BIDS study finds flaws in beneficiary selection process
A new study has unearthed flaws in the beneficiary selection under the "Amar Bari, Amar Khamar (My house, My farm)" project as it found the inclusion of ineligible households in the much-hyped scheme.
Non-deserving members, especially the influential or their close ones joined the village development organisations (VDOs) and received assets distributed initially, said the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS) study.
SM Zulfiqar Ali, senior research fellow of the BIDS, and Badrun Nessa Ahmed and Jayed Bin Satter, respectively, a research fellow and a research associate of the autonomous think-tank, conducted the study on the Tk 7,885 crore project.
The beneficiary selection process was not robust and was not done based on any objective criteria and no quantitative data was collected about the potential members, said Ali in a presentation.
"No baseline data is, therefore, available about the beneficiary and the other households in the village."
Ali made a presentation on the findings of the study at the Annual BIDS Conference on Development 2022, which took place in the capital recently.
The selection process was carried out through village-level meetings with villagers, used criteria such as poverty status and land ownership, and priority was given to women, he told The Daily Star.
The study -- Micro Savings, Poverty Reduction and Economic Empowerment: Evidence from Amar Bari Amar Khamar Project -- was conducted among 4,800 households with 2,880 beneficiaries and 1,920 non-beneficiary households from across the country.
The project was one of the special initiatives of the government aimed at alleviating poverty in 2009 and based on a new concept of micro-savings and matching grants.
The government also set up Palli Sanchay Bank to provide an institutional structure for the activities carried out under the project in 2014.
Although the targeting was not perfect, a large majority of poor households were included in the project, according to Ali.
"Despite several challenges, results show that the project has contributed significantly to the wellbeing of the beneficiary households."
He went on to say that the project contributed significantly to increasing income, asset accumulation, poverty reduction, willingness to save, crisis coping, etc.
The majority of the beneficiary households are satisfied with the outcome of the project with 52 per cent being fairly satisfied and 32 per cent being very satisfied.
Had the project been implemented properly, it would have contributed further, according to Ali.
"The very beginning idea of "home-based farming" is still far from reaching its desired level," he said.
This was not the first time the project faced question.
In 2021, the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the planning ministry prepared an impact evaluation report.
Although the target group was poor and unprivileged people who were constantly facing a food crisis, the guideline on the selection process was not followed properly, it said.
"As a result, some non-poor families have been included in the scheme."
Each association, consisting of 60 members, has an average of 9 to 10 members who are not eligible, according to the report.
The IMED said there is no adequate workforce to properly monitor the large-scale economic activity being implemented across the country.
It suggested more effective training on business ventures, saying self-employment should be ensured among beneficiaries and that a rural savings bank should take appropriate steps to increase the loan amount.
The report said the project activities have a clear impact on improving the quality of life of beneficiary families.
"Poverty-focused projects of this kind are still relevant, especially after the Covid-19 pandemic, and given the fact that there are significant spatial and social inequalities," said Ali.
Under the project, 1.20 lakh VDOs were established and the number of households stood at 56.77 lakh. A total of 33.63 lakh family farms were established.
Talking to The Daily Star, Bazlul Haque Khondker, a professor of economics at the University of Dhaka, called 10 ineligible recipients in a group of 60 a huge number.
"As a result, the project must have failed to achieve its goals," he said.
"Due to a lack of a proper database, we usually face such a problem. If we could develop a community-based selection system, it will resolve the problem."