Basic needs analysis of participants in social forestry projects in north-west Bangladesh
Satisfaction of basic needs is among the priority objectives of the Bangladesh government, a priority reflected in the forestry sector. Elaborate programmes have been chalked out in both public and private sectors. This study attempts to assess performance of a public sector social forestry project in Bangladesh in terms of basic needs fulfilment of participating rural farmers. `Thana Afforestation and Nursery Development Project' is a major social forestry project in Bangladesh, covering the whole country except the Sundarbans mangrove forest and the hill forests in the east. The project has several components, major among which are agroforestry (AF) and woodlot (WL) schemes. The project started in revised form in 1991-92. This research attempts to study the consumption pattern of basic needs goods (food and non-food) of participants and the project's contribution to satisfying basic needs. Rajshahi Division comprises north west Bangladesh and supports a large area of social forestry plantations. A stratified multi-stage random design was adopted for sampling participants. Stratification was based on agro-ecological zones (AEZs), while the stages consisted of districts, villages and participants. The sample consisted of 180 participants (90 each from AF and WL) from 32 villages distributed in five districts and in five agro-ecological zones. A household questionnaire survey was administered to participants to apprehend various aspects like socio-economic profile, basic consumption needs, involvement in the project, benefits derived, and knowledge, awareness, attitude and opinions. Tree growth measures of participants' plots were also recorded to estimate expected final return, since no plot has been harvested, despite reaching the rotation age in 1998. Data analyses on socio-economic aspects of participants reveal that most males and females occur in the most economically active age class. 54% are literate with 24% having primary education. Agriculture is the main occupation (54%), while 32% have other occupations like tradespersons and professionals. Seasonal employment is dominant (57%) depending upon the nature of agriculture. Most households (42%) reported monthly income in the range Tk. 1000-2000. AF plots are mostly in the range 0.2-0.4 ha while WL plots are larger (0.4-1.0 ha). Although the project is designed for landless farmers, in reality only 17% of farmers were genuinely landless, the remainder having their own land in the range 0.02-0.11 ha. Own land of AF and WL farmers is highly unequally distributed with Gini concentration ratio (GCR) of 0.60 and 0.61 respectively. 75% of participants have cattle (2 or more head). Food consumption of participants has been studied to some depth, food being the most important basic needs item. Participants consume 1010 gms of food per head per day, rice and vegetables constituting 55% and 22% of average daily food basket. Energy and protein consumption are relatively high in the national context (2427 Kcal and 72.38 gms per head per day). They derive higher food value from all major food items except fish and fruits, which are dearer and less available items in Rajshahi (also explained by income elasticity and regression analysis results). Poverty analysis tells quite an encouraging story: poverty head count ratio (HCR) of 21.4, compared with national HCR of 47.5. AF farmers are less poor (HCR 20.76) than WL farmers (HCR 22.05). Depth of poverty is higher for WL farmers, while severity of poverty is higher for AF farmers. Income inequality of participants is less than both national and rural distributions (GCR of 0.35, compared to 0.43 and 0.38 respectively). WL farmers suffer less income inequality. Incidence of poverty is lowest in TMF zone and highest in LBT zone, although income inequality is lowest in the latter zone. Both schemes are profitable in all AEZs, with the WL scheme promising greater returns per ha and HBT zone showing the highest NPV value. Mean financial IRRs are high: 57% for AF and 48% for WL. Conversely, financial BCRs are higher for WL plots (5.32) than for AF plots (3.32). Altogether, WL plots generate higher financial revenues than AF plots over the project life (8 years). Sensitivity analyses show that both schemes are financially robust under differing site and cost conditions. Per capita per day basic needs income needed to satisfy the minimum caloric requirement, derived from both food and non-food items, has been estimated as Tk. 16.00. Basic needs outcomes of the combined analyses show that both schemes successfully fulfil the basic needs of participants and WL is more promising. LBT zone ranks first in the AF scheme, while HBT zone provides the highest per ha per year basic needs value.