When the non-profit BRAC was set up over 40 years ago, it was a temporary effort aimed at helping rural populations that had been affected by a devastating cyclone and civil war. Today, BRAC is one of the biggest NGOs in the world, and responsible for lifting 150 million people out of poverty. Farming First TV had the opportunity to interview BRAC’s Founder, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed at the Borlaug Dialogue in Iowa, where he was honoured as the 2015 World Food Prize Laureate, to find out the secrets of success behind the Bangladesh-based NGO.
For centuries, Bangladeshi farmers had faced a hunger season, known as monga. Sir Fazle told Farming First how giving farmers access to rice varieties that matured more quickly allowed a third crop, potatoes, to be planted in between the two rice growing seasons. “It was long assumed to be a part of the enduring fabric of rural life in northwest Bangladesh. But today, we are starting to see the disappearance of monga and, in many places it has gone completely,” he commented.
“We have…succeeded in disrupting a pattern of suffering that had prevailed for centuries”
Providing farmers with finance and access to markets in order to sell their produce, was a second strand of activity that BRAC undertook in order to help rural people prosper. Sir Fazle told us how he had seen that farmers in rural areas were not getting a fair price for their milk.
“I thought, if we could collect milk… refrigerate it, and transport it to Dhaka, we could easily pay (the farmer) 15 taka per litre — roughly twice what she was getting at that time — and still cover our costs. This led to the establishment of the BRAC Dairy enterprise.”
BRAC now operates several social enterprises, that are all focussed on providing high quality inputs and services for the poor. These businesses generate $150 million in profit each year, which is all directed into financing BRAC’s non-for profit work such as healthcare and education.
For more information on Sir Fazle Hasan Abed and BRAC’s work, visit the World Food Prize website.