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Food Insecurity, Extreme Poverty, and Underemployment in Marginal/Backward Areas

Policymakers define backward areas for different administrative reasons, such as geographic allocation safety net benefits, etc. Generally, backward areas cover 3 distinct types: (i) haors, baors, beels, (ii) chars and coastal area, and (iii) hilly areas of the country. These areas are backward on multiple counts: adverse geo-climatic conditions, poor or no physical infrastructures and human capital, and vulnerability to shocks, etc. For the purpose of this study backward area would be limited to the haor region in northeastern Bangladesh.

The haor region in north-eastern Bangladesh forms part of the Meghna basin. It covers about 43% of areas in the 7 haor dominant districts and 6% of the country’s total area. Crop Agriculture (mainly Boro rice) and fisheries are the main economic activities in haor areas. Crop (rice) production accounts for 27% of the country’s total boro production and 15% of the country’s total rice production. Over the last couple of years, the haor region contributed to national GDP at around 6-8%. Despite this contribution to total national GDP, the poverty rate is relatively higher in some haor districts compared to national average (national average: 24.3% vis-à-vis Kishoreganj: 53.5% and Netrokona: 34.0%, Source: BBS 2017). Food insecurity in haor area is higher compared to other areas. For example, in Sunamganj food insecurity status is at the highest level due to the poor status of nutrition (FAO and GoB IPC Chronic Food Insecurity Situation, 2016). Pre-monsoon (end of March and beginning of April) flash flood negatively affects harvesting of boro and thereby is the main cause of income and/or employment loss that leads to poverty, food insecurity, malnutrition, and short-term out-migration. Estimates of poverty and other socio-economic welfare indicators are mainly based on Household Income and Expenditure Survey (HIES) and data is generated every 4-5 years. It would have been easier to design effective policies to improve the poorer socio-economic conditions of haor population if their conditions are known at a shorter period of time. Thus, there is a need for the estimates of short-term or seasonal changes of the socio-economic conditions of haor populations.

Objectives and Scope of the Study

• Estimate seasonal poverty, food insecurity, health, and nutritional status, and other indicators such as employment rate, school enrollment rate, women empowerment, livelihood options, migration and occupational status, etc.

• Examine how changes in seasonal food insecurity, poverty, and nutritional status are linked with the households, local, and national socio-economic factors (e.g., assets, land owned, income, educational level, etc.).

• Examine linkages between the labor market indicators and food insecurity.

• Examine the reach and effectiveness of existing social safety net programs.

• Suggest specific policies to improve the situation of backward areas.


Sample Design and Procedure

 A sample of 2000 households will be drawn for the purpose of the study.

 Half of this sample will be drawn from 4 (Sunamganj, Sylhet, Netrokona, and Kishoreganj) of the 7 haor districts in proportion to floodplains, deeply flooded, and foothill status.

 The rest will be drawn from the neighboring areas that are not affected by seasonal flooding and have smooth transport communications round the year. 

 Three-round panel survey to understand the dynamics of short term or seasonal poverty, food insecurity, and employment

o March-April (pre-flooding)

o July-August (flooded)

o November-December (post-flooding)

Research Team

Mohammad Yunus, Senior Research Fellow (Study Director)

Binayak Sen, Research Director

Mohammad Mainul Hoque, Research Fellow

Zabid Iqbal, Research Fellow

Mitali Parvin, Research Associate

Md. Riaz Uddin, Research Associate and

Kashfi Rayan, Research Associate

Timeline of the study

 The study will be conducted between January 2019 and June 2020.

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