CLP’s Infrastructure Employment Project (IEP) providing employment opportunities for char-dwellers
Every year the riverine char islands of Bangladesh are severely affected by the heavy monsoon rains, with seasonal floods inundating the homes of those who live there. People frequently lose their homes, belongings and livestock, and are forced to seek refuge on higher ground.
Raising plinths is thus a crucial element of the Chars Livelihoods Programme’s (CLP) work on the chars. Raising homesteads on earth plinths 60cm above the highest known flood level ensures that these households will not lose everything in the next flood, can retain their assets and can continue to prosper without yearly setbacks. Where possible CLP raises homesteads of core participants as well as other members of the community. These plinths are literally the foundations on which the sustainability of the CLP’s activities lie.
Furthermore, as part of its work to improve the livelihoods of over one million char-dwellers, the CLP implements the Infrastructure and Employment Project (IEP) each year. This is a cash-for-work project that aims to provide income-earning opportunities for poor households. The poorest households are at their most vulnerable during the annual monga (hunger) season, which occurs during a period of seasonal underemployment between the planting and harvesting of the rice crop between September and December each year. This seasonality of work availability affects most households on the chars, with poorer households tending to migrate in search of work during periods of low demand.
Seeing this need, CLP initiated the cash for work project in 2006, now employing 9,500 people on average each year. This year, the IEP began in October and will continue for the coming weeks. Most labourers will also have had the opportunity to work on raising their own plinth.
In Rangpur district, we visited one such group of IEP workers comprising 35 men who will complete raising a total of nine plinths. We asked them what they thought about the project.
Mahbub: It’s my first time to work with the IEP, and I’ve been working here now for more than one month. My wife is a CLP participant since this year (cohort 2.6). When I can, I stay in this area and do agricultural work. But usually I get better money when I go to Dhaka and pull a rickshaw. That’s usually more secure. In other years I have done that. Now that I can stay here and work with the IEP it’s much better. I have one son and one daughter and they are very happy when I don’t have to go far for work.
CLP also extends work through IEP to non-core participant households.
Ruhul Amin: I don’t have any family member in CLP but I live in this area, and so got work with the IEP. I’ve been working for one month and ten days now. Normally, I do agricultural work on the char. If the IEP wasn’t here, I would have to go far (southern Bangladesh) to find work. Usually at this time of year, I can only find four or five days work around here at a time, and that’s not enough… So I’m happy to have this work and to not have to travel.