In Bangladesh we work to support marginalised farming communities to access a sustainable source of income. We support youth volunteering, contributing towards increased awareness of sexual health and rights as well as providing skills for employability and entrepreneurship.
Gender equality is systematically applied across all of our work. In Bangladesh at least 30% of farmers supported through our Rangpur-based Growing Together project are women, whilst our aquaculture project in the south west of the country focuses solely on supporting women.
We are working to support 4,200 Rohingya child refugees to give them the education, support and care they need.
We're working with 24 youth clubs and thousands of young volunteers to tackle a wide range of social issues.
Since 25 August 2017, targeted violence against Rohingya communities in Rakhine State, Myanmar, has forced over 671,000 people, mostly women and children, to flee their homes.
This exodus has become one of the fastest growing refugee crises in the world
VSO volunteers are on the ground ready to help the most vulnerable young children.
We aim to reach 4,200 children aged 3-14 years and give them the care and support they need to heal and reclaim their childhoods.
More information on supporting Rohingya child refugees
For more information, please see the Rohingya education project page
You can support this project with a donation today
Almost half of Bangladeshis rely on agriculture for their livelihoods. But climate change, land scarcity and poor access to markets keep 36% of people in rural areas below the poverty line.
Too few smallholder farmers grow enough food to satisfy themselves and their families, let alone sell any surplus for profit. Food security is a growing cause for concern.
VSO's Growing Together project, in partnership with Syngenta and Bank Asia, works to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in Bangladesh. The project harnesses our collective expertise in agricultural techniques and value chains to grow smallholder farmer household incomes.
Through funding from UK Aid, the Growing Together project is expanding to support 100,000 marginalised farmers.
- 10,000 farming families have been intensively trained in good agricultural practice
- 90% of poor farmers have reported a 50% increase in their income
- The establishment of ‘farmer hubs’ that have allowed the majority of farmers to secure contracts with private sector companies that guarantee purchase at an agreed price
- Farmers participating in Growing Together have increased vegetable yields by 80% and potato yields by 50%
- A 50% drop in pesticide use on rice and a 60% reduction in chemical fertilizer use across all crops since the start of the program due to comprehensive training.
- Six Farmer Centres have been established, allowing farmer groups to command higher prices and provide access to machinery rental, seeds and affordable storage
- Net income of 10,000 participating farmers has increased by 200%
Our partnership with VSO is proving to be very successful with measurable benefits for rural communities and our volunteering employees
Juan Gonzalez Valero, Head of Public Policy and Sustainability at Syngenta
More information on Growing Together
For more information and case studies, please see the Growing Together project page
- Download Growing Together In Bangladesh - Syngenta and VSO 2015-16 report. (PDF)
- Download Growing Together in Bangladesh - Syngenta and VSO report 2014-15 (PDF)
Aqua culture - supporting female crab farmers
In the south west of Bangladesh rising salinity levels, caused by climate change, is impacting land productivity. Combined with over-fishing of more traditional and lucrative shrimp, many communities in this coastal belt have been left without a suitable alternative. The aqua culture project supports female farmers who have adapted to cultivate mud crabs for their meat.
We have been supporting the crab harvest and culture – particularly crab fattening- as an alternative livelihood. It is a low cost, easily available, nutritious and environmentally friendly. Importantly, crab is in demand across markets in South East Asia and Europe.
The mangrove swamps and canals that criss-cross the region make it a great location for this farming. The VSO – BSRM crab farming project is directly contributing to the increased income of women farmers and GDP of Bangladesh.
- So far the 358 women supported by this project have reported average net annual incomes of GBP £580. 18%* higher than the average annual income of low skilled workers in the country.
- Earning money for the family is increasing women’s confidence and participation in decision making within the household
*Average salary source via Trading Economics
More information on aqua culture - supporting female crab farmers
For more information please see the Aqua culture - supporting female crab farmers project page
Youth interventions through National Citizen Service, funded by Volunteering for Development, brings together 1000s of young volunteers working across 24 youth clubs.
Supported by community leaders and experienced volunteers, VSO youth volunteers are well placed to challenge harmful attitudes as well as educate other young people on a variety of topics. Volunteers on this project support:
- sexual health and reproductive rights and awareness
- challenging attitudes towards forced child marriage and dowries
- sanitation and hygiene
- maternal health - safe delivery, referral pre-natal and post-natal care services to the community people.
- vocational knowledge and business support to support entrepreneurship and employment
Interactive theatre has also been applied for behavioural change in the community that comes through the engagement of community youth volunteers who has been developed by VSO in partnership with Theatre for a Change.
Bangladesh has the world's fourth highest rate of children entering into forced ‘marriages’. Three quarters of girls in rural areas are married before the age of 15.
VSO harnesses local and international ICS youth volunteers to work with young people and elders in target communities. They deliver critical information with a focus on the risks to health of young girls and legal protection for child rights. Their innovations include safe spaces where girls can discuss issues, and supporting the development of anti-child marriage committees.
- More than 900 people have new skills to challenge forced child marriage with several child marriages already prevented
- Target communities have made commitments to ending forced marriage
- Training local youth to develop peer education and outreach programmes on youth sexual and reproductive health.
My daughter’s learnings made me realize how brutal child marriage is and what health hazards a girl can face because of it. Now I don’t think of my daughter as a burden, I consider her as an asset who will do something for the people of my community.
Father of Shapla, a girl in Durgapur, who resisted early marriage after being supported by VSO ICS youth volunteers
VSO's distinct contribution in Bangladesh
VSO has been working in Bangladesh since 1974 to ensure that marginalised women and men in some of the poorest districts can participate in, contribute to and benefit from the country’s economic and social development.
Our progress has been made through VSO's people-centred approach to development using a volunteering-based impact model. Evidence shows that results achieved through volunteering offer increased sustainability and value for money.
VSO volunteers are a diverse pool of experienced professionals. They collaborate with their host communities to find innovative, local solutions. They provide continuous training, coaching and mentoring to our partner organisations.
Our projects are making real progress and we’re excited about the opportunities for further development. If you’d like to support our work and be part of the transformation in Bangladesh, we’d be delighted to hear from you.
Working for an international company, I have worked in many multi-cultural teams, but this experience has added a new dimension as we learn to collaborate across the business and development sector. There’s a strong sense of partnership, which is really exciting. Most importantly, it could ensure sustainable and scalable outcomes for vulnerable people and communities.
Jonathan Richards, Syngenta supply chain manager who volunteered in Bangladesh as part of our Growing Together project
Growing Together in BangladeshGrowing Together is a programme co-created with Syngenta. Together we’ve supported 10,000 marginalised farming households to increase their income by 300%. We are now aiming to reach 100,000 farmers.
VSO’s valued funding partners in Bangladesh include Accenture, Big Lottery Fund, BSRM Group, DFID, Syngenta and UNICEF.
We have good relationships with Bureau of Manpower Employment and Training (BMET), Department of Agriculture Extension, National Institute of Local Government, Department of Youth Development.
Interested in finding out more about our work in Bangladesh? We’d love to hear from you.
Email the VSO Bangladesh team
VSO Bangladesh, House # 382 (1st & 5th floor), Road # 28,
New DOHS, Mohakhali, Dhaka-1206
Tel: (+88) 02 9851462, 9851260
In accordance with the Bangladesh Right to Information Act, VSO Bangladesh provide a number of policies, budget documents, governance and structure information.
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