Thursday, 14 October 2010


Today we're visiting Progoti (People's Research on Grassroots Ownership & Traditional Initiative) in the Shyamnagar Upazila (district), a densely populated area in the south-west coastal region of Bangladesh. It is a 3-hr ride from Khulna (6 hrs return) so we set out early. At one point we are a mere 5 kms away from the border with India.

Progoti started in 1973 as a local club for cultural events to create mass awareness about cultural heritage. During Bangladesh's struggle for independence the club members of the club were patriotic freedom fighters.

The Organisation
freedom fighter

In 1988, after the area was devastated by a cyclone and everything was destroyed, Progoti sprang into action and provided disaster relief, rehabilitation and community support. By the mid nineties the organisation had morphed into  local development and environmental preservation organisation, adopting the motto that 'development and progress cannot be achieved without human development'. It runs water management programs (including a water distribution program under emergency response after Cyclone Ayla in 2009) and biodiversity projects supported by the likes of the European Commission, UNICEF and Oxfam. Progoti is also engaged in awareness raising of the impact of climate change in hopes it can prepare local people for the impending threat of losing land, livehood and livestock as the coastal parts of Bangladesh may well be permanently under water in the not too distant future. Already,there is water water everywhere ~ but not a drop to drink as the water quality is very poor.

Progoti has brought together a number of different people for us to meet and we discuss their livelihoods and supply chains. Similar issues brought up in other communities come to the fore here. No access to markets, unfair prices for crops, discrimination against minorities. There are three minority women present who as day labourers earn less than 60 taka/day= less than half a dollar), whereas male labourers earn double that amount (120 taka/day).

Minority Women
middle (wo)men
handicraft producers

We spend time analysing their supply chains and gaps in the system. Given that they are a varied and loose group of people, there is no one solution for this group to propose. What we do go away with is that they all need better information systems and that Progoti would be well served if it could coordinate its environmental awareness raising efforts into a centralised knowledge repository that could be used by way of knowledge brokers during normal times and be particularly effective during times of crises such as cyclones. 

Before we leave the region we visit a 700-year old mosque in an orphanage and the remnants of a thriving 'old city' that once existed in this area.

ancient wall
Cue-ing for food @ orphanage


info said...

Sounds fascinating Patrice. You are having a great journey. Enjoying your posts. Wendy D.

patricebb said...

thanks heaps Wendy - it's great to get your feedback. It keeps me ~ and the blog ~ going