Making Markets Work for the Chars (M4C)
The three major rivers of Bangladesh, Jamuna, Padma and Teesta, flow through north-west Bangladesh depositing silt from the Himalayas. The islands formed from silt deposition and erosion – the chars – have an average life expectancy of some 20 to 30 years. The population, living on the chars, is vulnerable to climatic shocks such as seasonal floods. They also face challenges impeding economic growth due to remoteness and distance from the mainland.
In support of the Government of Bangladesh’s (GoB) efforts to fight poverty, UK’s Department for International Development (DFID) initiated the Chars Livelihoods Program (CLP) in 2004 with the goal to help extreme poor people on the Chars ‘graduate’ out of poverty and become ‘economically active poor’. To establish and strengthen sustainable market systems for these ‘economically active poor’, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) has launched the Making Markets Work for the Chars (M4C) project. The project duration is for five years (December 2011 to November 2016) and under aegis of the Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives through the Rural Development and Co-operatives Division (RDCD) of the People’s Republic of the Government of Bangladesh.
M4C aims to improve the market systems for the poor people living on the chars of ten districts in Northern and North Western Bangladesh, thus opening up new opportunities for job and income generation. These ten districts are Sirajganj, Bogra, Gaibandha, Kurigram, Jamalpur, Lalmonirhat, Nilphamari, Rangpur, Tangail and Pabna.
Market systems serving the chars face an array of economic obstacles and inefficiencies - principally at the local level. In addition, ‘community-level’ problems include a vacuum of local market institutions, poor access to market information, technical challenges for crop processing and storage, and gaps in agricultural knowledge needed to cope with the unique char environment. The project will therefore have a strong focus on achieving market-system changes at the local level: on the chars themselves and in the surrounding areas. At the same time, it will be vital to strengthen the market linkages, relationships and business models that can bring improved services to chars households, and better access to expanding urban and national markets for char producers. Larger private-sector companies that buy, trade or process chars produce, or supply inputs and services, will therefore be important partners in M4C’s approach. To achieve the above, the project supplements the Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) approach with Participatory Market System Development (PMSD) approach in its strategies. M4C will implement pilots in the first year in three agricultural sectors - maize, chilli, jute and a cross-cutting sector – transport.
Major Intervention Strategies
Major intervention strategies include:
a) Supporting formation of producer groups, sales service points on the chars, etc. depending on the specific char context to establish the required knowledge, skills, trust and economic relationship between char producers and relevant service providers and market actors;
b) Partnering with lead firms (local/national) and government agencies to test innovative business models with respect to addressing wider systemic constraints relevant for char producers in the selected sectors.
More information on the project can be obtained from Fouzia Nasreen, General Manager (firstname.lastname@example.org)