LGED: Activities of haor infrastructure and livelihood improvement project

--A . K . M Harun-Ur-Rashid, Project Director

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The Haor Basin in north-eastern Bangladesh is subject to very peculiar conditions and suffers from extensive annual flooding.  This makes livelihoods extremely vulnerable and limits the potential for agriculture production and rural enterprise growth.  For 6 to 7 months of the year, the cropped land remains completely inundated.  Strong wave action adds to the vulnerability as it can wash away the land and poses a major threat to many villages in the Haor.

Rural poor households have to depend upon fisheries and off-farm labour.The communication infrastructure is poorly developed with submersible rural roads providing some connectivity during the dry season and boats remain the main source of communication during the wet season.  The poor communication network limits the incentives for increasing production, discourages rural growth, limits access to markets and off-farm employment opportunities and limits access to existing social services particularly health and education. The miseries aggravate by the strong wave actions, which wash away the land and poses a major threat to the people living in the Haor areas. Protection of villages against flood action, proper management of the fishery resources and securing existing livelihoods such as crop and animal production are critical needs for the poor rural households living in the Haor region.

Haor Infrastructure and Livelihood Improvement Project (HILIP) is built on successful elements of the IFAD-financed Community Based Resource Management Project (CBRMP) and Market Infrastru-cture Development Project in Char Region (MIDPCR), which have been operating in Haor and Char districts respectively. It will promote key activities of those projects, such as: (i) the LCS approach for village road construction; (ii) strengthening community management of water bodies; and (iii) women’s market areas.

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The target group of the project will receive the direct or indirect benefits are mainly: (i) the poor households living in the haor basin; (ii) smallholder farming households with less than 2.5 acres of land; (iii) small fishing households deriving a major share of their income from fishing; (iv) women from poor households; (v) small traders and market intermediaries in local markets.

The project has five components, which are as under and will be implemented in the 5 (Five) districts of Habigonj, Netrokona, Kishoregonj, Brahmanbaria and Sunamgonj covering 28 Upazilas and 165 Unions:

1)   Communications Infrastructure: Under this component, the project will build about 250 km of Upazila and union roads including submersible roads. The component will also build bridges and culverts and 50 boat landing stations;

2)   Community Infrastru-cture: Under this component the Project will build 350 km of community (village) roads, 78 small village markets (hats / bazars), protection works against wave erosion for about 78 villages and 52 markets;

3)   Community Resource Management: Under this component, the project will provide support for 300 existing Beels, which will come from the Community Based Resource Management Project (SCBRMP) of LGED and 200 new water bodies will be incorporated in other four districts. The project will strengthen the institutional arrangements for Beel Management and invest resources in developing water bodies to improve their productivity and biodiversity through Beel excavation and re-excavation to improve fish habitat, establishing fish sanctuaries for increased production; transferring Beels to the surrounding poor communities for long term use after the formation of Beel User Groups (BUG) by the project, impart training to BUG for improved fisheries management and also impart training to women for swamp trees plantation to restore swamp forestry, promoting pond fish culture, cage and pan culture through sustainable aquaculture practices for enhanced income of the poor including fish processing, drying and marketing.

4)   Livelihood Protection: This component under which the project will assist to protect existing resources of livelihood such as crop cultivation particularly rice, horticulture, ducks, poultry etc by adopting a value chain approach for increased income. The strategy is to identify specific sub-sectors with potential for growth where project activities will help capitalize on the opportunities and remove constraints to assist producers to expand their production and access markets, which will ultimately lead to increased income.

5)   Project Management: This component will put in place the management structures to implement, coordinate, project support and monitor all project activities.

The project will be funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Spanish Trust Fund (STF) and the Government of Bangladesh (GOB) with a total of BDT94, 538.73 lakh covering a period from June 2012 to June 2019.

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It is assumed that about 688,000 households of the entire population of the 165 Haor Unions will receive indirect benefits from improved infrastructure and economic opportunities. The direct beneficiaries of the project will include about 110,000 Labour Contracting Societies who will be employed as skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled labour.  Some of these members are also expected to benefit from other project activities as well.  It is expected that the project will benefit 20,000 member of Beel User Groups of whom at least 25% will be women.  The livelihood protection component is expected to benefit 94,094 persons directly in 28 Upazilas.  Overall the project will create employment of more than 5.66 million person days.  This translates into full time employment for about 2215 laborers annually for the duration of the project.

The project will promote for the introduction of new technologies in rice/ horticulture, poultry and livestock for increased income to improve the livelihood of the poor people living in Haor areas. These will enhance the productivity of small holders farms and reduce their vulnerability to adverse weather condition. Destitute women will find employment in infrastructure programs through LCS and will subsequently receive support in economic activities. Improved infrastructures will ease access to health centers and schools.

The overall responsibilities of the project will be assumed by Local Government Engineering Depart-ment (LGED) and will be under the overall guidance of an Inter-Ministerial Project Steering Committee (IMPSC) headed by the Secretary of the Local Government Division, MLGRD & C. A Progress Review Committees (PRC) will be established in each district and Upazila to oversee and support the implementation process. There will be Project Management Unit (PMU) in Dhaka and offices in five project districts and also in 14 Upazilas within the existing structures of LGED for the implementation and monitoring of all project activities. The project will also involve Union Parishads (Ups) in mobilizing communities for the workshops/training programs for effective implementation of the project activities.