
agricultural incomes. As a result, the share nurseries, etc. (manufacturing and trading
of the non-farm sector in rural household in poultry feeds, feeding and rearing
income has been increasing very fast. equipment), rural transportation facilitated
by rural infrastructures, rural
electrification, rise in household income
KEY DRIVERS OF RNF GROWTH induced demand for new RNF products
(house building, sanitation, carpentry, rural
The macro economic drivers include large- services, etc.) and remittances from
scale liberalisation of market and trade outside the rural sector.
regime, reduction of tariff and non-tariff
barriers to trade and privatisation of
agriculture i.e., input distribution, grain
trade, etc. On the other hand the sectoral
level drivers include rapid spread of
irrigation technologies for rice production, Three types of constraints, namely,
increased mechanisation of tillage market related constraints, physical
(15,000 power tillers and 200 tractors constraints and policy constraints limit the

Livelihoods: Employment by occupation

Percent of workers

21 22
20 18
14 15
10 11 11

Farming Trade and Services Agricultural Non-agricultural
business labour labour

1987-88 1999-'00

brief no. 3.4
Promoting rural non-farm economy of Bangladesh

Livelihoods: Major source of income

50 47

Percent of household 40
20 16
14 12

Farming Trade and Services Wage labour

1987-'88 1999-'00

Composition of household income

Rice farming
Non-rice farming
farming Rice
24% farming
15% 16%

14% Trade & 24%
Trade & business 10%
business 18%
21% 26% labour
Services Services

1987-'88: US $927 1999-'00: US $1,348

development of RNF sector. Market credit, irrational tax structure, bias against
related constraints are lack of adequate rural industrialisation. Pricing agricultural
demand for conventional RNF products, inputs/output and construction materials,
although there is a growing demand for airfreight charges for agricultural
new types of RNF goods and services. exportable items do affect RNF sector
The physical constraints include lack of growth. The absence of business advisory
physical infrastructures, electricity, services for RNF sector enterprises can
standard equipment and know-how. The be identified to be an institutional
policy constraints include inadequate constraint to the growth of this sector.

brief no. 3.4
Promoting rural non-farm economy of Bangladesh

STRATEGIES AND POLICIES FOR THE system; c) developing mechanisms for
DEVELOPMENT OF RNF SECTOR identification of real entrepreneurs and
establishment of a system of supervised
The government so far has created a
credit without collateral security;
number of institutions such as the
d) integrating credit with training and
Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries
technology extension programme; and
Corporation (BSCIC), Handloom Board
e) consolidating the operation of BSCIC
(HB) and Sericulture Board (SB), to cater
so that the limited financial and
to the needs of small scale and cottage
managerial resources are not spread thinly
industries, but they are inadequately
over too many projects. The Fourth Plan
backed by allocation of financial
recognised the role of GOs in the
resources and appropriate management
development of skills of the poor and
support to ensure sound institutional
other disadvantaged groups through
health. Therefore, to ensure sustained
motivation and training and proposed to
growth of the RNF sector there should
encourage, coordinate and integrate non-
be an Institutional home for RNF
governmental organisation (NGO)
activities. There is a growing need of
activities with public sector programmes
implementation of proposals of previous
for rural industries. There is a need for
plans. The Second Five-Year Plan
specific allocation for rural areas in
proposed the development of Rural
normal development programmes such as
Growth Centres in important market
secondary education, road and other
places. The industries that were selected
transport network, rural electrification,
to be promoted are manufacturing rural infrastructure for telecommunication and
transport equipment and agricultural information technology etc.
Special programmes should be launched
The Third Five-Year Plan proposed to set
such as vocational training for secondary
up Employment and Resource Centres at
school dropouts, storage and processing
the upazila level for the promotion of
facilities for perishable products, a fleet of
rural non-farm employment. The centres
modern transport with refrigeration
would have training and demonstration
units for the development of local crafts
and new product lines. It also proposed to The Bangladesh Agricultural
strengthen the technology development Development Corporation (BADC) may
and extension work of the BSCIC, HB, also be reorganised for providing training
SB and the Institute of Appropriate on the operation and maintenance of
Technology (IAT). A national agricultural and non-farm machinery
coordination council was to be established particularly for the high school dropouts.
to formulate policies, coordinate the BADC may also establish storage and
activities of various agencies engaged in processing facilities for perishable
the promotion and financing of rural products, and invest in developing a fleet
enterprises and to review performance of modern transport with refrigeration
and achievements of such agencies. facilities, the services of which may
be rented-out to rural traders and
The policies proposed in the Fourth
Plan include: a) appropriate reform in entrepreneurs.
exchange rates and tariff policies to
remove the bias against rural industries;
b) restructuring of the licensing system DIALOGUE OBSERVATIONS
so that small scale and cottage The dialogue was participated by
enterprises can benefit from the industries minister M. K. Anwar, former

brief no. 3.4
Promoting rural non-farm economy of Bangladesh

agriculture minister Begum Matia instead of further extending the arms of
Chowdhury, former finance minister Dr. the central government for promoting
M. Syeduzzaman, former advisor to non-farm economy as well as for overall
the caretaker government Abdul Muyeed rural development. Professor Rehman
Chowdhury, industries secretary Al Amin Sobhan urged for expanding credit
Chowdhury, Professor M. Muazzam portfolios in the formal banking and
Husain, former secretary Dr. Taufic-e- NGO channels so that RNF sector can
Elahi Chowdhury, Planning Commission thrive at a proper pace.
member Professor Momtaz Uddin
Ahmed, Dr. Sajjad Zahir, Dr. Hossain
Zillur Rahman, Abdur Rob of CONCLUDING REMARKS
Intermediate Technology Development The improvement in the livelihood of the
Group (ITDG), Dr. Jahangir Alam of resource-poor households could be better
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council achieved through faster growth in non-
(BARC) and others. Participants crop agriculture than for the crop sector,
suggested that a study on demand for the because the latter is much more land
products and services in the non-farm intensive than the former, and the land is
sector to analyse the absorptive capacity so scarce and unequally distributed.
in the domestic market is essential. The non-crop agriculture generates
The industries minister M. K. Anwar substantially higher value added in post-
underscored the need for establishing production (processing, storage and
linkages with the export markets for marketing) activities that can create
boosting the RNF sector. The former opportunities for higher productive
agriculture minister Begum Matia employment for the land-poor
Chowdhury emphasised the need for households. Exploitation of this potential
graduating local farmers from subsistence will however require support from the
level to a relatively better off level. She public sector for creating an enabling
underscored the need for a concrete plan environment; by developing rural
for developing the rural non-farm sector. infrastructures in the field of transport,
She observed that female workers, in power and communications; improving
some cases, are exploited in the existing the quality and coverage of secondary
RNF sector. Former advisor to the and technical education; providing
caretaker government and present information on markets and facilities
executive director of Bangladesh Rural for training in entrepreneurship
Advancement Committee (BRAC) Abdul development as well as providing access
Muyeed Chowdhury urged for to finance for resource-poor households.
empowering the local government bodies

Suggested citation:
Hossain, M., 2007. Promoting rural non-farm economy: is Bangladesh doing enough? Reprinted from CPD-IRRI
policy brief series by Centre for Policy Dialogue. Series editor U. K. Deb. Dhaka, 2002. In: Magor, N. P.,
Salahuddin, A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor
agricultural research. Policy briefs no. 3.4. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research
Assistance Project, International Rice Research Institute. 6 p.
brief no. 3.5

From technologies and enterprises to
more sustainable livelihoods
David Gibbon

INTRODUCTION for complex, integrated livelihood systems
which are operated by farming families,
Agriculture, technology transfer and the members of which have different
resource-poor farmers roles and functions and also aspirations.
For many years, researchers, extensionists Families survive through a range of
and rural development workers in activities, some on-farm and others
Bangladesh have been trying to improve off-farm and they might even have
the productivity of small farm agricultural a significant income from a non-
systems in developing countries by agricultural occupation. The participation
introducing new technologies, new crops of all the family members in the research
and varieties and increasing inputs. Often and development process and this
this has been the introduction of single includes the design and implementation
new varieties and technologies into of new technical options- has been
complex systems. This approach has only recognised as essential if these new ideas
been partly successful and in some cases are to make a permanent difference to
the introduction of the new technology livelihoods.
has only been successful during the life of
the project in which it was introduced. Differentiation of farmers
The introduction has also been dependent Another important distinction which has
on a large subsidy and support system been recognised by researchers is that all
which is not sustainable. Such an farmers and farms are not all the same
approach has often benefited larger and that poorer families, particularly those
farmers (those with more substantial with minimal land, have great difficulties
resources of land and other assets) rather moving out of their situation of extreme
than poorer ones. The other important poverty. Such families have different
characteristic of past technological priorities and different potentials than
support from research was that the focus families that have access to more
was almost entirely on male farmers by resources and therefore the approach of
researchers who themselves were male. research and development agencies needs
The areas of farm activity that were to be different for them. In the Poverty
traditionally the domain of women- Elimination Through Rice Research
vegetables, homestead gardening, small Assistance (PETRRA) sub-project (SP)
livestock, post-harvest processing and the initial division of the farming
small enterprises were given little communities into landless, marginal and
attention. small farms was to ensure that the
different needs of these groups were
The need for a new approach: addressed from an early point. It was
systems, participation and livelihoods recognised that the distinction between
In recent times, there has been a these categories on the basis of
recognition that small farms are the base landholding was subject to some
From technologies and enterprises to brief no. 3.5
more sustainable livelihoods

anomalies (e.g., some landless people cooperation was not strong before the
might have had substantial off-farm project began.
employment which could have made
Physical: Families have houses, animal
them much better - off than another
sheds, storage , equipment and tools
landless farmers who have no external
which they build up over time. Many
employment). Despite this, by taking a
poorer families in Bangladesh have to
large sample of study farms (20 landless,
renew much of this physical resource
20 marginal and 10 small farms in each of
on a regular basis from renewable
5 sites across the country) it was assumed
that the differentiation of farming materials as they do not have the
families in this manner would highlight financial resources to purchase more
the distinctive nature of farming under durable materials.
different circumstances. Natural: Farming families have access
to more on less landholdings-
homestead areas, land around this and
LIVELIHOODS: THE NEW FOCUS land owned or rented or share-cropped
The basis of livelihoods analysis is that in the vicinity. They have seeds, trees,
farming families have five capital assets crops and livestock which make up their
which are different for every farm. These natural resource base.
are: Financial: Members of farming families
Human: People have skills and have financial assets which are derived
knowledge which have been gained from earned income, sales of produce,
from many different sources- parents, gifts and savings and these are subject
schools and life experiences. to fluctuations over time as a result of
debts and other commitments.
Social: Societies are made up of people
who interact in a variety of ways and All families are subject to a degree of risk
the strength of a society may be judged and uncertainty because of their
from the types of interactions and circumstances, either local or more
institutions that people can build up regional. Floods, drought and death may
over time. Social interactions may be bring a high degree of fluctuation into
weak or strong. In most of the study financial management as will poor
areas of the PETRRA SP, women's production from natural resources in

brief no. 3.5 From technologies and enterprises to
more sustainable livelihoods

poorer than average years' weather. LIVELIHOOD IMPACTS
Families survive by transforming their The impact on livelihoods has been
assets through their own strategies to considerable. The new crops: high-
produce desirable outcomes. Each family yiedling (HY) rice varieties, potatoes, okra,
will have different strategies and the etc. have produced substantial yield
outcomes will be different for different increases over older varieties, a new range
categories of farms and for different of vegetable crops are now grown
individuals. alongside traditional vegetables and many
It is the recognition and understanding of new niches in the homestead are now
all these factors by researchers and utilised that were not previously used.
extensionists that has provided the Soils have been improved through the use
background to the PETRRA livelihoods of manure and compost which is now
SP. possible since the introduction of
livestock on previously stockless farms.
Farmers' skills and knowledge have
NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND increased dramatically, particularly with
women who never had access to this kind
of information before. With the
The project has offered to farmers a wide management of livestock, the skills
range of technologies: new crops, new needed to vaccinate stock and to deworm
crop varieties, vegetables which are cattle, have been acquired . An important
adapted to a wide range of niche area that has been particularly successful
environments around the homestead (e.g., has been with vegetable production, the
sunny places, shady places, over the roof, growing and exchange of plants and seeds
on deep beds), fruit trees, small livestock and the development of a 'seed guardian
(chickens, goats, pigeons), large livestock culture' among many female farmers.
(cattle), fish in ponds and tidal canals, Much knowledge has been gained
composting, craft enterprise development through learning by doing and by
(eg. stools, batik, sewing cloth). Each exchanges of information between
technology has been accompanied by farmers and service providers.
training modules and by the promise of
back up support (financial and technical).
Farmers (both male and female) have LINKAGES, SYSTEMS AND SYNERGIES:
been allowed to choose as many and CYCLING, DEPENDENCIES,
which ever technology they wish to adopt EMERGENT PROPERTIES
and it has been remarkable how many From a farming systems perspective, the
women have become engaged in this introduction of these many technologies
process. They have been very keen to try has had some positive effects on the flows
out many homestead areas development and linkages between components of the
options, vegetables, small stock and small system. Livestock feeds are partly grown
enterprise (agricultural and non- and also purchased, livestock produce
agricultural) development. This has led waste which is transferred to the compost
to significant changes in livelihoods of pit. The compost is then later spread on
families, circumstances, status of women fields which maintains the fertility of the
and children in the family and in their soil. Crop yields rise and produce
communities. Marginal farmers seem to greater physical surpluses which may be
have been able to respond better to these consumed, sold or used for fodder or
initiatives more successfully than landless fuel. Better fed family members are
or small farmers. healthier and are able to work longer and

From technologies and enterprises to brief no. 3.5
more sustainable livelihoods

with greater energy than before. Many STRUCTURES: NETWORKS AND
farm systems now exhibit what are known SUPPORT MECHANISMS
as emergent properties which are outputs These very significant changes have been
over and above the sum of the outputs brought about partly by the very
from the individual components. One considerable inputs which are received by
emergent property would be the ability of farmers from the project. At some time in
the system (in its entirety) to increase its the future the project will phase out and
overall productivity on a sustained basis. by that time there have to be support
Social status is raised within the mechanisms in place which will take the
community and wider linkages are place of the roles which are currently
developed which enhance income being provided by the project. These
generating opportunities and sustainability include: seed supply, fodder for livestock,
of the livelihood. vaccination, deworming materials,
spraying of fruit trees and access to
fertiliser. At the moment these services
LIVELIHOOD STRATEGIES: WOMEN'S are, at least in part, provided by the
ROLES -- WORK LOAD, TRAINING, project but steps are being taken to ensure
NUTRITION OF FAMILY INVESTMENTS that farmers are aware of where and how
to acquire these inputs. Such mechanisms
It is undoubtedly true that the work loads
already exist and it is simply a case of
of women and children have increased as
organising the access and delivery of these
a result of taking on these new
essential inputs at the appropriate time
technologies. The farming families every year. Another area where growing
decided which and how many networks are important is in marketing of
technologies they would adopt. One surplus produce. For many of the newer
consequence of these changes has been crops, markets are only just developing
an improvement in family food quantity and farmers are learning how and where
to market the produce that they would
like to sell. Currently buyers are beginning
to visit villages in order to purchase
produce directly and some farmers
(husbands and sons) are marketing in
local markets and towns.
These changes have resulted in women
becoming more confident and empowered
and they now know where to go to obtain
services and inputs. They are therefore
becoming more independent of the
project in their success. These are positive
and quality and the generation of changes in human and social capital.
surpluses for gifts, exchanges and for Other important support mechanisms are
sales. As a result, income has increased the local service providers - extension
and the women in many villages have services, both general and specific (e.g.,
formed savings groups. Here, women livestock health, crop systems) - which
contribute Tk. 10 a month and are eligible are provided to help any local farmers.
for loans for the purchase of livestock Local commercial interests are also part of
(for example) or in the investment of new the wider network to which farmers are
non-agricultural enterprises. beginning to be linked.

brief no. 3.5 From technologies and enterprises to
more sustainable livelihoods

PROCESSES: SCIENTIST AND the current inputs might be necessary for
EXTENSIONIST CHANGES AND a time. As was stated above, there is
LEARNING, FARMER LEARNING, nothing here that should not already be
NETWORK LEARNING part of the normal public sector research
and development structure or of the local
One notable outcome from the project
networks of business in the private sector.
has been the learning processes of the
Perhaps the most important factor in the
natural scientists and extensionists who
future would be the continuing contact
have participated. They were originally
and support from the core group of
agricultural graduates who mainly dealt
stakeholders who have been involved
with male farmers and were only
concerned with new rice varieties,
alternative field crops and cropping In general, there are very few negative
systems. Since the project began they environmental impacts of the project
have been asked to work with all family inputs as the whole project relies on
members and to be highly flexible an ecological approach to developing
in developing those enterprises that farming systems. One practice that needs
interested farmers. By exposure to this monitoring is the use of chemical sprays
wide range of options and in working to 'protect' food crops in the homestead
with female farmers who have become area. There does need to be a monitoring
highly motivated, professional staff have of these sprays and of spray operators
learned a great deal about the workings of who rarely wear protective clothing.
complex farming systems which have Another practice would be the use of
many elements - homestead crops, trees fertiliser used repeatedly over a long time
and small stock, areas around the without the combined use of compost or
homestead, cropped land (owned, rented, manure.
share cropped) and non-agricultural
enterprises. Their enthusiasm about the
impact of the project is very evident and CONCLUSIONS
their relationship with all farmers,
The general conclusion from this project
particularly women, has improved greatly.
is that it is possible to transform farm
Their ability to communicate well in areas
systems through comprehensive changes
that hitherto had been considered very
in the nature of technologies and of the
difficult and conservative (e.g., Noakhali)
strategies that are pursued by farming
is very impressive.
families. The lives of landless, marginal
and small households can be transformed
SUSTAINABILITY: SUPPORT SYSTEMS by putting together changes that will have
a positive effect on family nutrition and
food security, the production of surpluses
The longer term, sustainability of these for sale, the development of savings
changes is uncertain, but it is very evident and investments, the acquisition of new
that some form of support for some of knowledge and confidence.

From technologies and enterprises to brief no. 3.5
more sustainable livelihoods

1. Barisal: Intensive vegetable production on sorjon beds system.
2. Faridpur: Homestead gardening (vegetables, climbers, small stock)
3. Rangpur: Multiple activities, surpluses, 3 womens clubs, investments
4. Rajshahi: Vegetables, small stock, crop diversification
5. Noakhali: Women, empowerment and seeds management, rabi cropping,
non-farm enterprise development

This brief is based on the experience of the farmers' participatory research on integrated rice-based farming for
improved livelihood for resource-poor farm households, PETRRA sub-project number SP 32 02.
The detailed case study reports are available in PETRRA website

Suggested citation:
Gibbon, D. 2007. From technologies and enterprises to more sustainable livelihoods. In: Magor, N. P.,
Salahuddin, A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor
agricultural research. Policy briefs no. 3.5. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research
Assistance Project, International Rice Research Institute. 6 p.
brief no. 3.6

Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh:
implications for pro-poor development
S.P. Kam, Mahabub Hossain, Manik L. Bose, Tahmina Latiff, Abeed H. Chowdhury, S.G. Hussain
and Mahbub Ahmed

The success of a pro-poor programme the chair. The dialogue was organised as
hinges first upon being able to determine part of CPD's ongoing agricultural policy
who the poor are and where they are research and advocacy activities with IRRI
concentrated. Mapping where the poor under the Poverty Elimination Through
are concentrated spatially helps to refine Rice Research Assistance (PETRRA)
development strategies and priorities. This project. Dr. Mahabub Hossain made the
policy brief tries to identify target areas keynote presentation titled 'Geographical
and priorities for agricultural research and concentration of rural poverty in
development (R&D) interventions and Bangladesh'. Inputs from the dialogue
poverty reduction programmes. participants as well as from the research
How precisely we manage to target areas papers are included in this policy brief.
for poverty alleviation depends on how
finely we map poverty pockets. Then,
how well we identify effective INTRODUCTION
interventions to alleviate poverty depends Despite substantial improvements in
on our understanding of which factors overall poverty alleviation in Bangladesh
are most to blame for it. Researchers in over the past few decades, large inequities
the Social Sciences Division of the in living standards exist across
International Rice Research Institute geographical space as well as among
(IRRI), in collaboration with the socio-economic groups. As stated in the
Bangladesh Agricultural Research Council Interim Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper
(BARC), the Local Government (I-PRSP) titled 'Bangladesh-national
Engineering Department (LGED) and strategy for economic growth and poverty
the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) reduction', a key challenge in poverty
implemented a project to identify and reduction is to channel national resources
map, at detailed spatial scales, where the to benefit those who are most needy, with
most disadvantaged among the rural minimum leakage. Mapping where the
populations in Bangladesh are poor are concentrated would help
concentrated, and analysed factors measure the geographical inequality in
contributing to the spatial concentration. well-being of the people. The more
A total of 425 rural upazilas (out of 464 detailed the spatial scale for identifying
upazilas) of Bangladesh were included in pockets of poverty, the more precise
the poverty mapping study. would be the targeting of areas for
Findings of the study were discussed at programmes for poverty reduction. Here
the dialogue titled 'Mapping Poverty for we report at detailed spatial scales
rural Bangladesh: implications for pro- (upazila), where the most disadvantaged
poor development', organised by the among the rural populations in
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) with its Bangladesh are concentrated, and factors
chairman, Professor Rehman Sobhan in contributing to the spatial concentration.
brief no. 3.6
Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh: implications for pro-poor development

METHODOLOGY the poverty measure must be sensitive to
income transfers from the moderate to
A conventional way to measure poverty is the extreme poor. It means that higher
to establish a poverty line, defined as the priority must be given to the
threshold level of income needed to improvement in the economic conditions
satisfy basic minimum food and non-food of the extreme poor compared to the
requirements, and determine the number moderate poor. The SPGI satisfies
of households (people) below that line as this condition, and is used

a percent of the total households as a measure of the severity of poverty.
(population). This head count index For this study we measured and mapped
(HCI) is a measure of the incidence of the HCI and the SPGI.
poverty. This measure is easily understood
Setting the poverty line income has been
by the general public and hence is popular
an issue of great controversy in
with policy makers and development
practitioners. The limitation of the Bangladesh. It has been the major source
measure is that it is insensitive to changes of discrepancies in the levels and trends
in the level and distribution of income of poverty estimated in various studies.
among the poor. The other measures of The popular approach used by the
poverty commonly used to take into poverty studies in Bangladesh is the 'cost
account the distribution issue are a) the of basic needs' method. This method
poverty gap index (PGI) and b) the takes a normative consumption bundle of
squared poverty gap index (SPGI). The food items recommended for the average
PGI measures the average (of both poor Bangladeshi population that gives a per
and non-poor households) of the percent capita daily intake of 2,112 kcal. and 58
of income gap of the poor households gm. of protein needed to maintain a
from the poverty line, and is used as a healthy productive life (Muqtada, 1986).
measure of intensity of poverty. It The required minimum expenditure of
measures the percent of total income food items is estimated by using a set of
needed to be transferred from the non- prices for the specific food items for the
poor to poor households to lift the poor reference period of the survey. It is then
above the poverty line. However, if the assumed that an additional 40% income is
society is averse to inequality in the needed to meet the non-food basic needs.
distribution of income among the poor, We used the same method for estimating

brief no. 3.6
Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh: implications for pro-poor development

the poverty line. The prices for the food The areas with highest incidence of
items are estimated from the 2000 HIES poverty are the depressed basins in
data on the quantity and value of foods Sunamganj, Habiganj and Netrokona
consumed by rural households. The districts; the north-western districts of
poverty line thus estimated was USD 168 Kurigram, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari and
per person per annum. Nawabganj; and Cox's Bazar and coastal
islands of Bhola, Hatia and Sandeep. The
The study involved analysis of two sets of
areas with low levels of poverty are the
data: a) a nationally representative sample
greater Dhaka and Barisal regions, and
survey conducted by IRRI for policy
Bogra, Pabna, and Jessore regions. The
analysis under the project entitled
picture appears to be similar with regard
PETRRA - the survey covered 1,880
to the severity of poverty.
sample households from 62 randomly
selected villages from 57 districts; and b)
the 5% sample households covered under
the 2001 population census for which the
data have been released. The survey data
was used to estimate a statistical model The study then analysed factors that
that relates income to the set of income contribute most to people's depressed
determinants for which data were state of well being using upazila level
collected in the census. The parameter data on poverty and other variables. A
estimates from the model were then multivariate regression model was used to
applied to the census data to predict explore the relationships between the
income for about one million census poverty indices (i.e., HCI and SPGI) and a
households. The predicted income data wide range of socioeconomic, agricultural,
were then used to estimate the poverty infrastructure and bio-physical factors.
indices at the upazila level. Landlessness, area under tenancy, income
inequality and low land elevation
contribute to the increase in poverty. On
GEOGRAPHICAL CONCENTRATION the other hand, access to communication
OF POVERTY infrastructure, coverage of irrigation, and
The spatial variation in extent of poverty clay loamy soil, education of adult
(HCI) is shown in Map 1. For most of the members and rural electrification, have
upazilas for the Chittagong Hill Tracts helped reduce poverty.
(CHT) region the estimates could not be
made because of the small sample size,
resulting in high standard errors of the IMPLICATIONS FOR POLICY
estimate. The metropolitan thanas were
also not included in the analysis. The HCI Asset redistribution
varied from 15% to 80% of the rural The results suggest that income inequality
households across the 425 upazilas for and entitlement to land (land-ownership
which these estimates are statistically and tenancy) are major determinants of
significant. The colours in the map poverty. Given the same level of income,
represent the four quartiles of the the higher the inequality in the
upazilas ranked in order of the magnitude distribution of income, the higher the
of the poverty incidence, with the red incidence of poverty; and the higher the
showing the top 25% of the upazilas degree of landlessness, the higher the
with highest incidence of poverty (greater incidence of poverty in the upazilas.
than 47% ). However, we did not find any clear

brief no. 3.6
Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh: implications for pro-poor development

Map 1: Extent of poverty


50 0 50 100 Kilometres

District boundary
Upazila boundry
Head count index (%), by quartile
15 - 36.5
36.5 - 42.8
42.8 - 50.2
50.2 - 72.7
Not estimated

geographical pattern in the inequality in poverty reduction. While such reforms are
the distribution of income (Map 2). The highly desirable, their feasibility is
2001 census estimated that nearly 42% of questionable given the already high
the households do not own any cultivated population density in most areas of
land. The upazilas with highest Bangladesh. Very little land would be
concentation of landlessness are in the available for redistribution, if the ceiling
greater Sylhet, Chittagong and in the on land-ownership has to be kept at a
Khulna regions. The incidence of tenancy viable level. However, the government
varies greatly across the region. Access to can take up a programme for
land through the tenancy market helps redistributing khas land for homesteads to
reduce poverty. The top quartile of the those who do not own even homestead
upazilas with regard to the incidence of land. Measures can also be adopted to
tenancy are concentrated in the control absentee land-ownership and
coastal region of Barisal, Noakhali and rents under fixed-rent tenancy which has
Chittagong, and also in the Nawabganj been growing in importance.
and Naogaon districts in the Rajshahi
region. Education and human capital
The above findings suggest that formation
redistribution of land through land Close association of high incidence of
tenancy reforms would contribute to poverty with low educational attainment

brief no. 3.6
Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh: implications for pro-poor development

Map 2: Income inequality


50 50 50 100 Kilometres

District boundary
Upazila boundry
Gini coefficient (%) based on per capita income, by quartile
34.9 - 39.6
39.6 - 41.1
41.1 - 42.9
42.9 - 51.5
Not estimated

of the working age population was The Government of Bangladesh (GOB)
observed. This relationship is the has committed to achieving universal
strongest among all explanatory variables. primary education and removing gender
The results suggest that improving human disparity in education by 2015 as
capital through providing education and targets for achieving the Millennium
training remain the most fundamental Development Goals (MDGs). There is a
intervention to benefit the poorest of the long way to go to reach the MDG of
rural poor in the medium and long term. achieving universal primary education.
Map 3 shows the spatial distribution of The 2001 population census data show
educational attainment of the workers that nearly 30% of the children never
across upazilas. The average years of attend school and the school participation
schooling of the workers at the upazila rate is significantly higher in upazilas with
level vary from 0.1 year to 6.5 years. The lower incidence of poverty. The
upazilas with low levels of education are government needs to provide special
concentrated in the greater Sylhet, incentives to poor households to induce
Mymensingh and the Rangpur regions, them to send the children to schools, and
while those with relatively higher levels of to keep them till the secondary level to
education are concentrated in the greater improve the human capital content.
Barisal, Noakhali and Comilla regions. That the incentives work is shown by the

brief no. 3.6
Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh: implications for pro-poor development

Map 3: Educational attainment of worker


50 0 50 100 Kilometres

District boundary
Upazila boundry
Ave yrs of schooling of adult HH members (%), by quartile
0.1 - 2.6
2.6 - 3
3 - 3.6
3.6 - 6.5
Not estimated

higher participation of girls in the in Bangladesh. During the 1990s
secondary school age group than boys, Bangladesh made great progress in
which is a positive impact of the developing rural roads due to the
government's policy of providing impressive work of the LGED. The
stipends to girls in the secondary schools. average travel time to access the main
service facilities by road is estimated at 25
Development of infrastructure minutes. But for some upazilas the time is
The positive impact of infrastructure on more than 4 hours. The upazilas with low
reduction of poverty is indicated by the levels of accessibility are in the CHT,
highly statistically significant association Sunamganj, Netrokona and Kurigram
of poverty with the coverage of districts in the north, and Patuakhali,
irrigation, access to electricity and Gopalganj and Bagerhat districts in the
the accessibility of the villages to other south-west. These areas should get
infrastructures (upazila headquarters, priority in future transport infrastructure
educational institutions, health facilities development projects.
etc.). The government has a major role to Only 23% of the rural households have
play in providing these infrastructure electricity connected. Obviously there is a
facilities. The extents of coverage of long way to go for the government to
these infrastructures are still at a low level provide people universal access to this

brief no. 3.6
Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh: implications for pro-poor development

vital infrastructure that encourages private of high poverty incidence occurs in the
sector investment in agriculture and haur (deeply-flooded) areas in north-
various non-farm activities, and eastern districts of Mymensingh and
contributes to changing the attitude of Sylhet. Farmers in some of these areas
the people towards modernisation. The have shifted to planting high yielding
areas with very low coverage of electricity boro rice by abandoning the low-yielding
are Nilphamari, Kurigram districts, the deep water aman rice traditionally grown
greater Mymensingh and Sylhet region, in the area. Despite this, and the high
CHT region, and Khulna region and the migration of rural labour out of
coastal islands. agriculture (particularly from Sylhet), this
region remains among the poorest in
Bangladesh has also made good progress
Bangladesh. Agricultural interventions are
in extending irrigation facilities since the
still important, not only for increasing
early 1980s through private sector
productivity of rice as the dominant crop,
investment in shallow tubewells and
but also for diversifying production
power pumps. The area covered by
systems appropriate to the natural
tubewells and power pumps reached 4.1 ecology to the area. The abundance of
million hectares in 2002, which is about water and deep flooding provides
52% of the cultivated land. The coverage opportunities for developing technologies
of modern irrigation facilities has for agriculture-aquaculture systems
expanded mostly to central and the north- appropriate for poor rural communities,
western and south-western parts of the with accompanying policy, infrastructural
country. The coverage is still low in and micro-credit support. Development
coastal areas, in the depressed basins in of cold-tolerant shorter maturity boro rice
the Sylhet and Faridpur belt, and in the varieties can help reduce risk from early
CHT region. For further expansion of flash-floods, and the vulnerability to
irrigation, surface water development livelihoods caused by this natural factor.
projects that help retain water
accumulated during the monsoon season The significance of drought in explaining
for use during the dry season will be poverty over geographical space seems to
required. be masked by massive expansion to
shallow tubewells that can be used for
supplementary irrigation. This, however,
Agricultural development and
does not diminish the importance of
technological needs
developing drought-coping strategies for
Few of the bio-physical variables have improving agricultural productivity in the
been found to correlate significantly with low-rainfall regions. The high land areas
the poverty indices. The significant ones are conducive for high-values upland
include the prevalence of low-lying land crops. Expansion of irrigation can
and vulnerability to deep flooding, flash- contribute to crop diversification and
flooding and river erosion. improved livelihoods of farmers in
regions with large proportion of high-
The dominant negative effects of
depression areas and flood-related risks
on poverty suggest that the extreme poor
in these areas need to engage in non-farm
income-generating activities and/or
seeking alternative land uses that turn the Based on the results of the poverty
constraints into opportunities, such as mapping study and discussions at the
fisheries. For example, one major pocket Dialogue, we recommend the following:

brief no. 3.6
Mapping poverty for rural Bangladesh: implications for pro-poor development

The allocation under various safety-net Public investment for rural
programmes should be increased in electrification should be accelerated.
upazilas with higher intensity of Surface water development projects will
poverty. be required for expansion of irrigation
Government may take up a programme in coastal areas and the depressed
for redistributing khas land for basins in the Sylhet and Faridpur belt,
homestead to those who do not own and in the CHT regions.
homestead land. Regulation of absentee Technologies for agriculture-
land-ownership and terms of tenancy aquaculture systems appropriate for
should be considered. poor rural communities should be
As low enrollment and high drop-out developed. The dissemination of these
rules are also linked with chronic technologies should be supported by
poverty, the government should provide appropriate policies for storage,
special incentives to poor households to transportation, marketing and credit
encourage them to send their children support.
to school and retain them upto at least Research for improved technologies for
secondary level. escaping flash-floods and droughts
The upazilas with low levels of should be supported for the very
accessibility should get priority in future low-lying and upland areas.
transport infrastructure development

Suggested citation:
Kam, S. P., Hossain, M., Bose, M. L., Latiff, T., Chowdhury, A. H., Hossain, S. G. and Ahmed, M. 2007. Mapping
poverty of rural Bangladesh: implication of pro-poor development. Reprinted from CPD-IRRI policy brief series
by Centre for Policy Dialogue. Series editor U. K. Deb. Dhaka, 2002. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin, A., Haque, M.,
Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M. editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor agricultural research.
Policy briefs no. 3.6. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance Project,
International Rice Research Institute. 8 p.
brief no. 3.7

Nature and impacts of women's participation
in economic activities in rural Bangladesh
Mahabub Hossain, Thelma R.Paris, Manik L. Bose and Alamgir Chowdhury

This policy brief is prepared on the basis background paper was presented by
of a study conducted by the Bangladesh Dr. Thelma R. Paris, the Gender Specialist
Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) of IRRI and Dr. Mahabub Hossain, the
in collaboration with the International Head of IRRI's Social Sciences Division.
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) and from
inputs of a dialogue on 'Women's
contribution to rural economic activities: INTRODUCTION
making the invisible visible', which was Credible documentation of women's
jointly organised by the Centre for Policy participation in economic activities is
Dialogue (CPD) and IRRI and was held problematic particularly for women
on April 22, 2004 at the BRAC Centre belonging to farm households. Women's
Inn Auditorium, Dhaka. The study was work outside the labour market has often
based on a two-period survey of a been overlooked and excluded from
nationally representative sample of 62 economic analyses. In recent years,
villages from 57 districts. The sample was empirical research have tried to document
drawn in 1987 through using a multistage the extent of women's involvement in
(union-village-households) random specific tasks, and their contribution to
sampling method. IRRI revisited the national income, but the controversy
villages again in 2000 and collected data regarding the complexity of women's
from a random sample drawn on the basis work and the interconnectedness between
of 'wealth-ranking' of households in the different types of functions remain. The
villages, including households which were role of women's work for empowerment
selected in the 1987 benchmark. This of women, income generation and poverty
policy brief deals with the nature and reduction continues to be an important
impact of women's participation in the area of investigation in Bangladesh. It is
economic activities in rural Bangladesh recognised that women work more hours
and makes some recommendations in this than men particularly in low-income
regard. Fazle Hasan Abed, chairman of households, more in agricultural than in
the Bangladesh Rural Advancement non-agricultural economic activities, and
Committee (BRAC) chaired the dialogue, more as unpaid family labourers than as
and the minister in charge of agriculture, managers. Even if they do most of
M. K. Anwar was the chief guest. The the work, men mostly control their
state minister of agriculture, Fakhrul decisionmaking power and ownership of
Islam Alamgir and the agriculture household resources. Institutional services
secretary of Awami League (AL) M. A. for development target only men. Even
Razzaque attended the dialogue as special when women are targeted such as in a
guests. The dialogue was attended by micro-credit programme, women are often
eminent researchers on gender issues used as a front and men keep control over
and women activists. The technical managing the resources.
Nature and impacts of women's participation brief no. 3.7
in economic activities in rural Bangladesh

It is acknowledged that women are a proximity. Most women's activities and
disadvantaged group in acquiring income are dominated by male lineage. In
knowledge in on-farm and non-farm addition, there are some cultural and
production systems and technologies religious barriers in different locations
from the service sectors. They are that do not allow female workers to
disadvantaged because traditional culture participate in field work even on their
and social norms confer power and own farm or for income from outside
privilege to men. However, some recent work.
studies have observed that women from
However, as male members leave the
poor households have challenged the
household in search of non-farm jobs,
traditional norms and coming out of
home to sell labour as field workers in the women tend to take over some of
agriculture and as construction labour, their economic functions. Due to the
due to extreme poverty and food changes in pattern of market participation
deficiency. of women in various economic activities,
the share in paid hours for cultivation
increased but declined in post-harvest
NATURE OF WOMEN'S work. This indicates the increasing
PARTICIPATION IN ECONOMIC participation of women as wage
ACTIVITIES AND IN LABOUR MARKET labourers. The time spent by female
unpaid labour also declined in post-
The study shows powerful social norms in harvest work due to the introduction of
Bangladesh tend to deter females' commercial mills for paddy which has
mobility into the public domain and reduced women's labour in dehusking
confine them to low productive
paddy processing, with the use of dheki.
household activities that generally carry
Female family members benefit from
low returns. Setting aside the cultural
labour saving technologies because of the
constraint on mobility, women's
reduction in time, drudgery and work
involvement in the labour market is also
constrained by the 'imposed' primary
responsibilities for household tasks and Regarding women's participation in
childcare. Other two important factors economic activities, Table 1 shows that in
that influence women's involvement in 2000 total working time in economic
the labour market are location and activities was 7.81 hour per day for

brief no. 3.7 Nature and impacts of women's participation in
economic activities in rural Bangladesh

women and 8.07 hours for men. The but have increased the labour supply to
situation was opposite in 1987 when nonagriculture by 42%. The reverse is the
women worked for 9.00 hours a day case for women who have withdrawn
compared to 8.55 hours for men. The some labour from non-agriculture, but
change in labour time during the 1987- increased the labour supply to agricultural
2000 indicates that both men and women activities. The study shows only 23% of
have reduced their work effort, the total labour for women was on
which could be a positive impact of account of economic activities, compared
the improvement in economic conditions to 83% for men.
and the enjoyment of leisure. Part of the
Only 6% of the women allocated more
reduction in women's labour was due to
than 6 hours a day and hence can be
an increased tendency of sharing the
considered fully employed in economic
domestic household work with the
pursuits. It appears that women allocate
husband. The other contributory factors
are: a) replacement of the traditional time to economic activities in their spare
back-breaking homestead based time after providing domestic labour and
processing technologies (such as rice hence are only marginally involved in
milling by dheki and pit looms) by economic activities. Thus, almost 57%
relatively advanced commercial of the women are under-employed if
technologies (such as rice huller economic activities are counted. Among
and the semi-automated looms); and b) men, 59% were fully employed, and
improvement in the quality of housing 28% under-employed. Women from
that requires less time for maintaining households who considered themselves as
cleanliness. Most of the reduction in very poor worked for 161 days a year
women's work effort is on account of compared to 122 days for the poor, and
domestic labour. 115 days for those who considered
Table 1. Time allocation (hours/day) for adult population by type of activity
Type of activity Male population Female population
1987 2000 1987 2000
Economic labour 7.57 6.73 1.86 1.79
Agriculture 5.29 3.50 1.37 1.41
Non-agriculture 2.28 3.23 0.49 0.38
Domestic labour 0.98 1.34 7.14 6.02
Total labour (average/day) 8.55 8.07 9.00 7.81
Source: IRRI-BIDS household survey

In 2000, women spent on average of 1.79 themselves as self-sufficient but
hours per day (equivalent to 82 standard vulnerable to economic shocks. However,
eight-hour days in a year) on economic women from economically solvent groups
activities compared to 6.73 hours (307 were engaged more in economic activities,
days per year) for men. During 1987-2000 presumably because the educated women
there was only a marginal reduction (4%) who are employed in full-time services
in economic labour for women, but a mostly belong to this group. Again, the
substantial reduction (11%) for men. An larger the size of the land holdings the
important point to note is a redistribution higher the participation in economic
of economic labour between agriculture activities. Women's participation might
and non-agricultural activities for men. increase if the labour market becomes
Men have reduced the labour supply to compact leading to an increase in the
agriculture by one-third over this period, wage rate. There was substantial gender

Nature and impacts of women's participation brief no. 3.7
in economic activities in rural Bangladesh

Share of economic labour allocation of women

35 32 31

Percent 25 22 23

20 17
15 12 12
10 8 9
6 6
5 4 3

Crop Animal Poultry Homestead Rural Services Others
cultivation husbadry raising gardening industry

1987 2000

disparity in the wage rate. In 2000, women women are now employed outside the
received on average about 30% less wage villages in fieldwork for crop
than men. In specific activities the gender cultivation. The social norms are
disparity in the wage rate was even more weakening partly because of the
pronounced. For example, in agriculture mobilisation of women by non-
women received about 42% lower wage governmental organisations (NGOs)
than men compared to 24% in non- for organising economic activities with
agriculture. Illiterate females received micro-credit;
about half of the wage as opposed to
Increase in cultivation of vegetables. At
their male counterparts in 2000, while it
present the women are more involved
was much lower in 1987. The findings
in growing vegetables than men. NGOs
indicate that the higher the level of
often work with men in supplying
education of household head and spouse,
improved seeds and extending the
the lower the male-female disparity in
knowledge on improved management
Reduction in participation in paddy
WOMEN'S PERCEPTIONS OF husking and other low-productive
CHANGES IN LIVING AND WORK cottage industries. Women's labour in
ENVIRONMENT paddy husking has almost been
Focus group discussions (FGDs) revealed eliminated due to the introduction of
that the level of living of the poor commercial rice mills in almost every
women has improved but not so for the village. Some poor women now find
women from the non-poor households. employment in rice mills for drying
Below are women's perceptions of paddy and managing rice byproducts;
changes in their work environments over Increasing commercialisation of poultry
the last 10 years. farming and goat rearing. Poultry
Greater contribution in economic farming has become an attractive
activities not only within the enterprise and men also participate in
homesteads but also outside. More poor this activity. The selling of the poultry

brief no. 3.7 Nature and impacts of women's participation in
economic activities in rural Bangladesh

birds and eggs is an important source of Husbands particularly from non-poor
cash for meeting daily expenses, and households allocate some time to take
sale of goats helps overcoming financial care of children although it still remains
crisis; the major task for the wives.
Reduction in labour allocation for
animal husbandry. The spread of power
tillers and threshing machines WOMEN'S PERCEPTIONS
substantially reduced women's activities
for feeding and caring cattle; Lack of empowerment. In the situation
Emerging enterprise such as tailoring. described above, the wife thinks that
In the past only men earned income she does not have any value in the
through tailoring. At present, more family and the society. She is often
women are purchasing sewing machines reprimanded on very trivial matters and
by taking loans (money) from different some of them are even beaten by their
NGO samities (societies). This has husband and in-laws;
helped empower women to engage in a Perceived traditional gender roles.
business enterprise and earn cash Activities done outside the homestead
incomes; are supposed to be done by men and
Changing role of women in economic the homestead activities should be done
activities. Migration of men to urban by the women. When men return from
areas and abroad in search of better work, women should attend to their
earning jobs is on the increase. There is needs; and
also an increasing trend of mobility Changing attitudes of women about
from farm to non-farm jobs within themselves. That women are considered
rural areas with improvement of roads to be of less value which is a traditional
and development of growth centres. In attitude in the Bangladeshi rural society.
response, women's roles are beginning At present the young women consider
to shift from being unpaid family themselves to be equal to men. They
workers to de facto farm managers in are now aware of their rights by virtue
cases when men are absent; of attending various meetings organised
Changing attitude towards girls' by NGOs, and the exposure of the
education. More mothers now want outside world due to the spread of
their daughters to go to school. They television.
realise the value of education as a step
out of poverty and tedious long hours
of work for home maintenance. It was IMPACT ON WOMEN'S
stimulated by the government's EMPOWERMENT
provision of a stipend for girls enrolled To quantify women's empowerment,
in Secondary schools; Women Empowerment Index (WEI) was
More self-confidence and recognition. developed considering 'participation' in
Unlike earlier times when women were decision making as the proxy of
afraid to talk to strangers and express 'empowerment' in the field of agricultural
themselves in public, more women now and non-agricultural sectors in rural areas.
are outspoken and confident to share Except for post-harvest work, for crop
their feelings, sentiments and ideas in agricultural decision, the results of WEI
public; and shows that about 23% to 34% of male
Men allocating time for child care. heads took sole decisions, otherwise the

Nature and impacts of women's participation brief no. 3.7
in economic activities in rural Bangladesh

decision was made after joint discussions Need to have access to new seeds (rice,
with other members. An exception is with vegetables) as well as seedlings for
regard to cash management where about homestead forestry which they can sell;
84% of women take decisions by
themselves in the absence of their Need access to new seeds, tube wells
husbands. Presumably, other male or and training on improved methods of
female agents dominating the leadership vegetable growing as well as improved
of the households, and obviously the marketing facilities to sell vegetables;
presence of adult males, usually dominate Need access to vaccine within the
decision making in most of the village to reduce poultry mortality and
household and it's economic activities in also training on how to raise improved
Bengali culture. There are few women in breeds of poultry including formulation
all categories of households who are
of local feeds. Need capital to increase
reported to take decision and leadership
the number of poultry birds and train
even in the presence of their husbands.
some women as veterinary service
A multiple regression analysis shows that providers;
the most important factors influencing
women's empowerment is the size of land Increase supply of credit and larger size
ownership and the tenure status of the of loans for cattle fattening.
household. The women belonging to the Government programme for the
tenant households appeared to be more production of animal fodder within the
empowered compared to that of women homestead and in the field;
in the owner operated farms. Also, the Formation of cooperative of those
older women are more empowered than engaged in handicrafts production for
the younger women, as indicated by organising small scale marketing, and
the positive coefficient of the age of
providing them access to credit and
the spouse. The higher the levels of
training on financial management and
education of the household members the
improved technology;
more empowered are the women
members of the households. After Almost every household has a
controlling the effects of other variables pond/ditch that can be used for fish
influencing empowerment, women's culture. It would save the cost of fish
economic involvements seem to have a consumption in the family and help
significant impact on women's earn an income. More effective
empowerment. The influence is however programme for culture fishery should
weak compared to some other variables. be promoted;
Need to train women to improve the
MAINSTREAMING WOMEN IN RURAL quality of garments making and
DEVELOPMENT: IDEAS OF WOMEN organise marketing of household based
garments products; and
Women's opinion about their needs and
opportunities in performing their Since women's participation in
economic activities and the government's fieldwork is increasing, their technical
role in improving their social and knowledge can be enhanced through
economic status are: training in improved farming methods.
Need to have formal and 'hands-on' The demand for their specialised skills
training on seed management including can increase if their quality of work and
seed production, drying and preservation; efficiency is improved.

brief no. 3.7 Nature and impacts of women's participation in
economic activities in rural Bangladesh

RECOMMENDATIONS of womens' groups to sustain adoption
of different income generating
All government development
activities. Women should be trained as
programmes must target women as
female agricultural extension workers at
equal partners with men. Indeed,
the local level;
government assistance should be
channeled through women for reaching Money is power. Agricultural credit
the entire household effectively; should be channeled through women to
empower them and to ensure best use
Increasing roles of women in field
of credit. The pilot project on family
activities aside from homestead
approach to extension should be
activities should be addressed and
replicated nationwide; and
mainstreamed in on-going and future
research and also extension A policy is only good when it is
programmes. Success stories of the implemented. It is useful for an
PETRRA project have shown that organisation to complement a policy on
women can be empowered by giving gender with a gender strategy outlining
them equal access as given to men in the approach to implementation as well
training and extension programmes; as a gender action plan. To implement
the organisation's commitment to
Knowledge is power. Although
gender equality, additional technical
women's roles are confined within the
advice or expertise is needed. An
homestead, they should also be
effective strategy for mainstreaming is
provided with technical knowledge and
to ensure that gender sensitivity
skills on crop management and
is included as a criterion in
the development agenda. A strong
Programmes that combine technical monitoring and evaluation (M&E)
with organisational and leadership skills mechanism should be developed to
are effective in terms of building social ensure that all women benefit from the
capital. Thus, research and development various development efforts made.
workers should facilitate the formation

Suggested citation:
Hossain, M., Paris, T. R., Bose, M. L. and Chowdhury, A. 2007. Nature and impacts of women's participation in
economic activities in rural Bangladesh. Reprinted from CPD-IRRI policy brief series by Centre for Policy
Dialogue. Series editor U. K. Deb. Dhaka, 2002. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin, A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and
Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor agricultural research. Policy briefs no. 3.7.
Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance Project, International Rice
Research Institute. 8 p.
brief no. 3.8

Rice seed delivery system and
seed policy in Bangladesh
Mahabub Hossain, Aldas Janaiah, A. M. Muazzam Husain and Firdousi Naher

This policy brief is prepared on the basis supplies of quality rice seeds for the
of a study conducted by the International newly released varieties. Some suggestions
Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in are provided to take advantage from the
collaboration with the Bangladesh Rural emerging public-private interface and
Advancement Committee (BRAC) and adequacy of policy environment for
from the inputs of a dialogue on 'Rice further development of the rice seed
seed delivery system and seed policy' held delivery system.
on January 8, 2002 at Centre on
Integrated Rural Development for Asia
and the Pacific (CIRDAP) auditorium. IMPORTANCE OF SEED SYSTEM
The dialogue was jointly organised by the Seed delivery system in general and the
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and rice seed delivery system in particular
IRRI. The study was based on data is very important for agricultural
collected through formal and informal development in Bangladesh. Continuous
discussions/interviews with the key saving of seeds from own harvest as seed
participants of 19 organisations/ agencies for sowing in a subsequent period without
representing the public and private sector proper cleaning, seriously affects the seed
seed agencies, non-governmental health and lowers crop yields. Different
organisation (NGOs) and farmers’ country experiences show that the average
associations and a sample survey of farm paddy yields tend to be relatively high in
households. The policy brief deals with those countries/regions where seed
the status, effectiveness and constraints of replacement rate is high. In Andhra
the existing rice seed delivery system in Pradesh of India where the rice seed
Bangladesh. It provides insight into the industry is highly developed, farmers
adequacy of institutional linkages and procure 46% of the seed from the market
policy conditions of the current seed every season. In Vietnam, 60% of the
delivery system. The public sector is farmers change their seeds of MVs every
performing a wide range of roles from year/season. Most of the rice farmers in
the development of a modern variety Thailand change their varieties (seeds)
(MV) to the final distribution of seeds to every 3 to 5 years. Farmer participatory
the farmers. Lack of incentives for plant experiments carried out in the Philippines
breeders and absence of an inter- and Bangladesh show that good quality
institutional coordination are likely to seed can increase rice yield by 8% to 10%.
constrain the development and It is estimated that Bangladesh can
promotion of new modern varieties, and produce an additional 2.1 million metric
may limit the expansion of the rice seed tons of rice annually worth US Dollars
market. The private sector and NGOs are 420 million by ensuring quality seeds.
expanding their roles with increasing However, this would require an efficient
brief no. 3.8
Rice seed delivery system and seed policy in Bangladesh

seed delivery system with active active participation of all key entities and
collaboration of private and public for strengthening the public-private
sectors, and farmers’ organisations. interface to play their basic roles in an
efficient way. There are four basic
elements of the seed system, namely,
THE SEED DELIVERY SYSTEM production and import of improved
varieties, quality control of seed,
In Bangladesh, the public sector meets
production and marketing of improved
only 5% to 6% of the total rice seed
seeds and improvement in the quality of
demand of 0.8 million tons every year.
seed kept by farmers. The structure of
Bangladesh Agricultural Development
the seed delivery system in Bangladesh is
Corporation (BADC) is the major
shown in Figure 1.
supplier of seed and has the mandate to
produce and supply quality seeds of
notified crops (rice, wheat, potato,
jute and sugarcane). Private sector VARIETY DEVELOPMENT AND
participation which is a relatively new
development is mainly confined to the The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute
marketing of hybrid seeds of vegetables, (BRRI) and the Bangladesh Institute of
corn, oilseeds and fruits, and more Nuclear Agriculture (BINA) are
recently, hybrid rice seeds, which are responsible for variety development and
imported. The 1998 Seed Policy of the promotion. In addition, agricultural
Government of Bangladesh (GOB) has universities are also engaged in plant
made provisions for active participation breeding research. BRRI, BINA and
of private sector and NGOs. Since then, agricultural universities are under three
there has been a visible shift in the seed different ministries and institutional
delivery structure with considerable coordination and cooperation among
participation by the private sector and the these institutes are relatively weak. A lot
NGOs. An ideal seed system in of activities are involved in the process of
Bangladesh ought to serve the farmers development of a new variety. The
with five key roles i.e., adequate supply of activities include preservation of genetic
quality seeds of modern varieties at resources and improvement of the variety
affordable prices in the right time. An by tapping on useful traits. Breeders
ideal seed system needs supportive combined the traditional land races with
institutional and policy conditions for that of the enhanced germplasm to

brief no. 3.8
Rice seed delivery system and seed policy in Bangladesh

Figure 1. The structure of seed delivery system

1. Varietal development
(public sector)

2. Source seed
(public sector)

3. Seed

Public sector Private sector NGOs
Owned farm Owned farm - few Owned farms
Contract farms Contract farms Contract farms
Processing Processing - one Processing - few
Quality control Quality control - owned Quality control - owned
Storage Storage - few Storage - few

4. Marketing

Owned outlets Private seed dealers

5. Farmers

increase yield, improve quality, reduce 89) and 16 varieties in the 1990s (1990-
growth duration and incorporate 99). Three varieties (BR-1, BR-3 and BR-
resistance to insects, diseases and water 8) released in the 1970s, 3 varieties (BR-
and soil related stresses. It takes about 15- 11, BR-14, BR-16) released in the 1980s
16 years from initiation of variety and 2 varieties (BRRI dhan28 and BRRI
development process to cultivation in the dhan29) released in the 1990s have
farmers’ field of the identified new line become popular with farmers. The
due to a complex process of variety crosses used in the popular varieties
release and seed multiplication. contain advanced genetic materials
developed by IRRI and other national
Until 2001, BRRI has developed 40
varieties including one hybrid; BINA and
Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU)
have developed 6 and 2 rice varieties,
respectively. There is an increasing trend
towards production of new varieties.
BRRI released 9 varieties in the 1970s BRRI and BINA are involved in supply of
(1970-79), 13 varieties in the 1980s (1980- source seeds (breeder's seed). There is a

brief no. 3.8
Rice seed delivery system and seed policy in Bangladesh

lack of involvement of universities in this been implementing since 1997
process. The demand for breeder's seed is Bangladesh-German Seed Project
growing rapidly for rice since the 1990s. (BGSP), sponsored by the German
There is inadequate capacity utilisation in government; and iii) a ‘special seed uptake
the production of breeder's seed. The programme’ was initiated by IRRI under
availability of suitable land area for the PETRRA project, sponsored by the
production of breeder’s seed does not Department of International
appear to be a constraint for major Development (DFID) of UK. Farmers
research and development (R&D) under the special seed projects of DAE
institutions. Lack of adequate and BADC produced about 16,000 tons
infrastructure (processing and storage of certified seeds of rice in 2000 and
facilities), incentives and support staff distributed them to other farmers. This
may however constrain the increased informal flow of certified seeds is not
production of breeder's seed in the public included in the official statistics on the
sector and R&D institutions such as seed replacement rate. If we consider
BRRI, BAU and BINA. both formal sale of BADC seeds (about
BADC is the main agency in charge of 14,000 tons) and the informal flow of
production of foundation seed (FS). They certified seeds (16,000 tons), seed
have a fairly large infrastructure with 26 replacement rate would be about 9% of
seed farms in different parts of the the total modern variety seeds planted by
country with 1,800 hectares of land and farmers.
producing 1,063 tons of foundation seed
in 1999-2000. They have built up a
network of contract seed growers and SEED MARKETING
have a good infrastructure of quality BADC has an extensive marketing
control of seeds. The private sector and network which includes 22 regional and
NGOs are now coming forward for 42 district level sales centres and 36 sale
production of foundation seed. Several outlets at the upazila level which are
NGOs have signed a Memorandum of located all over the country. In addition,
Understanding (MOU) with BRRI to have BADC has about 1,300 licensed seed
access to breeder's seed for production of dealers for marketing the certified seed
foundation seed and certified seed. They of BADC throughout the country.
have started production of some Registered private seed dealers, and
foundation seeds but have limited NGOs can buy certified seeds from
facilities. They use contract growers for BADC outlets and sell with the BADC
production of the certified seed. brand name through their networks.
A few special projects implemented under
the public sector are being implemented
to develop the entrepreneurship in the
seed business and to expand the seed
market. These are: i) The Food and Bangladesh has a potential rice seed
Agriculture Organisation (FAO)-United market of Tk. 1,650 crores (i.e., US
Nations Development Programme Dollars 290 million) with an annual
(UNDP)-sponsored seed project demand for 786 thousand tons of rice
implemented by the Department of seed. The potential market of seed is
Agricultural Extension (DAE) in 1998 about two-third of the fertiliser market.
promotes seed production activity by Effectiveness of the seed delivery system
entrepreneurial farmers; ii) the BADC has depends on the extent of incentives

brief no. 3.8
Rice seed delivery system and seed policy in Bangladesh

provided to key participants (like plant Lack of inter-institutional coordination/
breeders, private seed companies, seed network for development and
dealers, etc.) in the seed market. Lack of promotion of new varieties through
incentives for the production of breeder better utilisation of available germplasm
seed and the regulation in the pricing of across R&D institutions;
BADC seed are the key constraint to the Complex and lengthy procedures for a
expansion of the seed market. It is variety testing and release;
observed that the private seed dealers get
only Tk. 1.00-1.50 per kg. for marketing No special incentives for plant breeders
of the BADC rice seeds, which is much to produce enough breeder seeds;
lower than the margin in the marketing of Inadequate manpower and modern
seeds supplied by other agencies. There is infrastructure for testing seed quality;
no price control on the selling of privately
Regulation on pricing of seeds by the
produced seeds (either private companies
public sector; and
or NGOs). The selling price of private
sector paddy seed was 50% higher than Lack of farmers’ protection against
the price of the BADC seed. The NGOs unfair seed business.
and the private seed firms offer higher
margins for the private seed dealers
compared to that offered by the BADC. RECOMMENDATIONS
On an average, the net return in the In view of the above, we recommend the
business of the production of rice seed following to improve the efficiency and
for the NGOs (BRAC) and the private effectiveness of the seed delivery system.
seed companies was about Tk. 1.62 and Initiation of an inter-institutional
1.84 per kg., respectively. The margin is coordination and networking research
lower than the margin in the business of for the variety testing and release in line
marketing hybrid seeds of vegetables, with what is currently in operation in
maize, pulses, etc. So in order to induce India;
the private sector to expand the business
Reviewing of the variety release process
of production of certified rice seeds, the
to shorten the breeding cycles and also
companies should be allowed to charge a
ensuring more participation of farmers
price for rice seeds at a rate that generates
in the varietal evaluation programmes;
profits comparable to other businesses.
The competition of the private sector Strengthening the infrastructure
with BADC is not fair because BADC (modern processing and storage, and
receives a subsidy from the government additional manpower) for breeder seed
for its operations. production to meet the growing
Provision of financial incentives to
BOTTLENECKS AND CONSTRAINTS breeders for the promotion of breeder’s
Major constraints to expand the seed seed production;
market are as follows: Introducing 'minikit/block
Release of varieties that often are not demonstrations' immediately after the
superior to the popular varieties release of new MVs as a parallel activity
currently grown by farmers; to breeder seed production to help
Inadequate participation of farmers in familiarise the farmers with new MVs;
variety testing; Relaxation of restrictive policies on

brief no. 3.8
Rice seed delivery system and seed policy in Bangladesh

pricing of seed to provide adequate prevent entry of potentially damaging
incentives to the various market new diseases.
participants; and
Strengthening the regulatory
mechanism for imported seeds to

Suggested citation:
Hossain, M., Janaiah, A., Husain, A. M. M. and Naher, F. 2007. Rice seed delivery system and seed policy in
Bangladesh. Reprinted from CPD-IRRI policy brief series by Centre for Policy Dialogue. Series editor U. K. Deb.
Dhaka 2002. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin, A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an
experiment in pro-poor agricultural research. Policy briefs no. 3.8. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination
Through Rice Research Assistance Project, International Rice Research Institute. 6 p.
brief no. 3.9

Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh
Mahabub Hossain

This policy brief deals with the links agricultural gross domestic product
between rice research and the poverty (GDP) and one-sixth of the national
vulnerability situation in Bangladesh. Rice income in Bangladesh. About 75% of the
research has contributed to poverty total cropped area and more than 80% of
alleviation in Bangladesh through direct the total irrigated area is planted to rice.
and indirect ways. Owner and tenant Almost all of the 13 million farm families
farmers benefited from higher grow rice. Thus, rice plays a vital role in
productivity and lower unit cost of the livelihood of the people.
production and incomes obtained from Poverty is widespread in Bangladesh.
the adoption of modern varieties (MVs). Poverty is usually measured with reference
The landless labourers benefited from to a threshold level of income or
increased employment opportunity in rice expenditure (called poverty line) needed
cultivation and in the processing, trade to meet the food and non-food basic
and transport of rice and agricultural needs for a person to maintain a healthy
inputs. This is the direct pathway. On the and productive life. These measures are
other hand, increased rice productivity called 'income poverty'. Now-a-days there
helped to reduce the price of rice relative is an agreement between social scientists
to other commodities. Lower prices of and policy makers that low levels of
rice indirectly helped to reduce poverty as education and health are of concern in
nearly 40% of expenditures of the their own right. The recent World Bank
poorest 60% of the population go to rice. report on poverty broadens the notion of
In the long run, poverty alleviation poverty to include vulnerability and
requires a structural transformation of exposure to risk. The report states, 'to be
the economy away from agriculture poor is to be hungry, to lack shelter and
towards non-farm activities (industry and clothing, to be sick and not cared for, to
services). Increased productivity in rice be illiterate and not schooled' (World
helped facilitate this process of structural Bank, 2001). Most of the studies on
transformation by releasing resources for poverty in Bangladesh have focused
diversification into more productive and mainly on income measures. Considering
profitable non-crop and non-farm the minimum required calorie intake
activities. (2,122 kcal. per day), 44% of the
country's population live in poverty. The
INTRODUCTION pertinent question is, 'how does rice
Rice is our staple food. It provides nearly research alleviate poverty?' The following
48% of rural employment, about two- discussions elaborate on the process of
thirds of total calorie supply, and about poverty alleviation through rice research.
one-half of the total protein intake of an The background information for this
average person in the country. The rice policy brief is drawn from the official
sector contributes one-half of the statistics published by the Bangladesh
brief no. 3.9
Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

Bureau of Statistics, and findings from Chuadanga and Rangpur. The Bangladesh
two nationally representative household Institute of Nuclear Agriculture (BINA)
surveys carried out in 1987-'88 and 2000- is also responsible for rice variety
'01. The Bangladesh Institute of development using advanced tools such as
Development Studies (BIDS) and the mutation breeding. In addition,
International Rice Research Institute agricultural universities are also engaged
(IRRI) conducted the benchmark survey in plant breeding research. As of 2001,
in 1987-'88 while the survey in 2000-'01 BRRI has developed 39 improved
was carried out by IRRI under Poverty varieties and 1 hybrid; BINA has
Elimination Through Rice Research developed 6 improved varieties and
Assistance (PETRRA) project. The Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU)
benchmark survey covered 1,245 has developed 2 improved varieties. There

households from 62 villages in 57 districts is an increasing trend towards production
selected through a multi-stage random of improved varieties. BRRI released
sampling method, covering all agro- 9 varieties in the 1970s (1970-'79),
ecological zones of Bangladesh. The same 13 varieties in the 1980s (1980-'89) and
households were surveyed during 2000- 16 varieties in the 1990s (1990-'99). Rice
'01 period to assess the changes in rural scientists also developed improved, soil
economy during the 1987-'88 to 2000-'01 and water management practices,
period. The 2000-'01 survey covers a incorporated resistance against major
sample of 1,880 households. These two insects and diseases, and improved farm
surveys are henceforth called the BIDS- machinery.
IRRI survey.
The Bangladesh Rice Research Institute Although the area under rice has
(BRRI) at Gazipur has the mandate to remained stagnant at around 10 to 10.5
conduct rice research. Today, BRRI million ha, rice production (in paddy
conducts rice research in its nine research units) has increased from 16 million tons
stations located in Gazipur before independence to 38 million tons in
(headquarters), Comilla, Habiganj, 2000-'01. It implies a rate of growth 2.6%
Sonagazi, Barisal, Rajshahi, Bhanga, per year, much faster than the growth of

brief no. 3.9
Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

population. Development and diffusion vegetable seeds as part of the postflood
of high-yielding rice varieties supported agricultural rehabilitation programme.
by the development of minor irrigation
through shallow tube wells and power
pumps has been the main engine of this STRUCTURAL TRANSFORMATION OF
growth. More than half of the land is RURAL ECONOMY
now irrigated and over 65% of the rice
The growth in farmers' income has
area has been covered by the high yielding
however been much lower than the
varieties. growth in crop output due to
Rice price has not increased as per the a) substantially higher requirement of
price of other commodities. The real modern inputs (water, fertilisers and
price of rice has gone down and that has pesticides) in cultivation of MVs; b) an
been one of the mechanisms through increase in wage rates faster than price of
which we have been able to reduce the agricultural produce, as the agricultural
poverty in the country, particularly for the labour market has become tight with the
landless in rural areas and the urban poor expansion of the rural non-farm sector
who are living in urban areas, have and rapid rural-urban migration of
benefited tremendously. More than 60% population; and c) a long term decline in
of their budget is spent on food. the price of rice adjusted for inflation.
Compared to the upper income group,
The growth of agricultural productivity
the lower income group has benefited
has however promoted a healthy
from low price of rice.
development in the rural non-farm
There has also been a respectable increase sector by triggering what economists
in the production of wheat. Wheat call 'backward and forward linkages'.
production increased from 0.14 million Agricultural growth has generated
tons in 1976 to 1.4 million tons in 1984, opportunities for employment and
but remained stagnant at that level during income in the rural non-farm sector
the next decade. Wheat production through its effects on a) the demand for
continued to grow again in late 1990s in irrigation equipment and chemical
response to favourable prices, reaching a fertilisers produced and transacted in the
production level of nearly 1.8 million non-farm sectors; b) the demand for
tons. services for processing, storage and
The rapid expansion of wheat and the dry marketing of additional agricultural
season boro rice was however achieved produce; and c) the demand for trade,
partly through reduction in the area under transport, construction, education and
jute, sugarcane, pulses and oilseeds. As a health care services, as farm households
result Bangladesh had to spend scarce spend a larger proportion of additional
foreign exchange on the import of non- incomes for purchasing non-farm goods
cereal food products in increasing and services.
amounts. The reduction in the availability The BIDS-IRRI study reports that the
of pulses, which are important sources of employment in the rural nonfarm sector
protein and micronutrients, has adversely has increased by 4.5% per year while the
affected balanced nutrition, particularly number of workers employed in
for the poor. Among other food crops the agriculture has declined by nearly 1.2%
growth was respectable only for potatoes per year. While the agricultural income
and vegetables. The vegetable production grew at 1.4% per year during the 1987-'01
picked up particularly after the 1998 period, the household income grew at
floods stimulated by the distribution of 3.8% per year mainly due to a robust

brief no. 3.9
Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

7% growth in income from rural non- the rural population are still poor. The
farm activities. Most of the growth slow progress in poverty reduction in
originated from services, trade, business spite of the acceleration of economic
and rural transport operations. growth in the 1990s is attributed to
growing inequality in the distribution of
income for both rural and urban areas.
REDUCTION OF POVERTY AND There are indications that Bangladesh has
made moderate progress in other
An accurate assessment of the trend in dimensions of poverty also. According to
alleviation of income poverty is difficult, the World Bank, the primary school
in spite of a large number of studies enrolment ratio has improved from 60%
conducted for Bangladesh on the subject. to 75%, and the infant mortality rate
The household expenditure survey (HES), declined from 132 to 73 per thousand live
conducted by the Bangladesh Bureau of births during the 1980-'97 period. The
Statistics, reports the incidence of poverty access of the population to safe drinking
and income inequality through periodic water has increased from 40% to 84%,
generation of household level data. They and to improved sanitation from 4% to
have changed the method of data 35%. The most impressive progress has
collection and the measurement of been made in population control. The
poverty line overtime. Thus, while making number of births per woman has declined
a judgment about poverty trend in from 6.1 to 3.1. The preliminary findings
Bangladesh, one needs to be cautious from the 2001 population census show a
about the interpretation of the decline in population growth from 2.2%
information. in the 1980s to 1.5% in the 1990s.
Household level large scale sample surveys
According to the World Bank estimate support the findings of improved literacy
based on the HES data, nearly 40% of and school participation rates, and show
the rural population in Bangladesh lived that the gender disparity in the school
below the poverty line in 1995-'96. A participation rate has almost disappeared
study by Ahmad and Hossain estimated for primary level, and has turned in favour
that the number of poor households in of girls at the secondary level. The school
rural Bangladesh remained almost participation at both secondary and
stagnant at 75% during 1963-'64 to 1973- tertiary levels, however, still remains low.
'74. According to the Bangladesh Bureau People have become more resilient to
of Statistics (BBS), the poverty ratio for natural disasters because of the change in
rural areas declined from 74% in 1981-'82 the seasonal composition of food
to 48% in 1988-'89. The dramatic production. The area under pre-monsoon
improvement in the poverty situation in aus rice, which was highly susceptible to
the 1980s, as shown by the official figures, droughts, has declined by nearly two
was however highly debated in the million ha; the area has been diverted to
literature and was partly attributed to the growing dry season high-yielding and
change in the data collection method in relatively safe boro rice or highly profitable
the 1983-'84 HES. During 1983-'84 to vegetables and fruits. The risk of the loss
1989-'90, there was a decline in poverty of aman rice from droughts has also been
ratio from 57% to 48% for rural areas and reduced due to large scale expansion of
50% to 44% for urban areas. It is now the shallow tube-wells which could be
widely recognised that the poverty ratio used for supplementary irrigation. The
has been declining by 1% per year which area under deep-water broadcast aman rice
is very slow considering that over 40% of has declined from 2.2 to 0.7 million

brief no. 3.9
Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

hectare, substantially reducing the loss in yielding varieties. As producer, owner and
rice output from abnormal floods. In the tenant farmers benefit from higher
deeply flooded area farmers now keep the productivity and higher profits but the
land fallow during the monsoon season landless labourers benefit from increased
and grow boro rice with irrigation during employment opportunity. Rice production
the dry season. The boro area has is an economic activity based on land. In
expanded from 0.5 to 4.0 million hectare Bangladesh almost one-third of the
over the last three decades, which together households do not own any cultivable
with wheat brings nearly 55% of the land and another 17% own only up to
cereal harvest during the May-June period. 0.2 hectare. How can rice research
So the losses in the rice output from improve the livelihood of the people of
floods or droughts could be recovered these bottom 50% of the households
within a few months. Earlier, farmers had who do not own any land and constitute
to wait for the next aman harvest to the vast majority of the poor?
recover the loss. With the year round
production of rice, the seasonality in One can argue that agriculture generates
employment and income for the landless wage employment for the landless
workers is now much less pronounced households as medium and large farmers
than it was in the 1970s or 1980s. hire labour for conducting farm
operations. But since the proportion of
In Bangladesh poverty is concentrated medium and large farmers is very small
mostly in households who do not have the agricultural labour market can generate
assets (resource-poor). Manual labour is
employment for only a small fraction of
the only resource available to poor
the vast landless and marginal land owning
households. The BIDS-IRRI study
households in the country. The BIDS-
estimated that 43% of the rural
IRRI household survey found that only
households were poor. The study found
22% of rural workers had agricultural
that most of the households engaged in
wage labour as primary occupation in
agricultural wage labour and transport
operations were extreme or moderate 1987-'88, and their number declined to
poor, and households engaged in trade or 12% by 2000. Agricultural wage income
business and services were non-poor. The accounted for 11% of the rural household
incidence of poverty was 80% among incomes in 1987-'88; it declined to only
households with no cultivated land, 60% 4% in 2000. When the modern high-
among those holding up to 0.2 hectare, yielding varieties (HYV) were introduced
and almost none among households the demand for hired labour increased
owning more than 1.0 hectare. substantially. But overtime the labour use
Households who were unable to provide in rice cultivation has declined with the
three meals a day to their members were spread of agricultural mechanisation in
reported at 40% among those with no land preparation, irrigation and post-
cultivated land, 26% among those with up harvest processing. Even full employment
to 0.2 hectare and very little among in agricultural labour market cannot
households owning over 0.4 hectare. provide a poverty escaping income level at
the prevailing agricultural wage of about
one dollar per day.
ROLE OF RICE RESEARCH IN It is the expansion of the non-farm sector
POVERTY ALLEVIATION that has been contributing to the increase
Rice research aims to increase the in incomes of the households who
productivity of land resources through are poorly endowed with assets. Many
the development and promotion of high landless households have migrated to

brief no. 3.9
Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

rural towns and cities and found jobs as artisans in the rural areas; and to industrial
transport operators or construction labourers, transport and construction
labourers. The impressive development in workers in urban areas.
the rural road network in the 1990s Since the mid-1980s food grain prices
coupled with the increase in marketed have increased at a much slower rate than
surplus rice, vegetables and fruits have the general price index, due to favourable
created employment opportunities in growth in agriculture in general and rice
transport operation and petty trading. production in particular. The large
This is the main reason why the supply of farmers have been hurt by the decline in
agricultural labour has declined in recent the real rice price, but the landless have
years and farmers have been complaining gained. An agricultural wage-labourer
regarding the scarcity of agricultural could buy 2.8 kg. of rice with their daily
labour. The increase in the number of wage in 1987-'88. The rice-equivalent
shallow tubewells, pumps, power tillers, wage was 5.7 kg. in 2000, an increase of
rickshaws and rickshaw vans have created 5.8% per year during 1987-'00. Thus, the
jobs in operation, repair and maintenance. main role played by rice farmers in
Last but not least, many marginal land poverty alleviation lies in maintaining the
owning households with some skills for
supply of food at least at a rate at which
utilising capital have been able to generate the demand has been growing, thereby
self-employment in livestock and poultry keeping the rice prices stable and within
raising, petty trading and various kinds of affordable limits of low-income
personal services with the vast increase in households.
micro-credit supplied by the NGOs.
Agricultural research in general and rice
research in particular has however CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES
contributed to poverty reduction of the
The major obstacle to poverty reduction
landless households in an indirect way.
in Bangladesh is its overpopulation in
Agriculture produces food for the people.
relation to natural resources. Fortunately,
The increase in the supply of food faster
Bangladesh has started making
than demand has helped keep food prices
respectable progress in population
within affordable limits of low-income
control, particularly since the mid-1980s.
people, and thereby has contributed to
The population growth has declined from
achieving food security. The amount of
2.8% per annum at independence, to
food the poor can access from the market
2.2% in the 1980s, to 1.5% in the 1990s.
with their limited income depends on the
However, we should not be complacent.
price of food. The rural landless and the
The population is still growing by two
urban labouring class spend two-thirds of
million every year, and may increase by
their income on staple food and one-third
another 30 million over the next 20 years.
on rice, compared to 44% and 10%
It will not be easy to provide food and
respectively for the top 10% in the
employment for the additional people and
income scale. So a reduction in the price
the labour force. As the population has
of rice relative to the industrial products
started declining, the proportion of
benefits the poor relatively more than the
population in the working age group will
non-poor households. In Bangladesh the
continue to grow for some time, putting
poverty situation deteriorated in the early
additional challenges for policy makers for
1970s mainly due to the decline in the per
generating productive employment.
capita availability of rice. The soaring
price of rice caused tremendous hardship Bangladesh has almost exhausted the
to the landless, marginal farmers and potential for increasing rice supplies with

brief no. 3.9
Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh

existing technology and in the process has unless the price of inputs and outputs
over-exploited the fertility of the soil and provide adequate incentives. Profitability,
ground water resources. MVs have been rather than subsistence will increasingly
adopted on lands that have access to become a more important motive for
irrigation. The arable land has been sustaining the growth in food grain
declining to accommodate increasing production.
demand for housing, commercial and It was noted earlier that the respectable
infrastructure development. There is little growth in the production of cereals - rice
scope for further expansion of irrigation and wheat - has been achieved at the cost
infrastructure. Without further increase in of many minor crops. The pattern of
the productivity of the irrigated land, and growth of the crop sector has affected
development of appropriate varieties for not only the relative prices of different
the flood-prone, drought-prone and food items but also the nutritional balance
submergence prone environments, and in food intake. The composition of the
dissemination of improved crop food basket shows that the consumption
management technologies for reducing of cereals has reached a level much higher
the yield gap, it would be difficult to than the minimum nutritional
maintain the demand-supply balance for requirement, there is a marginal deficit for
rice, and sustain the food grain self- tubers and vegetables and fish, but
sufficiency achieved only recently. So the substantial deficits for pulses, oilseeds and
public sector investment for research and livestock products. Thus, crop and
development, and for harnessing of agricultural diversification must be given
modern science and technology for priority in agricultural development
increasing the productivity of natural strategy to achieve balanced nutrition.
resources must continue.
Since most of the land and other
The strategy of poverty reduction by agricultural resources are tied in rice
keeping food grain prices low may not cultivation, agricultural diversification
work in the future due to the growing cannot be achieved unless resources are
urbanisation and spatial separation released from rice cultivation. Thus,
between the producers and the consumers further growth in rice productivity is
of food. So far the vast majority of the needed so that rice needs can me met
population lived in rural areas. with less land, less labour and less water.
Subsistence was the main driving force Agricultural research must be done while
behind the growth in food production, as keeping in view the needs of the system,
the farm household had to produce food rather than individual crops. This will
to feed its own members. Urbanisation is require stronger coordination among
however growing fast and soon most of different research institutes, and greater
the increase in population will be located interaction between researchers and
in urban areas. Farmers may not produce farmers for assessing the technology
surplus food for the urban population needs.

Suggested citation:
Hossain, M. 2007. Rice research and poverty alleviation in Bangladesh. Reprinted from CPD-IRRI policy briefs
series by Centre for Policy Dialogue. Series editor U. K. Deb. Dhaka, 2002. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin, A., Haque,
M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor agricultural research.
Policy briefs no. 3.9. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance Project,
International Rice Research Institute. 8 p.
brief no. 3.10

Liberalisation of the crop sector:
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?
Mahabub Hossain and Uttam K. Deb

This policy brief is based on the keynote CROP SECTOR:
presentation and discussion held at the IMPORTANCE AND CONCERNS
dialogue 'Liberalisation of the crop sector:
The crop sector is of strategic importance
can Bangladesh withstand regional
to Bangladesh, as in most other low
competition?' held on January 8, 2003 at
income countries. It is the source of
BRAC Centre Inn Conference Room,
staple food for 130 million people and the
Dhaka. Bangladesh is gradually integrating
major means of livelihood of 13 million
itself within the global economy and
farm households in the country. In
liberalising its crop sector in the world
2000-'01 the crop and horticulture sector
economy. A comparative picture of the
contributed US$ 8,450 million to the
cost of production and prices of major
economy, accounting for 18% of the
crops are presented in this brief. Trade
gross domestic product (GDP) at current
policies pursued by India in recent years
market prices. According to the report of
are also highlighted. Analyses revealed that
the Household Income and Expenditure
per tonne cost of production for many
Survey 2000 conducted by the Bangladesh
crops in Bangladesh is higher than other
Bureau of Statistics (BBS), consumers
countries of the region. The farmgate
spent nearly US$ 9.8 billion on the crop
price as well as the margin (price over
sector output, which comprises 25% of
variable cost) for the rice farmer is
the private sector consumption
substantially higher in Bangladesh and
expenditure in Bangladesh. Crop
India compared to Thailand and Vietnam.
production activities generated 2,065
For the majority of the agricultural
million person days, equivalent to full-
products, unit costs and prices are higher
time yearly employment of 7.9 million
in Bangladesh than in India. Only for jute
people in the labour force. The average
and pulses (lentil), are the Indian unit costs
import of the crop sector output for the
and prices comparable with Bangladesh.
1998-'00 period is estimated at US$ 1.2
The main reason behind the higher cost of
billion, about 24% of the export earnings
rice production in Bangladesh is the high
of the country. So any change in the
cost of irrigation. It is also observed that
domestic production and import for the
in recent years India is exporting rice and
sector following the liberalisation of
wheat at half of their economic cost.
trade, would make a large impact on
Under these circumstances, Bangladesh
producers' and consumers' welfare,
must take a pragmatic approach in her
government's revenue earnings, the
trade policy so that the interests of both
balance of trade and the rural sector
the producers and consumers can be
employment situations.
maintained through a fair price. This brief
suggests some of the required policies. A major issue concerned with the crop
Liberalisation of the crop sector: brief no. 3.10
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?

sector is the inflexibility of resources tied Another important issue regarding the
up in production activities. Land is the trade and price policy in the crop sector is
dominant factor of production. Because the balancing of interests for the
of specific agro-ecological situations that producers and consumers. The crop
determine the suitability of land for the sector is the source of production of
production of different crops, land staple food. Too much protection of the
cannot be easily shifted from one crop to sector will raise food prices out of line in
another without some loss in yield. For the international market that will benefit
example rice is the only crop that can be farmers at the cost of consumers, and

grown in low-lying land that remains vice-versa. A major concern for the
submerged with water during the government is maintaining stability in
monsoon season. So, whatever the price food prices, since price instability affects
of rice, the farmer has no alternative but the food security of the poor. The
to grow aman rice during the wet season, bottom 40% of the rural households in
while they can choose among alternative the per capita income scale spends nearly
crops during the dry season depending on 52% of their budget on the crop sector
the relative productivity and profitability. output and 35% on rice and wheat alone.
The crop sector is also the 'employer of The corresponding numbers for the
last resort' and the main source of urban areas are 42% and 25% respectively.
livelihood for the illiterate and low- The top 10% of the households in the
educated people who do not have income scale allocate 18% and 13% of
alternative employment opportunities. A their budget on crop sector output. Thus
reduction in price and the profitability for maintaining the price of the crop sector
the crop sector activities may not products at an affordable level is a major
necessarily lead to reallocation of labour element in the strategy for poverty
to more productive activities outside the alleviation.
sector; an argument made by proponents Trade policies that allow consumers to
of free trade. Under Bangladesh access food from the lowest cost source
conditions, it may lead to lower earnings in the international market is thus
for the farmers and a lower wage rate for important for the welfare of low income
agricultural labourers, thereby worsening consumers, but it is equally important to
the poverty situation in the country. protect them from large fluctuations in

brief no. 3.10 Liberalisation of the crop sector:
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?

the prices of staple food in the world world market, the cost of production in
market. It is also important to maintain an Bangladesh is 62% higher for the dry
incentive price for farmers to sustain the season crop (boro) and 18% higher for the
long-term growth in the production of wet season (aman).
staple food, and the balance between the
The farmgate price as well as the margin
demand and supply for maintaining the
for the farmer (price over variable cost)
stability in prices in the domestic market.
is however substantially higher in
A fair price for farm products is also
Bangladesh and India compared to
important for poverty alleviation, since
Thailand and Vietnam. Thai farmers can
two-thirds of the farmers operate a
offer rice at a lower margin to consumers
holding size of less than one hectare,
which is incapable of generating even a because of the substantially larger size of
poverty level income. farm compared to other rice growing
countries in Asia. The average farm size
in Thailand is over 5 hactares, compared
UNIT COST OF PRODUCTION to 0.68 hectare in Bangladesh. Thus, even
with a lower margin per unit of output
Thai farms could have substantially higher
We have carried out a comparative household incomes than Bangladeshi
analysis of the costs of production of farmers. The farmgate price is 50% higher
rice in Bangladesh, India, Thailand and in Bangladesh compared to Vietnam and
Vietnam. In the cost estimation we have Thailand, and 15% to 20% higher than
computed only variables costs of the Indian States of Punjab and Andhra
production (all material inputs, irrigation Pradesh.
charges and machine rental) and imputed
the value of family labour and family For wheat, India (Punjab) is in a superior
supplied animal power. We have not position compared to Bangladesh. The
considered the rental value of land and variable unit cost of production is about
the depreciation of other fixed assets 129% higher in Bangladesh compared to
because of the problem of comparing the Indian State of Punjab, and the
these values across countries. We noted domestic market price is higher by about
that the Indian data show that the costs 14%. The Commission of Agricultural
on land and other fixed assets may Costs and Prices (CACP) in India
account for an additional 60% of the however, reports that the economic cost
costs. of the procurement of wheat by the Food
Corporation of India (FCI) is higher than
For rice, the variable cost of production the world market price. Thus, at current
per unit of output is the lowest for prices, Bangladesh cannot withstand
Punjab in India followed by Vietnam and competition from imported wheat from
Thailand. For Bangladesh the cost of the world market.
production is higher in the cultivation of
For sugarcane, Bangladesh's position is
boro rice than in aman rice. However, the
similar to wheat. The unit cost of
cost for Bangladesh is lower than that in
production is almost double in
the neighbouring Indian state of West
Bangladesh compared to India
Bengal. Comparison with Punjab and
Andhra Pradesh is however more
appropriate since most of the marketable For rape seeds and mustard, India's
surplus of rice in India is generated in (Rajasthan) position once again is better
those two States. Compared to Thailand, compared to Bangladesh. India's unit cost
which is the largest rice exporter in the of production and farmgate price is about

Liberalisation of the crop sector: brief no. 3.10
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?

23% and 13% respectively, lower than about one-third lower in India, but is
those for Bangladesh. India is a major comparable in Thailand and Vietnam
importer of edible oil, as is Bangladesh. compared to Bangladesh. The difference
The domestic price of oil is determined in the price of fertiliser would not
more by the world market price and the however make a large difference in unit
rate of import duty, than by the domestic cost of production, since chemical
cost of production. fertilisers account for only 15% of the
total variable costs.
Only for pulses (lentil) are the Indian unit
cost and prices comparable with There is a large difference in the cost of
Bangladesh. So is the case with jute. labour across countries. The wage rate
varies from US$ 5.2 in Thailand to about
The above information indicates that US$ 1.2 in Bangladesh. The higher wage
Bangladesh will not be able to compete in rate however does not necessarily lead to
the world market for rice and other crops higher cost of production since the
at the prevailing costs and market prices. farmer adopts mechanisation in response
Considering the transport cost and trade to the scarcity of labour. The Thai
margin, Bangladesh may be able to farmers now utilise only 6 to 8 days of
withstand competition in rice from labour per hectare in rice cultivation,
imports from India, but may not be able compared to about 140 days in
to do so from rice imports from Thailand Bangladesh, and 80 days in Vietnam.
and Vietnam. Indeed, the substitution of agricultural
machinery for human labour and animal
draft power contributes to a reduction in
FACTORS BEHIND THE DIFFERENCE unit cost of production. In Thailand and
IN UNIT COSTS Indian Punjab, where the extent of
mechanisation is high, the cost of
What are the reasons for the relatively production on account of power is the
high unit cost of production in lowest.
Bangladesh for most of the crops? The
most important factor is obviously the The cost of irrigation is the major
agro-ecological conditions and the contributing factor behind the high cost
of rice cultivation in Bangladesh,
development of irrigation infrastructure
particularly for boro rice. Irrigation
that determine the suitability of land for
accounts for 28% of the variable costs of
growing a particular crop. The other is the rice cultivation, compared to 13% in
extent of adoption of improved Punjab, 8% in Thailand and 6% in
production technologies. These two Vietnam. The low cost of irrigation in
factors determine the level of crop yield. other countries is mostly due to the
For high-yielding variety (HYV) rice, the subsidised supply of electricity (India) and
yield in Bangladesh is comparable to the subsidised public sector investments
other countries in the region. But there is in the construction, operation and
potential for increasing the yield in the maintenance of large-scale irrigation
aman season and thereby further reducing projects. In Indian Punjab electricity is
the unit cost. For all other crops, provided free for tube well irrigation and
Bangladesh has a lower yield compared to the farmer is also provided free water
that for the highest yielding state in India. from irrigation canals. In Bangladesh the
The difference is large for wheat and major source of irrigation is the privately
sugarcane. owned shallow tube wells and power
pumps, mostly run by diesel. Diesel has
The other source of the difference in cost now become a major agricultural input in
is the price of inputs. The price of urea is the cultivation of boro rice, and the cost of

brief no. 3.10 Liberalisation of the crop sector:
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?

boro cultivation is very sensitive to the these commodities. Because of the
price of diesel. transport cost and trading margin, the
cost of importing these commodities
into Bangladesh would be higher than
COMPARATIVE ADVANTAGE IN CROP the opportunity cost of producing
PRODUCTION them within the country; and
Whether a country can take advantage of Bangladesh does not have comparative
new trading opportunities under the advantage in the production of wheat,
World Trade Organisation (WTO) would oil seeds, sugarcane and spices. The
depend on its comparative advantage. In country will gain by importing these
most developing countries, social or commodities, if the resources tied in
economic profitability deviates from the production of these commodities
private profitability because of distortions can be diverted to the production of
in the input and output markets, the other crops.
import and export duties and the valuation
of the domestic currency. Comparative
advantage in the production of a given TRADE POLICY IN INDIA
crop is measured by imputing the value of
production at the border price (world A review of India's trade policy suggests
market price adjusted for transport cost three main points:
and trade margins) and comparing it with India has turned backwards from the
the social and opportunity cost of policy of liberalisation initiated in the
producing, processing, transporting, early 1990s. External trade has been
handling and marketing an incremental brought back under the state trading
unit of the commodity. If the opportunity agencies from private traders;
cost is less than the border price, the
country has a comparative advantage in For staple grains India follows a policy
producing that crop. of subsidised exports and a highly
restrictive import policy; and
The most recent study (Shahabuddin, et al
2002) estimated the comparative For pulse and oilseeds for which the
advantage of various crops in Bangladesh demand exceeds supply, India has
for different ecologies and irrigation followed a liberal import policy,
systems using recent input-output prices, although in recent years the import duty
market distortions and production has been raised substantially.
coefficients show that: The Indian government followed a liberal
At export parity price Bangladesh has import policy of edible oils in the 1990s.
comparative advantage in the As a result the import of edible oils has
production of aman rice, jute and increased substantially. But the policy has
vegetables. Bangladesh can gain from been reversed since 1999 when a 15%
the increase in production of these duty was imposed. In the budget of
crops provided that the surplus 2001-'02, the rate of duty on crude oils
production can be exported in the was raised from the range of 35-50% to a
world market; uniform 75%, and on refined oils from
the range of 45-65% to 75-85%. The
At import parity price Bangladesh
lower rate of 45% applies to soybean oil
has comparative advantage in the
on account of the WTO binding.
production of boro rice, potato, lentil
and onion. Bangladesh will not be able India has also provided a large amount of
to compete in the export market for export subsidy for rice and wheat during

Liberalisation of the crop sector: brief no. 3.10
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?

the last two years. In order to push rice should take appropriate measures to
exports, the Government of India (GOI) protect the Bangladeshi farmers from
took a decision to release stocks from the dumping of Indian rice in the domestic
Food Corporation of India (FCI) to market. These may include an increase
private exporters at a subsidised rate of in tariff rate with in the bound rate.
US$ 127 per tonne (milled rice) while the However, an increase in tariff rate
economic cost is US$ 253. The FCI was should not be very high since it protects
permitted to export wheat at the highly the farmers at the cost of consumers
subsidised rate of US$ 90 per tonne, and consumption of poor household
which was half the economic cost of decreases when rice price is increased.
wheat (US$ 183) to FCI (GOI, 2002). Bangladesh may also increase regulatory
This policy has exposed the Bangladeshi duty and may even consider imposition
rice and wheat market to dumping by of anti-dumping duty;
Indian exporters. Thus, natural
comparative advantage of other countries A major factor behind the high unit
to produce rice and wheat at a lower cost cost of production of HYV rice in
added with subsidised export from India Bangladesh is the cost of irrigation
explain to a large extent the fact of compared to the other countries in
importing rice and wheat after attaining the region. As mentioned earlier,
self sufficiency in foodgrain production. Bangladeshi farmers have to spend
In recent years, export of rice from about US$ 51 in irrigating one hectare
Bangladesh has also increased. land whereas the irrigation costs are
about US$ 32 in Punjab, India and
US$ 18 in Thailand and US$ 26 in
IMPLICATIONS FOR BANGLADESH'S Vietnam. India provides a heavy
TRADE POLICY subsidy for electricity that lowers the
cost of irrigation. In other countries,
Findings of this study have important the government subsidises large scale
implications for trade policy of public sector irrigation projects. The
Bangladesh. recent (January 2003) price hike of
Studies on comparative advantage for diesel will surely increase the cost of
the crop sector activities in Bangladesh irrigation. Considering these realities,
show that Bangladesh does not Bangladesh should provide a subsidy
have comparative advantage in the for diesel to reduce the cost of ground
production of wheat, sugarcane, rape water irrigation and pursue a stable
seed and mustard, chilies and price of diesel. If the international price
certain pulses. Bangladesh may allow is up, the price should remain as it is
unrestricted import of those and the government should take back
commodities for the benefit of the the money during a slump in the
consumers; international market. Bangladesh should
also pursue a policy of rapid expansion
Although Bangladesh has a comparative of rural electrification to facilitate
advantage in the production of HYV electricity connection to irrigation and
rice, the unit cost of production is thereby reduce the cost of irrigation;
relatively higher that the rice exporting
countries in the region. India now Rice production drastically falls in
promotes export of rice and wheat Bangladesh during periods of natural
under special incentives given to the disasters and the supply of rice
exporters that subsidises almost half of becomes scarce leading to an abnormal
the economic cost. The government rise in prices, which affects the

brief no. 3.10 Liberalisation of the crop sector:
can Bangladesh withstand regional competition?

livelihood of the rural landless and state trading agencies, Bangladesh
marginal farmers. The government should not follow the path of India for
allows import by the private sector to food grain imports. Rather the
cope with the situation. The government should regularly monitor
government should follow a policy of a the export/import situation and should
variable tariff rate in the annual budget regulate trade through flexible tariff
on the basis of the assessment of the rates and L/C margin.
previous aman and boro harvest, and the
prevailing world market prices;
India is now importing foodgrain
through the state trading agency FCI.
Considering the past experience of

GOI. 2002. Reports of the Commission for Agricultural Costs and Prices (CACP) for the
crops sown during 2001-'02 season. New Delhi: Department of Agriculture and
Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.
GOI. 1998. Reports of the CACP sown during 1998-'99 season. New Delhi: Department of
Agriculture and Cooperation, Ministry of Agriculture, Government of India.
Hossain, M. and Deb, U. K. 2003. Trade liberalisation and the crop sector in Bangladesh. CPD
occasional paper 23. Dhaka, Bangladesh: Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD).
Shahabuddin, Q., Hossain, M., Mustafi, B. A. A. and Narciso, C. 2002. Assessment of
comparative advantage in rice cultivation in Bangladesh. In: Sombilla, M., Hossain, M. and
Hardy, B., editors. Developments in the asian rice economy. Proceedings of the
international workshop on medium and long-term prospects of rice supply and demand in
the 21st century, December 3-5, 2001, Los Baños, Philippines. Los Baños (Philippines):
International Rice Research Institute (IRRI). p. 369-384.

Suggested citation:
Hossain, M. and Deb, U. K. 2007. Liberalisation of the crop sector: can Bangladesh withstand regional
competition? Reprinted from CPD-IRRI policy brief series by Centre for Policy Dialogue. Series editor U. K. Deb.
Dhaka, 2002. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin, A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an
experiment in pro-poor agricultural research. Policy briefs no. 3.10. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination
Through Rice Research Assistance Project, International Rice Research Institute. 8 p.
brief no. 3.11

Biotechnology for rice improvement
M. Hossain, A. M. Muazzam Husain and S. K. Datta

This policy brief deals with issues related INTRODUCTION
to biotechnology for rice improvement in Scientific revolution in molecular biology
Bangladesh. It focuses on the potential over the last two decades has led to rapid
benefits and risks of rice biotechnology progress in understanding the genetic basis
research and genetically engineered (GE) of living organisms, and the ability to
varieties to be developed from such develop processes and products useful to
research. It provides information on rice food security, nutrition and human health.
biotechnology products in the pipeline, In agriculture, there is increasing use of
and makes a critical assessment of the biotechnology for genetic mapping and
potential benefits and risks of marker assisted selection (MAS) to aid
biotechnology in the Bangladesh context. more precise, time saving and cost
Findings of a survey on knowledge, effective development of new strains of
perceptions and attitudes of civil society improved crops, animal and aquatic
in Bangladesh to identify the constraints species. This development is encouraging,
to adoption of rice biotechnology in particularly for developing countries since
Bangladesh are also reported. conventional breeding that has contributed
This policy brief is based on the output of to the green revolution, no longer provides
the dialogue on 'Sustaining agricultural further breakthroughs in shifting the yield
growth in bangladesh: should we go for potential, solving the complex problems of
biotechnology for rice improvement?' The durable resistance of the plant to insect
Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) and disease pressure and tolerance to
organised the dialogue as part of the CPD- climatic stresses such as drought,
IRRI collaborative activities on agricultural submergence, salinity, heat and cold.
policy research and advocacy. Professor A particularly appealing feature of
Rehman Sobhan, chairman of CPD, biotechnology is the opportunity to
moderated the dialogue. Dr. Mahabub address health problems through improved
Hossain, Professor A. M. Muazzam Husain crops and other agricultural products.
and Dr. S. K. Datta presented the keynote Development of agricultural
paper titled, 'Rice biotechnology: biotechnology is perceived by many as
opportunity, perceived risks and potential posing considerable risks to human health
benefits to Bangladesh'. The minister for and the environment. The current debate
agriculture, M. K. Anwar and state is focused on the initial applications of
minister for agriculture Mirza Fakhrul such biotechnology in developed countries
Islam Alamgir attended the dialogue. where food safety rather than food
Participants of the dialogue debated security is a major concern. At present
the relevant issues. Inputs from the there is little commercial utilisation of
deliberations of the dialogue participants, results from modern biotechnology
as well as from the research papers are research in developing countries, except
included in this policy brief. for cotton and maize, whereas soyabean
brief no. 3.11
Biotechnology for rice improvement

which has benefited most from this insects and pathogens. Research is going
technology, is grown in the United on in the private sector on developing
States. The potential contributions of herbicide resistant seeds to reduce yield
biotechnology to enhanced food and loss from weeds.
nutrition security and poverty reduction
Vitamin-A deficiency affects some 400
have received little attention in developing
million people worldwide, leaving them
countries, beyond blanket statements of
vulnerable to infections and blindness.
support or opposition.
Iron deficiency affects 3.7 billion people,
A debate based on the best available particularly women, leading to high
empirical evidence relevant for poor maternal deaths and infant mortality.
people in developing countries is needed Developing micronutrient dense rices,
to identify most appropriate ways that with higher amounts of iron, zinc and
molecular biology based research might Vitamin-A, can have tremendous impact
contribute to achieving and sustaining on the health of low income people.
food and nutrition security. Food Conventional breeding when combined
insecurity mal and undernutrition result in with biotechnology can provide very
serious public health problems and lost powerful tools to achieve this goal.
human potential in many developing
In the initial years, rice biotechnology
countries. In contrast, in most developed
research was located in the laboratories of
countries the population has reached a
developed countries outside Asia. The big
stationary state, and in many the absolute
multinational companies who invested
decline in population is causing concerns.
heavily in upstream research on
So increased food production is no
biotechnology have back tracked in recent
longer an issue. The developed country
years. They assess rice biotechnology
consumers have enough income to afford
research for Asia no longer economically
a diversified diet needed for balanced
profitable because of the predominance
nutrition. They are more concerned with
of small and marginal farmers and the
safe and healthy food and hence with the
high transaction costs of enforcing
perceived risks of genetically modified
intellectual property rights under weak
organisms (GMO). So the trade-off
judicial systems.
between the benefits and risks would vary
from country to country. Public policy Within Asia, most of the biotechnology
regarding biotechnology and GMOs must research is now confined in the public
take into account the individual country sector laboratories in Japan, South Korea,
context rather than being influenced by India and China, Philippines and the
the debate in the developed countries. International Rice Research Institute
(IRRI). IRRI accounts for only a small
share of the Asian biotechnology
PROGRESS IN BIOTECHNOLOGY research, but it plays a catalytic role in
RESEARCH FOR RICE promoting downstream biotechnology
research in developing countries by
Weeds, brown plant hopper (BPH), yellow
mobilising financial support and
stem borer, sheath blight and bacterial
providing training to National
blight are common pests causing
Agricultural Research System (NARS)
substantial yield loss for rice.
scientists through the Asian Rice
Biotechnologists have been able to
Biotechnology Network (ARBN).
develop methods to transfer bacillus
thuringiensis (Bt) and chitinase genes to Progress has been made in herbicide
enhance resistance of rice against these tolerance and insect and disease

brief no. 3.11
Biotechnology for rice improvement

resistance. This will benefit farmers in border belt), can help reduce yield losses
irrigated ecosystems by stabilising yields and the cost of repeated transplanting of
at high levels and increasing profits due rice in the wet season in low-lying areas.
to reduced yield losses and lower IRRI Scientists have been collaborating
application of pesticides. Some progress with Dhaka University (DU) and
has also been made in developing Bangladesh Rice Research Institute
submergence tolerance and in (BRRI) for developing high-yielding (HY)
incorporating iron and Vitamin-A in rice. salt tolerant varieties applying
These traits have been transformed biotechnology tools, which if successful
mostly in Japonica varieties, which are can help expand the area under modern
grown in temperate zones in East Asia. varieties in the coastal region. The Bt rice
Scientists from IRRI and selected NARS has been proved effective in controlling
are now working for transferring these stem borers and chitinase genes for
genes in popularly grown indica varieties. sheath blight disease and is now being
Major products which are available but considered for release in China and being
undergoing tests on biosafety and health field tested in India. Resistance against
effects are Bt rice for stem borer and these pests has been found difficult to
sheath blight resistance, iron and incorporate in high yielding varieties
Vitamin-A enriched rice. through conventional breeding. If the Bt
rice is widely adopted, farmers will be able
to save the yield losses from stem borers
POTENTIAL BENEFITS: THE and at the same time reduce pesticide use
BANGLADESH CONTEXT that will have a positive effect on human
Policy makers in Bangladesh must not be health and the environment.
complacent with the past achievement in Even more important for Bangladesh is
meeting the food needs of the people. the potential benefit of GE rice in
Food security will remain a major concern addressing major health issues. The level
so long as population continues to of micro-nutrient induced malnutrition in
increase. Indeed, Bangladesh must Bangladesh remains one of the highest in
increase production of rice by 300,000 the world. Nearly 60% of the children
tons every year to meet the needs of the under age five are underweight and more
growing population. Bangladesh must than half are stunted. Almost half of the
exploit all scientific opportunities for children suffer from chronic energy
shifting the yield frontier and reducing the deficit and more than 70% of pregnant
yield gaps for sustaining growth in rice women suffer from anaemia due to iron
production. Application of modern deficiency. In rural areas where three-
biotechnology tools provides Bangladesh fourths of the population live,
such an opportunity. Use of molecular malnutrition is high due to lack of
biology tools and molecular markers have knowledge regarding (or financial capacity
made it possible to map and tag to afford) a balanced diet or the economic
quantitative trace loci (QTL) that affect capacity to purchase supplemental iron
characters such as yield, quality and and Vitamin-A. Since the poor consume
tolerance to submergence and drought nearly 150 to 170 kg. of rice per year,
stresses and problem soils. The gene for incorporation of a small amount of iron
submergence tolerance (SUB1) has and Vitamin-A in rice can go a long way
already been identified, which if in meeting the deficiency of these critical
incorporated into the popularly grown micro-nutrients. Rice scientists have
modern varieties such as BR-11 and already incorporated iron in rice varieties
Swarna (Indian variety grown widely in the using genetic engineering, which are

brief no. 3.11
Biotechnology for rice improvement

currently being evaluated for before recommending their release to
bioavailability and food safety concerns. farmers for adoption. Many Asian
Genes controlling beta-carotene have governments have started having
already been incorporated into IR-64, the regulations in place by enacting biosafety
most widely grown rice variety in the rules. Enforcement of related laws and
world and also in Brri dhan29, the most safety procedures will minimise the risk of
widely grown boro rice variety in biotechnology products to human and
Bangladesh. Adoption of these varieties environmental health.
in Bangladesh after proper evaluation of
the food safety and environmental effects
and economic viability, may contribute PERCEPTIONS AND ATTITUDE OF
substantially to improved nutrition and BANGLADESH CIVIL SOCIETY
human health. Given the debate on the perceived risks
and benefits of biotechnology in the
PERCEIVED RISKS OF developed country, it is useful to study the
exposure to Bangladesh civil society
groups to the debate and their attitude
As with any science and technology, and perceptions regarding rice
biotechnology can bring with it both biotechnology research in the Bangladesh
benefits and risks. It is the risk of context. The study is important because
agricultural biotechnology that has the civil society groups mould public
received widespread publicity in the media opinion and any negative opinion may
and there are issues of serious stand in the way of releasing the products
controversy in Europe. Many non- however beneficial they might be to rice
governmental organisations (NGOs) are producers and consumers. The
particularly vocal about the effect of Bangladesh Rural Advancement
genetic modification of crops on the Committee (BRAC) implemented the
environment and human health. In the study by sending questionnaires by post
public debate biotechnology has become to agricultural researchers and
synonymous with GMOs, although they educationists, NGO representatives, mid
are only one of the many products of to high level government officials and
biotechnology. The potential risks are the eminent professionals. Nearly 300
same in Bangladesh as in other countries questionnaires were returned.
of the world.
About 96% of the respondents reported
The risks associated with modern that they have heard of 'biotechnology'
biotechnology fall into four categories: while 56% reported they have heard of
food safety, environmental, ethical and GMOs with 86% among them correctly
socioeconomic. Some of these concerns defined the GMO as genetically modified
relate to potential risks inherent in any organism. Only 40% of the respondents
innovations and can be described as reported hearing the word 'Frankenstein
technology inherent. Others are related food', the slang version of GMO used by
more to value systems or cultural its critics. The major sources of
practices and can be described as information on biotechnology were
technology transcending. Scientists have newspapers (55%), magazines and
been designing ways of minimising literature (14%) and television/radio
potential risks associated with (17%). NGOs were a relatively minor
biotechnology and generating information source of information regarding
for the consumers on negative side effects biotechnology and GMOs (11%) which

brief no. 3.11
Biotechnology for rice improvement

Yes (96%)

No (4%)

Have you heard of biotechnology?

Magazines/ Literatures (14%)

Radio (17%)

Others (3%)

NGOs (11%)
Newspapers (55%)

Sources of information on biotechnology

indicates that in Bangladesh NGOs are of the respondents answered positively,
yet to play a significant role in negative and nearly 60% answered 'yes, under
advocacy on biotechnology. certain conditions'. The conditions in
order of priority were 'if environment
The perceptions regarding negative and health impact are assessed before
effects of biotechnology were 'adverse releasing the products' (89%), 'if the
effects on human health' (46%), 'threats products provide substantial health
to biodiversity and ecology' (19%), benefits' (58%), 'if the products
'hazardous change in the environment' contribute to reduction in pesticide use'
(16%), 'farmers will face seed related (57%) and 'if research is done under the
problems' (11%), 'may change human public sector and the products are
gene and behaviour' (11%) and 'unethical provided free of charge to the farmers'
science' (6%). Thus the food safety (36%). The unequivocal positive support
concern is predominant in the mind of for biotech research was less among
the respondents as opposed to NGO respondents (13%) and high for
environmental or ethical concerns. There respondents from agricultural research
is also some concern regarding and educational institutions (41%).
socioeconomic equity as expressed by the
In response to the question, 'whether
response to farmers' access to seeds.
support import of transgenic rice varieties
In response to the question, 'whether into Bangladesh?' 52% of the
support biotech research for rice?' a third respondents answered positively and

brief no. 3.11
Biotechnology for rice improvement

Yes, under certain condition (62%)

No (6%)

Yes (32%)

Whether support biotech research for rice?

Yes, under certain Yes (32%)
condition (62%)

No (6%)

Whether support import of transgenic rice
varieties into Bangladesh?

another 39%, under certain conditions. Bangladesh. The support was also very
The positive response (including the high among the NGO (74%) and other
conditional positive) was 96% for civil society groups (78%). 82% of the
respondents from the agricultural research respondents supported field testing of
and educational institutions and 89% for Vitamin-A enriched rice in Bangladesh.
the NGO and other civil society groups.
In brief, Bangladesh civil society is quite
The major conditions for support were
aware of biotechnology and GMOs
stated as, 'if food safety and
environmental impact are assessed', 'if with a fairly good knowledge and
field testing is done under biosafety understanding of the potential benefits
regulations'. and risks. A large majority supports
biotech research on rice and import of
Among the respondents 28% agreed that GMOs, if their food safety and
iron deficiency is a very serious health environmental effects are properly
problem in Bangladesh, and another 54% assessed and the field testing is done and
as a serious health problem. Vitamin-A supervised under proper biosafety
deficiency was considered a very serious
problem by 31% of the respondents and
a serious problem by another 54%. Thus,
an overwhelming majority consider them
as major health issues for Bangladesh.
80% of the respondents supported For addressing the issues of food
field testing of iron-enriched rice in insecurity and poverty biotechnology

brief no. 3.11
Biotechnology for rice improvement

research must focus on the problems of Bangladesh civil society would not be
small farmers and poor consumers and on hostile to biotech research and GMOs, if
problems that the conventional plant regulated under international standards of
breeding has found it difficult to address. biosafety. The government has already
Private sector research is unlikely to take developed biosafety regulations which
on such a focus, given the lack of markets may need to be ratified by the Parliament.
that ensures adequate returns to The implementation mechanism has also
investment. Without a stronger public to be put in place so that public and
sector role a form of 'scientific apartheid' private sector research organisations can
and 'technology divide' may develop, in start testing the GE products in
which cutting edge science becomes Bangladesh. The government should also
oriented exclusively toward developed be proactive in adjusting the education
countries serving the interests of large and research infrastructure, for bringing
scale farmers. the benefits of this cutting edge
The Government of Bangladesh (GOB) agricultural science to the doorsteps of
must take a stand on biotechnology poor farmers and consumers in
research and import of GMOs, and have Bangladesh.
a proper policy in place. The majority of

Suggested citation:
Hossain, M., Husain, A. M. M. and Datta, S. K. 2007. Biotechnology for rice improvement. Reprinted from CPD-
IRRI policy brief series by Centre for Policy Dialogue. Series editor U. K. Deb. Dhaka, 2002. In: Magor, N. P.,
Salahuddin, A., Haque, M., Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor
agricultural research. Policy briefs no. 3.11. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research
Assistance Project, International Rice Research Institute. 8 p.
brief no. 3.12

Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth
Charlie Riches

INTRODUCTION replenishment with balanced fertilisation
and organic recycling.
Rice production in Bangladesh has risen
three-fold since the 1960's. Over 65% of Farmers have also noticed greater pest
the area planted to rice in the country is occurrence in the dense rice canopies
now under high-yielding varieties (HYVs) associated with excessive fertiliser use.
and more than half the cultivated land is Insecticide use in Bangladesh is low
now irrigated. The increased yields have compared to elsewhere in Asia, being
benefited both consumers and resource- about one third of the amount applied
poor producers. However, the adoption per hectare to rice in India. However,
of HYVs has been accompanied by recent surveys indicate the use of at least
widespread use of inorganic fertilisers one application of insecticide in every rice
and pesticides. There are now concerns crop by more than 80% of rice growers.
that degradation of the soil and the After they have been spraying, farmers
toxicity of pesticides in the environment regularly observe the death of
could threaten the sustainability of the earthworms, beneficial insects, fish, frogs,
productivity gains. snakes and small rodents, and themselves
experience nausea and headaches.
As they have come to rely increasingly on
inorganic fertilisers and pesticides to During 2000, Poverty Elimination
deliver increased productivity, farmers Through Rice Research Assistance
themselves have observed changes in the (PETRRA) undertook stakeholder
environment around them. In meetings consultations in nine areas of Bangladesh,
held during the preparation of this policy to understand and prioritise the rice
brief, farmers explained that they link production issues of resource-poor
reduced earthworm activity to continuous households. Of the issues raised in these
application of fertiliser and observe that consultations, three themes emerged that
soils are now 'harder', possibly due to were particularly related to resource use
declining organic matter content with and the environment:
intensive production of HYV rice. Crop losses to pests and damage to the
Indeed, average soil organic matter environment and human health caused
content at 0-15cm below the soil surface by regular use of insecticides;
declined by 11% from 1967 to 1995, while
Lack of knowledge on fertiliser
deficiencies in secondary and micro-
management linked to a perceived
nutrients, in addition to the nitrogen that
decline in soil fertility, despite regular
is most frequently applied to rice, are
use of what were considered to be
increasingly common. Despite a four-fold
excessive doses of fertiliser; and
increase in the national sales of fertiliser
between 1980 and 2000, soil fertility has Problems of timely access to irrigation
become depleted as agriculture has of boro rice linked to increased
intensified, in the absence of proper abstraction and in coastal areas a lack of
brief no. 3.12
Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth

technology for intensification of impacts with changes in rice production
cropping on seasonally saline soils. practices? and

Several PETRRA sub-projects (SPs) What are the impacts of wider
responded to this demand by evaluating adoption of the new technology on the
and promoting innovative technologies. agri-environment?
As the PETRRA policy brief 'From
technology to livelihoods' makes it clear,
the impacts of these technologies extend
far beyond improvements in rice yield, The experiences of farmers and
farm income, and food security. researchers on the PETRRA SPs
Adoption of successful technologies has demonstrate that environmental impacts
also led to reduced financial vulnerability, associated with intensification can be
increased accumulation of assets and slowed or even reversed. PETRRA's work
changing livelihoods for poor households. suggests that three key practices provide
the 'building blocks' for rationalising
But is the adoption of these pro-poor resource use:
technologies compatible with care for the
environment? To find out, environmental Planting healthy seed
issues were explored with farmers and Use of healthy farm-saved seed results in
project staff in six selected PETRRA vigorous, pest and disease tolerant crops,
SPs (listed in Table 1), in 5 diverse agro- allowing farmers to reduce pesticide use
ecological zones. From the start, emphasis by 50% on average and completely on
within PETRRA has been on low-cost some farms.
technology that increases farmers' yields
through a more efficient use of resources. "A weak baby needs expensive medicine but a
The establishment of a healthy crop, healthy baby will be free of disease and strong,
avoiding excess use of fertiliser or and so needs less care and expenditure" (seed
insecticide and efficient use of water have health project farmer).
been guiding principles. This policy brief
examines the environmental impacts of Doing without insecticides
selected rice production practices Insecticide use costs farmers on average
evaluated by PETRRA SPs. It does so by almost Tk. 2,000 per hectare each year.
addressing two key questions:
The belief is widespread that
Do farmers associate environmental preventative, prophylactic applications of

Table 1. Selected PETRRA sub-projects
Sub-project Implementing agencies Districts visited

Seed health BRRI-IRRI Gazipur

Livelihood improvement BRRI, IRRI, DCPUK, AID-Comilla Rangpur
through ecology (LITE)

Rice-duck BRRI, FIVDB Sylhet

Site specific nutrient BRRI, RDRS Thakurgaon
management (SSNM)

Integrated crop management BRRI, RDRS Thakurgaon

Coastal water resources BRRI, HEED Khulna

brief no. 3.12
Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth

Pre-LITE t. aman

Pre-LITE boro

t. aman 2003
boro 2004

% Households



Control Participanting
villages villages

Proportion of farmers using insecticide in participating and neighbouring villages after two years of LITE sub-project activities
in Comilla and Rangpur

insecticides are needed to protect the applications has increased rice yields by an
crop. In intensive rice growing areas one average of 270 kg. per hectare, reduced
to two sprays are common in aman, while urea application by 23 kg. per hectare and
two applications of granular carbofuran increased household rice provision by one
followed by one spray of liquid insecticide month. Farmers have also observed fewer
are used in boro. But in 324 field trials pests as the rice canopy is less dense in
conducted by livelihood improvement
through ecology (LITE) project farmers Box 1. Hazards to health from pesticides
in both aman and boro, insecticide use
Registered Insecticides used in rice in
provided no yield benefit whatsoever. Bangladesh are classified by the World Health
Sweep nets and other methods of control Organisation as 'highly' or 'moderately'
known collectively as integrated pest
harmful to human health. Other damaging
management (IPM) were used instead of products, although now banned, are still sold
insecticide with no observed increase in cheaply in some areas. Farmers have little
pest damage. Following the LITE knowledge of their effects. Users are exposed
recommendations, saves, on average, to toxicity hazards during handling, mixing
more than a litre of insecticide per and spraying. The only precaution taken by
hectare each year, safeguarding soil fauna, most farmers is to cover their nose and mouth
with a cloth when spraying. Studies elsewhere
beneficial insects and aquatic life. in Asia indicate that this practice actually
concentrates a film of chemical which is then
Nutrient management based on crop inhaled from the cloth. In areas where LITE has
requirements been active, farmers are ceasing the routine
use of insecticides, ending their exposure to
Using readings from a leaf colour chart health risks.
(LCC) (see Picture 1) to schedule urea

brief no. 3.12
Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth

rice managed this way. Emphasis on split with a combination of technologies. In
applications of urea for top-dressing addition to applying fertiliser on the basis
when indicated by the chart, instead of of soil test kit results rather than
the larger less frequent applications that traditional wisdom, they tested use of the
are commonly used, will also reduce green manure dhaincha (Sesbania sp.) or
losses to ground water by leaching. the pulse mug dal (mung bean), in the
fallow period before aman. They observed
"Before we learnt about the LCC, we applied
that rice following these legumes needed
fertiliser by guessing." (SSNM project
less fertiliser and saw more earthworms
and millipedes as the increase in organic
Picture 1 matter improved the soil condition.
"After growing mug dal the soil changes colour"
(ICM project farmer).
Output in the dry season with less water
has been achieved by increased efficiency
of water use and crop diversification.
Savings in the cost of diesel used for
pumping have been achieved through a
40% reduction in transmission losses of
irrigation water by building concrete
aprons around shallow tube wells, by
manual compaction of earth canals, or by
An alternative approach, in which the delivering water to nearby plots through
application of a balanced fertiliser is flexible piping. Pressure on water
based on the results of soil tests, has also resources has also been reduced by
resulted in yield benefits and reduced growing wheat, potato or mustard, crops
fertiliser use. Integrated pest management that require less irrigation than boro rice in
(ICM) project farmers previously applied the rabi season. These are important
up to 40% more urea than the dose lessons for more efficient and equitable
required by the crop. Farmers report a use of ground water resources in the
25% increase in yields with more future.
judicious fertiliser management, for an
outlay of just Tk. 20 per year on a test kit
Intensification on coastal saline soils
covering Nitrogen, Potassium and
Phosphorus. Farmers in the coastal zone are restricted
by soil and water salinity to a single crop
of aman rice, followed by sesame. But by
PUTTING INTEGRATION INTO storing fresh river water in existing
PRACTICE drainage canals before the end of the
rains, the coastal water SP has developed a
These individual building block
new source of irrigation for boro rice,
technologies can be combined in an ICM
demonstrating the potential for rice
approach that saves input costs, increases
double cropping on an estimated one
yields and delivers environmental benefits.
million hectare of coastal land. In this
Three PETRRA SPs examined this
zone, farmers grow low-yielding
approach in different areas of the country.
traditional varieties with little fertiliser and
rarely apply pesticides. In the 2002 aman
ICM season substantial losses were caused by
ICM project participants experimented pests in farmers' crops. By using sweep

brief no. 3.12
Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth

Table 2. Environmental benefits associated with PETRRA technologies
Technology options Benefits
Healthy seed The foundation of a healthy, pest and disease tolerant crop.
Compatible with IPM, so contributes to reduced or eliminated
insecticide use.
Insecticide-free production and IPM Saving of 1.03 l insecticide per hectare per year in the aman-boro system
with no yield penalty.
Safeguards soil fauna, aquatic life and human health.
Efficient nutrient management
Leaf colour chart (LCC) Lower doses of nitrogen reduces losses by leaching to ground water.
Reduction in insecticide use in healthy crop canopy.
Soil test kit Balanced application of nutrients to degraded soil.
Up to 40% reduction in use of urea compared to farmer practice but 1
ton per hectare increase in boro yield.
Green manure crops Increased soil organic matter and reduced urea application to
subsequent crop.

Efficient use of water resources
Improved canal construction 40% reduction in water losses from canals and reduced use of diesel for
Diversification by planting potatoes, Spreads demand for irrigation water across seasons.
wheat and mustard in Rabi season
Conservation of 'sweet' canal water Introduction of boro rice without increasing soil salinity.
to irrigate saline coastal soil
Organic farming with rice and ducks 20% yield increase with NO fertiliser and NO pesticide.
Safeguards soil fauna, aquatic life and human health.
Increases soil organic matter.

nets, light traps and bird perches in an pesticides. 'Rice-duck' plots are not
IPM approach in HYV rice they were able weeded and savings in production costs
to harvest two and half times more than over an average of 30% for conventional
usually produced from local varieties. rice management, while yields are 20%
Flood protection schemes built in the higher. Researchers have recorded
early 1970's prevent the annual addition significant reductions in the populations
of silt that once enriched the soil. of key pests, including brown plant
Applying fertiliser based on soil test hopper and rice bug, in this system. In
results can also contribute to sustained Sylhet, individual farmers are already
productivity, whilst avoiding over use. managing up to 0.4 hectare using the
Weeds growing in the boro season provide rice-duck system and observing healthy
a welcome source of non-saline fodder rice crops, with increased root growth,
for livestock at a time of the year when greater organic matter in the soil and a
good quality grazing is in short supply. healthier, pesticide free environment.
Intensification without increasing soil
salinity or use of insecticides therefore
promises a better future for coastal zone LIVELIHOOD GAINS WITHOUT

PETRRA SPs have demonstrated
Organic farming with ducks practical technologies that allow farmers
Keeping ducklings foraging for weeds and to use fertilisers and irrigation water more
insects in rice allows farmers with ready effectively and to end prophylactic
access to cow dung or compost to applications of insecticides. The evidence
produce rice without fertiliser or shows that by exploiting these

brief no. 3.12
Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth

opportunities farmers can increase their to productivity benefits, the new
yields as well as reduce inputs. This is of technologies promoted by PETRRA SPs
particular importance to the poorest deliver healthier crops and soils, and are
farmers, who often cultivate under share- kinder to aquatic life and human health -
cropping and other tenancy arrangements clearly a win-win situation. The demand
and who therefore need to maximise yield for knowledge in the farming community
in order to harvest sufficient rice to cover about the cost-effective use of inputs is
rent and household needs. strong. The support of policy makers will
be crucial if that demand is to be met
Farmers regularly observe the effects of
with widespread dissemination of
poorly managed fertiliser and pesticide
information about these successful
use in their environment. Their
experience suggests that in addition

Suggested citation:
Riches, C. 2007. Enhancing rural livelihoods need not cost the earth. In: Magor, N. P., Salahuddin, A., Haque, M.,
Biswas, T. K. and Bannerman, M., editors. PETRRA - an experiment in pro-poor agricultural research.
Policy briefs no. 3.12. Dhaka (Bangladesh): Poverty Elimination Through Rice Research Assistance Project,
International Rice Research Institute. 6 p.
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