An epitome of rural development | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, May 28, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, May 28, 2009


An epitome of rural development

BARD celebrates its golden jubilee

Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) celebrated its 50th year of operations yesterday. BARD has conducted over 700 researches in a wide range of fields from agriculture to rural economy. Photo: STAR

As the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD) celebrated its 50th year of operations yesterday, the academy widened its scope of work in advancing the socio-economic condition of the rural population.
Located amid natural scenic beauty in and around the premises, BARD is at the foot of the Lalmai Hills at Kotbari, 8km from Comilla town. BARD is also known as the Comilla Model.
So far, BARD has conducted over 700 researches in the field of agriculture, cooperative, poverty, microcredit, rural physical infrastructure, rural industries, development communication, good governance, gender and development, environment development, local government, population control, quality improvement of education, health and nutrition and social change.
BARD has undertaken 25 new researches this year, in line with poverty reduction strategies and millennium development goals.
“The main issue of the current studies are farm management and livelihood of rural household, impact of safety net programmes on aged people, information communication technology on rural development good governance,” Khairul Kabir, director general of BARD, told The Daily Star.
The Local Government Engineering Department, Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corporation, Upazila Complex and Bangladesh Rural Development Board are four well-known vital government components, contributing to the country's socio-economic and rural development.
But it is not commonly recognised that formation of these models was an outcome of research carried out by the Bangladesh Academy for Rural Development (BARD), founded by the visionary Dr Akther Hameed Khan, for development of the rural economy.
The Comilla Model, which introduced some basic and long lasting changes in rural development in this country, is the outcome of the creative and farsighted leadership of Akther Hameed Khan, the first chief executive of BARD.
BARD-experimented activities spread quickly throughout the country with patronage of the government during the sixties and the seventies. In this manner, a successful stride of rural uplift was made in the country.
“Through BARD's continued efforts in the past 50 years, new milestones have been added to this successful journey,” says Kabir.
He says three such new models are: Small Farmers Development Foundation (SFDF), Comprehensive Village Development Programme (CVDP) and the most recent model of Eco-toilet.
The primary objective of BARD's research is to help take effective initiatives to solve the rural problems of Bangladesh. Another objective is to collect updated information on socio-economic conditions of the villagers and share those in training classes, to make training more effective, the BARD DG says.
Besides research, BARD is engaged in a wide range of training activities, both for government and non-government officials involved in rural development. Initially, BARD provided training to only government officials.
Kabir says: “At present, the clientele of BARD is very wide and ranges from the high officials at national and international arenas to grassroots beneficiaries.”
National-level trainees include different cadre and non-cadre officials of the government, nongovernmental officials engaged in rural development, leaders of local government institutes and local organisations, beneficiaries of the grassroots levels and students of different universities and colleges.
Training courses for the officials and leaders of local government are organised regularly, to acquaint them with different policies and prioritised programmes and projects of the government.
“Demand for BARD training is increasing by the day,” says the DG.
According to data, the academy organises 150-180 courses on an average for nearly 6,000 participants a year. Since its inception on May 27, 1959, BARD was able to train more than 20 lakh participants on various aspects of rural development.
Some important international programmes organised by BARD in recent years are: Emerging Threats and Opportunities of Globalisation for Rural Development and Defining the D-8 Future Rural Development Agenda and Innovative Microcredit Delivery System for Rural Poverty Alleviation.
“But the most distinctive feature of BARD is its action research,” says the DG.
BARD's reputation in rural development is mostly due to its contribution to action research or pilot projects, Kabir says.
He says the purpose of the pilot project is to study some aspects of rural development as a continuous process in order to discover practical solutions to rural problems. BARD incorporated action research as one of its three basic functions immediately after its inception, and thus put into practice Akhter Hameed Khan's vision to make the academy "a living centre of village development where knowledge is not only collected and disseminated, but some fresh and critical thinking is done, and ideas and schemes are analysed and tested as in a laboratory".
“BARD continues to create innovative rural solutions,” says the DG. The recent models that have been adopted by the government are: Comprehensive Village Development Programme (CVDP), a cooperative model that is being implemented in 21 upazilas. The salient feature of the programme is, “One village one cooperative institution”.
Small Farmers' Development Foundation (SFDF) is another new model developed for collateral-free microcredit for small and landless farmers through commercial banks.
The Eco-toilet Model is a joint innovation of BARD and Japan Association of Drainage and Environment, to promote rural environment. This ecologically friendly toilet converts human waste into organic manure through an in-built mechanism in the toilet.
“We are confident that the academy will be able to reflect the hopes and aspirations of the rural people of Bangladesh in the days to come,” says the DG.
BARD was given the national award in 1986 for its remarkable contribution to rural development.

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