To be poor is to be deprived of the means for a decent life. Because poverty expresses itself in many ways, several approaches are used to assist those who are affected. Strategies focus, in varying degrees, on material and social deprivations such as those related to health, safety and living conditions, as it is easier to observe and measure these aspects than it is to observe and measure people’s ability to achieve meaningful and dignified lives vis-à-vis other people. All forms of poverty are, in fact, relative and subjective because it is in relation to social contexts that they are judged unacceptable.
People who are involved or could be involved in forestry must consider the ways in which people’s livelihoods might be affected, for better or worse, by any changes in the management and use of forests and trees outside forests.
Deprivations of poverty include:
income: the lack of means to purchase basic goods and services
consumption: inadequate access to basic goods such as food and water
capability: insufficient knowledge, health or skills to fulfill normal livelihood functions
living conditions: poor housing, unhealthy or dangerous environment, and bad social relations.
Development workers draw on five categories of assets or capital to explore the various dimensions of well-being and the means for achieving it. They are:
Natural capital. Access to land and to resources such as trees or animals allows people to invest in productive processes. Poor people living in or near forests often lack formal rights to access, manage and use the resources. In many instances, they rely on forests for subsistence because they not only lack secure tenure, but also lack the technology and market information that would enable them to add value to products through processing, thereby increasing their chances to move out of poverty.
Social capital. Relations among people are shaped by histories of interactions which regulate further interaction. Reaching agreements on collective forest management and enforcing the terms require strong social capital. If the State or outside businesses are involved, local people also need good links with external and more powerful interest groups. For many people living in and around forests, the critical deficit related to social capital is the uncertainty surrounding rights over resources.
Human capital. Forestry affects human capital to the extent that rural people’s health is often linked to forest products used for nutrition and medicine. Moreover, sustainable forest management as well as enterprise development requires skills and knowledge, which are in short supply when access to education and information is weak or non-existent.
Financial capital. People need money to make long-term investments in forests, tree crops and equipment, but access to financing is often problematic for those who live in rural and remote areas. Where there are clear rights over forests and trees, these resources can serve as collateral for enterprise development.
Physical (built) capital. Buildings, roads and tools provide the security, mobility and capability that allow people to produce, transform, exchange and consume goods. Although people living in remote forested areas have easy access to wood fuel and medicinal plants as well as timber for construction purposes, they often do not have access to markets because roads and transport facilities are lacking.
Courtesy: Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO)
Nearly half of the population of 135 million in Bangladesh still lives below the poverty line—as measured by income, consumption, and ability to meet basic human needs—making Bangladesh one of the poorest countries in the world.
The incidence of poverty has been declining in Bangladesh (Table 2.1). The national head count index of poverty measured by the upper poverty line declined from 56.6 percent in 1991-92 to 40.0 percent in 2005.1 During the period, urban poverty reduced at a faster rate than rural poverty. On the other hand, headcount index measured by the lower poverty line declined from 41.0 percent in 1991-92 to 25.1 percent in 2005. The trend has been similar in both rural and urban areas. At the same time, all indicators of human poverty like life expectancy at birth, infant mortality rate, population having access to drinking water, and adult literacy rate have shown improvements over time. However, the absolute values of many of these indicators are still unacceptable and the challenge is to improve the situation rapidly.
Head Count Ratio of Poverty, 1991-92 to 2005
Bangladesh has made significant progress towards attaining the MDGs by 2015. In case of majority of the indicators, Bangladesh is on track with prospect for earlier attainment of targets for some indicators. Bangladesh has successfully achieved gender parity in primary and secondary education. The country is on track to achieve the targets of halving the proportion of people living below the poverty line and suffering from hunger, net enrolment ratio in primary education, and reduction of child mortality. However, several lagging areas are there like primary school completion rate, adult literacy rate, access to safe drinking water by the rural people, and maternal mortality ratio. Similarly, participation of women in wage employment, access to tenurial security and essential drugs is still low. Access to Personal Computers (PCs) and Internet services has also been quite limited. Bangladesh thus needs to put sustained efforts to attain the MDGs by 2015. There is also the critical need for complementary external resources for financing the progress towards these goals. Historically, the gap between commitment of financial support by development partners for meeting MDGs and the actual availability of such resources has been quite glaring.
Vision 2021 of the Government of Bangladesh envisages Bangladesh as a middle income country, free from poverty and with healthy growth, stable commodity prices, reduced income and social disparity, secured health and education, entrenched democracy, and capacity to meet the challenges of climate change. The endeavors would be aided by modern information and technology, which also would realize the goal of a “Digital Bangladesh” by 2021. The General Economics Division (GED) of the Planning Commission has revised the second Poverty Reduction Strategy Paper (PRSP). The document entitled “Steps towards Change: National Strategy for Accelerated Poverty Reduction II (FY 2009-11),” or “NSAPR II” is in consonance with Vision 2021 of a middle income Bangladesh with qualitative change in the lives of the people.
Ensuring participation, social inclusion and empowerment to attain the vision for poverty reduction strategy is one of the major areas of Eminence activities. We are extending our research and advocacy activities that create awareness among the mass on population growth, women’s advancement and rights and poverty-environment linkages. Despite rises in household income, income distribution has become more unequal over time in the country. Regional differences in the incidence of poverty also need in-depth analysis so that the problem can be addressed adequately. Therefore, Eminence is actively engaged in sustainable improvement in health, nutrition and family welfare status of the people, particularly of the poor and vulnerable groups, including women, children and elderly with ultimate aim of their economic and social emancipation and physical and mental well-being. In line with the NSAPR II, Eminence is also engaged in BCC and advocacy activities to promote public health through health education within government and channels outside it. Eminence is building coalition with mass media for providing health education to the population on a continuing basis regarding methods of preventing communicable and non-communicable diseases, caring practices for children, adolescents and the old aged, and creating awareness on nutrition and proper sanitation.