Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development
The Academy is famous for its evolved model “Comilla Approach to Rural Development” which is well-known at home and abroad, BARD received Independence Award in 1986 for its remarkable contribution to Rural Development.
The series of action research projects carried out by the Academy in the early sixties led to the development of five basic models, namely TTDC, RWP, Family Planning Programmes, TIP and Two-tier co-operative ushering in a new chapter in the field of rural development in Bangladesh. These Projects were developed as mutually supportive and inter-dependent as a package which gradually became known as the “Comilla Approach” or “Comilla Model” to rural development. In essence, it combined the features of administrative and physical infrastructure, cooperative self-help, people’s participation, local level planning, comprehensive area development and integrated approach to the development of rural institutions for increased production, employment generation, human resources development and overall socio-economic development of rural areas. The institutions involved in this approach were the Thana Council, Thana Central Co-operative Association (TCCA) and Thana Training and Development Centre (TTDC). The basic objectives of the approach were to create an effective administrative system, combined with a training and service centre and to create a base from which social and economic changes could be introduced to the villages through the formation of co-operatives. The Academy in the sixties introduced measures of modernisation of villages through the Central Co-operative Association which would organise village-based primary co-operatives. In the early years, modernisation of agriculture was given high priority and the non-farm classes, being attracted by the co-operative system of development, formed non-agricultural societies. Appreciable success was recorded in the sixties, showing a steady growth of village co-operatives, enrolment of members, capital formation, active participation of the villagers, close collaboration between the Central Association and the nation building departments in developing farmers’ organisations to increase production and develop human resources. The social laboratory (the then Kotwali Thana) gradually turned into a surplus area from a deficit one. The non-agricultural co-operatives developed steadily helping income generation and capital accumulation of their members in the off-farm sectors.
The genesis, project experiments and development, results, principles evolved and the eventual adoptions of five basic components of the Comilla Approach are described below.
Most villages in Bangladesh normally suffer from flood and water-logging in monsoon. The need for devising a system for flood protection embankments, drainage, canals and development of all weather communication was strongly felt both for public convenience and for facilitating development. The Academy involved the villagers and local councils in the development of those physical infrastructures through an experimental project which later came to be called Rural Works Programme (RWP). Projects at the local level were formulated and implemented by the villagers and the council representatives. In addition to providing flood protection and facilitating communications, it generated employment for the landless in the lean period. The success of the programme led to its nation wide replication in 1962-63. The Academy continued its role in the evaluation of RWP and training of field staff. Development of market centres, bridges, culverts, sluice gates and the construction of TTDC and Union Parishad Building mark the expansion of the scope of RWP in recent years and the new components are now being added and implemented by Local Government Engineering Department and the Ministry of Local government, Rural Development and Co-operatives (LGRD&C).
In Bangladesh, the period from December to March normally remains dry. In the absence of irrigation arrangement, no agricultural operation could be taken up during this period even though water remained available in the canals, rivers and in the underground. The simple operation of lifting the surface and underground water and channeling water through canals remained unrealised due to lack of appropriate technology and organisation. Academy’s experiment in this Thana (now two upazilas) to use surface water through lift pumps and underground water through tube-wells with the management of village cooperatives led to a rice cultivation season (Boro) during this period.
As the implementation of the experimental programme as well as the operation of the irrigation technology requires collaborative efforts of cooperators and Thana level officers, a new institutional arrangement emerged which came to be known as the Thana Irrigation Programme (TIP). By 1969, this became a country-wide programme. The present coverage of more than 5.4 million hectares of land under irrigation through low lift pumps, deep and shallow tube-wells is largely the contribution of TIP. It is being implemented by Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation (BADC) under the Ministry of Agriculture and also expanded through private sector initiatives.
Fragmentation and smallness of holdings of the farmers/villagers and their state of non-organisation were perceived as serious constraints and a co-operative system was designed to build the village organisational infrastructure to overcome these obstacles. It was perceived that without the co-operative infrastructure, the small farmers would not be able to obtain or utilise economically inputs specially irrigation and credit. Without the co-operative infrastructure, there would be little possibility of the collection of equity capital for investment and ultimate self help.
This kind of exploration and consultation with the villagers as well as experimental group action induced the farmers to form the basis of the co-operative pilot experiment of the Academy. In 1961-66, through a 5-year mechanisation project, the two-tier co-operative system was developed in Comilla. Firstly, the primary co-operative societies were formed in the village and these were federated to Thana Central Co-operative Association (TCCA). It was thought that the village based co-operatives, federated to the Central Association at the thana, could offer a good solution to overcome the villagers’ problems and difficulties.
The Thana Central Co-operative Association (TCCA) was designed to work as a strong supporting organisation at the nearest central distance from the village and to associate it with the Thana Council and Thana level officers for building a close partnership between the government officials and people’s representatives which were so much necessary for addressing the problems of rural areas.
The two-tier co-operatives went through different stages of development viz, the experimental phase at Comilla and it was first started on a test basis in three other Thanas in 1963. From 1963 to 1968, the programme expanded to the remaining 20 Thanas of the Comilla district under the administrative management of Agricultural Development Corporation. In 1970, it was taken up as a national programme titled Integrated Rural Development Programme (IRDP) for the diffusion of the modern agricultural practices to increase production through the institutional framework of the two-tier co-operatives. This tow-tier co-operative was found viable and was adopted by the Government in 1972. It was replicated all over the country under the Bangladesh Rural Development Board (BRDB).
Thana Trining and Development Centre (TTDC) was designed as a model of decentralized and coordinated rural administration for the sake of development. TTDC aims at effective coordination between the nation building departments and the organisations of the rural people (local councils, cooperatives, etc.). The people and the government are partners of development and the TTDC provides the institutional mechanism to promote this partnership. The Thana level officers of various departments have been brought in one centre for that purpose and all the necessary services and inputs have also been located in the same centre. The departmental experts become trainers and facilitators of the people. Thus within a few years of the establishment of TTDC, the Thana Centre had been turned into a hub of training, planning, coordination and service centre. TTDC was used as the base for introducing the decentralised administration system like Upazila Parishad. Setting up TTDC in phases throughout the country was accepted as a programme by the government in 1963 and gradually it was replicated in all Thanas.
The Academy undertook project experimentation of family planning in the early 1960s through village co-operatives. Village women and midwives nominated by the cooperatives, used to work as family planning agents and distributed contraceptives. Publicity on family planning through folk songs in the market centres and suitable locations was introduced. These activities led to the development of a framework for thana family planning programme which provided the basis for national family planning programme launched in 1965 throughout the country. The government family planning programme launched in 1965 was basically based on the experimental results at Comilla.
The progrmmes discussed above, which were integrated in nature produced the maximum effect when undertaken in a coordinated manner. Together they constituted a model of rural development which is popularly known as the Comilla Model. Co-operatives organised the people; RWP built the rural infrastructure; TIP helped the use of water resource for irrigation during the dry season; TTDC coordinated the development activities, trained the villagers to develop skills and provided services and supplies. The five components were inter-linked and mutually re-enforcing. The concept of Integrated Rural Development (IRD) was evolved and took a concret shape in this country through the research and experimentation activities of BARD.
Recently government has accepted CVDP as a successful model for comprehensive development of rural areas of Bangladesh which is the latest experiment on rural development initaited by BARD in 1983. The broad objective of the CVDP is to improve the socio-economic conditions of all groups of people in the village by organising them into one broad-based co-operative organisation, so that effective use of resources could be ensured; overlapping of rural programmes being implemented by government and non-government organizations could be reduced through coordination under one organization; and effective service receiving mechanism of various government departments could be evolved. The project was implemented as pilot phase from July 1996 to June 1999. In 1998, the project was accepted by the government as a model of rural development for further expansion. In this regard, RDA, Bogra was involved to experiment it in the northern part of Bangladesh during demonstration phase (1999 -2004). Later on, government has involved BRDB and Cooperative Department along with BARD and RDA to expand the programme all over Bangladesh since 2005.
BARD initiated an experiment namely Small Farmers and Landless Labourers Development Project (SFDP) in 1976 in order to evolve a model of collateral free micro-credit as well as functional linkage between the rural poor and the conventional government banking system. Initially, the Academy experimented the project in Comilla, Mymensingh and Bogra districts in 1976. After successful experimentation and demonstration for 28 years in 30 Upazilas of 8 districts in Bangladesh, the government transformed the project into a separate organization, namely “Small Farmers Development Foundation (SFDF)”. The specialty of SFDF is to address the problems of the tomorrow’s poor, the small and marginal farmers.
This is an experiment of human excreta management for sanitation along with environment development and micro nutrient production through adopting an improved technology, called Eco-toilet. BARD has experimented the project with the technical assistance from Japan Association of Drainage and Environment (JADE) and financial assistance from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). The experiment shows that the toilet owners have been using fertilizer produced from human excreta (urine and faeces) in their farm, which has reduced the amount of chemical fertilizer. After successful experimentation, the government of Bangladesh undertook the project and set up 1500 model Eco-toilets in 1500 Unions of the country for demonstration.