“Despite past progress, one in nine people does not have enough food to eat. Another two billion may eat, but their meals lack the nutrition necessary for proper health and development. These terrible failures are preventing children, communities and nations from reaching their full potential.”Kofi Annan, Former Secretary-General of the United Nations
Hunger and malnutrition remain the leading threats to public health worldwide. 820 million people will be going to bed hungry today, and 2 billion more do not know where their next meal is coming from. USAID’s Strengthening Household Ability to Respond to Development Opportunities III (SHOUHARDO III), implemented by CARE Bangladesh, is addressing food insecurity for poor and extreme poor households in eight districts of northern Bangladesh, where the extreme food crisis is higher than the rest of the country.
Building on the impact of SHOUHARDO I and II, which together have reached over 770,000 people since 2004, SHOUHARDO III is a five-year $80 million Resilience Food Security Activity, or RFSA, funded by USAID, with complementary funding from the Government of Bangladesh (GoB) that is achieving enduring change for 549,000 poor and extreme poor people.
What did we accomplish?
- Increased incomes: By building household capacities to earn income and increase productivity through better and improved technologies, to address barriers to markets, and to increase skills for employment, more than 165,000 participants are currently involved in income-generating activities, with 132,000 participants engaged in profitable value chains, and 108,000 women reporting increases to their income.
- Improved health and nutrition: By increasing the uptake of key health and nutrition practices, 43,000 adolescent girls received iron and folic acid supplements, 50,000 children have been reached through growth and monitoring promotion, 88,000 children received Vitamin-A distributions, and 57,000 pregnant and lactating women received food rations to support the continuous consumption of nutritious foods.
- Strengthened household relationships: Based on feedback from the communities, the program shifted to engage esteemed religious leaders to share and discuss messages around women’s empowerment, violence against women, and the negative impacts of child marriage with men during Friday prayers. As a result, positive changes are being seen, and 7,900 couples have been directly reached through dialogue sessions to further improve their relationships.
- Increased resilience: By working with communities to anticipate, prepare for, and mitigate the effects of disasters, communities lead in the formation of savings led loan treasury which have helped them overcome serious shocks, like COVID-19. To date, 1,400 such savings groups have been formed across the working areas. Additionally, 11,600 people have been trained on disaster preparedness, and 100,744 plinths, or living platforms, have been successfully raised to keep households safe and dry from the monsoon floods.
- Responded to COVID-19: In addition to installing billboard messages on health, hygiene, and nutrition across 25 remote villages, 207 handwashing stations were installed, 17,800 SHOUHARDO III participants received cash support, and the program initatiated an innovative recurrent monthy monitoring survey to better understand and adapt to the impacts of COVID-19.
How did we get there?
Empowering communities: SHOUHARDO III interventions have enabled the gradual pro-active participation of the poorest of poor in raising their concerns and demands to the local government. One of SHOUHARDO’s prominent focus is mobilizing communities for a collective voice through male and female groups. Community Groups, including female representatives, are submitting their demand-notes to the Union Parishads before their final budget is being finalized. To date, nearly 600 poor and extreme poor citizens from the SHOUHARDO III working villages have obtained membership at Union Parishad committees.
Collaborating with partners and government: Implemented in partnership with six national partner non-governmental organizations (PNGOs), with technical support and quality leadership from CARE, SHOUHARDO III creates the space for government and private service providers and communities to discuss and achieve improved service delivery. A governmental organization, the Local Government Engineering Department of the Local Government Rural Development and Cooperatives Ministry of the Government of Bangladesh, supports infrastructure, while a technical partner, WorldFish Center, supports fisheries activities. It is SHOUHARDO III’s long-standing collaboration with the government that enables the delivery of public services to the poorest segment of the society, even in the most remote locations of northern Bangladesh.
Increasing knowledge and capacity building opportunities: CARE and partners impart knowledge through trainings focused on improving health, hygiene and nutrition practices, water and sanitation services, nutrition supplements, working with local authorities to educate and equip participants against natural and man-made disasters, as well as providing input support for engaging households with income-generating activities.
Prioritizing women and girls: SHOUHARDO III puts women's and girls’ empowerment at the core of its programming approach, catering to the needs of the marginalized, particularly young mothers and new brides. The project mobilizes women in economic activities, as well as increasing women’s ownership of hard-earned cash and assets. Particular focus is given to improving women’s capacity as the decision-maker in the household and at the community level. For improving women’s leadership capacities from an early age, SHOUHARDO III forms adolescent groups for enabling a peer-to-peer support platform. These groups not only include young girls, but also adolescent boys for bringing discussions on breaking gender stereotypes.
Adapting based on participant feedback: Perhaps SHOUHARDO III’s greatest lesson has been the impact of providing participants the opportunity to provide feedback. Recognizing Bangladesh was their home before the program and will continue to be long after the program closes out, it is ultimately the program participants that will make the decisions for their livelihoods and investments, choose which behavior(s) to adopt, identify linkages to thrive. SHOUHARDO III can only catalyze the development process for them, and the program has rigorously done so through intentional community engagement efforts – from consulting with participants on a strategy, to providing them the findings of a recently conducted study or assessment. Participants were continually given the space, time, and opportunity to provide feedback through conversations with field staff or directly calling the hotline specifically for participants’ queries.
Where do we go next?
The program’s cost extension phase (through 2022) is geared towards achieving sustainability and self-reliance for the participants. This is being done holistically by facilitating the linkages that they can have with the private and public sector, as well as the market. SHOUHARDO III will also leverage relevant stakeholders in continuously providing pro-poor solutions including in financial services and women’s access to economic opportunities and healthcare.
Want to learn more?
Check out the SHOUHARDO III website.