Nutrition Boosted By Income Generation
Most households receiving training on poultry farming
Farhana Yeasmin, 24, remembers what it was like when her husband was the family’s sole earner. Because he was a day laborer and made little money, they struggled to even pay for basics. And if he couldn’t find work, the family sometimes skipped meals.
But in 2018, the Bangladeshi mother of two young children was introduced to Suchana, an international development project committed to reducing chronic undernutrition leading to stunting – low height for age – primarily through powering people to boost their incomes. Specifically, the program is targeting children under 2 years old living within 235,500 households in a low income area in north-eastern Bangladesh.
The seven-year project, which is supported by iDE, specifically targets households in the Sylhet division with women of childbearing age (15-45 years), having identified gender discrimination and women’s disempowerment as key factors leading to poor nutritional status among women and children.
Funded by the UK’s Department for International Development and the European Union, Suchana is also being implemented by Save the Children, WorldFish, and Helen Keller International.
As a Suchana beneficiary, Yeasmin chose to rear chickens under the project’s income generation efforts and was provided with a brood of 18 healthy birds. Over the next two years, Yeasmin was also provided with technical support and learned to use earthen bowls, which the chickens prefer to lay their eggs in.
The technique, previously unfamiliar in Yeasmin’s community, has significantly improved hatching rates and increased egg production for the young mother. She also received training on treating her clutch if they became sick, and was connected to a chicken vaccination service.
“We did not know a lot of things,” says Yeasmin. “We were homemakers who did not go out and we didn’t have any scope to learn new things. Because of Suchana, we could learn and improve our lives.”
Yeasmin now regularly prepares meals of eggs or chicken meat, fulfilling the protein requirements of her family’s diet. She’s also established a contract with a wholesaler and sells about 200 eggs a month, earning roughly 3,000 Bangladeshi Taka (US$35), which provides a healthy buffer against days when her husband cannot find work.
She says rearing chickens has greatly improved her family’s well-being and nutritional health, and she now plans to set up a commercial chicken farm.
Strengthening Markets with Systems Thinking
More than 150,000 households targeted by Suchana now benefit from the project’s income generation efforts, with most households receiving training on poultry farming. Other activities promoted by Suchana include aquaculture, sheep and goat farming, bamboo crafts, nutrition life skills, horticultural skills, and antenatal and postnatal care. Some 70 percent of all Suchana beneficiary households are now considered food secure.
iDE Bangladesh programs associate director, Saroja Thapa, said iDE primarily provided technical assistance and advisory services to the consortium on applying market-based approaches, focusing on increasing household income and strengthening livelihood strategies.
“As the project has evolved through the inception and learning phases, the roles of each consortium partner have adapted to match the requirements of the project,” says Thapa.
“iDE’s role has expanded from a purely advisory and training role to include market facilitation aspects under the program’s income generating and homestead food production activities.”
iDE has continued to provide support and expertise on systemic thinking and market integration in four main areas:
1) Capacity development of consortium staff;
2) Systemic change for strengthening the market system;
3) Monitoring and results measurement;
4) And knowledge management.
iDE’s Tool to Measure Market Resilience
iDE’s Market Systems Resilience Index (MSRI) has found businesses that improve nutritional outcomes in Sylhet have become more resilient to shocks and stressors, such as COVID-19 and flooding. More back up businesses were in place, in case any closed, and businesses were more actively communicating with one another and their customers to better provide goods and services during the pandemic.
The findings were reached using MSRI twice over an 18-month period. The index tested the strength of market links and value chains that exist within the project area. The index scores 11 equally weighted determinants, providing data on the resilience of households and market actors, helping iDE adapt programming and direct efforts to building commercial ties between input suppliers, farmers and wholesalers.
Moreover, iDE uses MSRI to determine if any given local market ecosystem is sustainable. iDE believes we also need to assess the ability of systems to withstand, react, and transform in the face of shocks and stressors that impact markets such as extreme weather events, food insecurity and conflict.