The Palli Karma Sahayak Foundation (PKSF) has taken up a programme to lift 10 lakh people out of extreme poverty in the next five years under a project called the Pathways to Prosperity for Extremely Poor People (PPEPP).
With joint funding from the UK's Department for International Development and the European Union, the foundation will help 2.5 lakh ultra-poor families to exit poverty in over two dozen districts in the first phase of the project, from 2019 to 2025.
Depending on the success of the first phase and subject to the approval of the UK government, the project will support another 10 lakh extreme poor people in the second phase from 2025-2030.
The project has two specific targets – to enable the extreme poor to come out of abject poverty, and to support the development of national institutions.
The beneficiaries of the project will be people living in the coastal belt, in haor areas and in ethnic minority communities. The project will connect the extremely poor, including the physically challenged, elderly people and ethnic minorities to income generating activities.
The north-western riverine and char areas and flood hit Kurigram, Rangpur and Nilphamari districts are the most impoverished regions of Bangladesh. A total of 11.3 percent people of the total population were living under the extreme poverty line last year.
The Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics and the General Economics Division of the Bangladesh Planning Commission say that 1.87 crore people still live under the extreme poverty line.
The PKSF surveyed several districts which are very susceptible to poverty. The report says three out of every ten people in haor areas are ultra-poor. Those areas have no income generating opportunities except fishing.
Though fishing is their main occupation, this single source of income is being controlled by influential local people. Flooding every year and adverse effects of climate change make the people living in haor areas even more vulnerable.
Moreover, nearly 40 percent of the people in the coastal belt are living under the poverty line. They depend on agriculture, fishing, day labour, rickshaw pulling and small businesses for a livelihood.
In the meantime, another survey on ethnic communities found that these groups comprise 1.8 percent of the total population, while nearly 60 percent of them live in the north-western parts of Bangladesh.
Ethnic communities including the Santal, Oraon, Munda, Pahari, Kora, Nunia, Turi, Teli, Tanti, Rajwar, Maale, Mahle, Mahato, Kurmi, Kole and Koda mainly depend on agriculture. They work on the fields only four months a year.
Around 70 percent of the people of ethnic communities do not have their own land to cultivate. These communities are not covered by social security programmes. Only 23 percent of them have hygienic sanitation facilities. Around 90 percent of ethnic people living on the plains are ultra-poor.
The PKSF says the project will provide loans to the extremely poor to create agricultural and non-agricultural entrepreneurs.
There will also be funds for crisis periods, conditional loans, services to minimise disaster damage and for creative initiatives. Apart from this, the project will also enhance the capacity of the ultra-poor to withstand natural calamities such as floods, waterlogging, salinity and cyclones.
Families that cannot work will be selected for inclusion in social security programmes. In addition to financial help, the project will facilitate group activities, skill development, technical training and value chain development.
The project will promote climate adaptive livelihoods, sustainable income generating activities, technology transfer and connecting markets.
AQM Golam Mawla, deputy managing director of PKSF, said, "We will train the extremely poor families to earn from alternative income sources."
"They will also receive technological support. There will be continued support for their health and nutrition. We will focus on multidimensional approaches so that they do not sink below the poverty line again once the project concludes," he added.
The cost of the project has been estimated at £109.6 million, and this will be jointly funded by the Department for International Development and the European Union.
The PKSF is the key implementing organisation, and it will receive £63.5 million to work on generating livelihoods, nutrition and community mobilisation.
Other organisations are working on market, policy and life-cycle development. The project has a provision for a five-year extension following evaluation of the first phase. The same donor will fund the extension to bring another 10 lakh people out of ultra-poverty.
Nearly two lakh ultra-poor households recently doubled their income in six years under a project of the PKSF. The programme, under the banner of 'Ujjibito' (infused with new life), was initiated in 2013 in 1,724 unions, targeting 3.25 lakh extremely poor families.