Bangladesh is one of the most densely populated countries on the planet. Two-thirds of the population live in rural areas. The country’s natural resources are scarce and, consequently, contested. Poverty in these areas drives many people to migrate to the cities or abroad – mostly to the Middle East – in search of work. To improve access to the market, Helvetas brings together smallholder farmers with market traders. They sell their vegetables, fish or milk on better terms and partner with food-processing companies.
We support local service providers so they can train economically disadvantaged families to produce in line with market requirements. Landless women, for example, plant medicinal plants along small roads and sell them to traders. Furthermore, young women and men get vocational training so they can find work at countless family businesses, which in turn boosts local economic development.
Helvetas has been active in Bangladesh since 1997, where we advocate for the rural population to participate in the economy and local governance. One focus is on promoting women to take an active part in public and economic life. We encourage and enable them to run for local elections and to join women’s organizations to put their concerns across more effectively at regional and national level. The communal authorities are important partners as well. They introduce democratic decision-making processes, establish professional financial management and lawfully collect taxes to finance public services.
Climate change is only going to make Bangladesh’s challenges worse. Rising sea levels, recurrent flooding and the increasing salinity of the soil threaten the livelihood of small-holder farmers. To safeguard crop yields, they are increasingly using salt-tolerant varieties and adapting farming methods. We also alert people to climate risks by means of early warning systems and information campaigns. In addititon, extremely poor families are supplied with water storage facilities to guarantee their access to clean drinking water during the dry season.
Since late 2017, Helvetas has worked with Rohingya who have fled violence in Myanmar and now live in refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar. To provide support for the more than 800’000 refugees is a huge challenge. Helvetas has distributed hygiene kits to particularly vulnerable refugee families and is constructing communal latrines and biogas kitchens. The project contributes to a better health situation as the use of latrines reduces open defecation and thus the risk of disease. And it decreases the firewood consumption and thus deforestation. Furthermore, together with ACTED/REACH Helvetas contributes to improved information mapping in the refugee camps and makeshift settlements.
Visit the website of Helvetas Bangladesh.
If you would like to know more about our work in Bangladesh, click on each project for details.