The Project Management of the Regional Fisheries and Livestock Development Project, Noakhali Component, would like to apologize to all our readers for a gap of several months in updating this website. Our last updates were posted on late June 2012, since when RFLDC has been going through a difficult period. Despite the positive results of activities which have been recorded in these pages, in May-June 2012, the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock of the Government of Bangladesh raised several obstacles to the extension of the Project to the end of 2012 and beyond and it was only through the positive assessment of a sub-committee of the Development Project Evaluation Committee of MOFL in late May that the authorities were persuaded to approve the extension as an adjustment to the first revision of the Development Project Proforma (DPP). This delay, suggesting a lack of commitment on the part of MOFL, provoked a reaction by the Embassy of Denmark. Up to that point, the Embassy had seen RFLDC as the major area for development funding under the Agricultural Sector Programme Support, Phase II, (ASPS-II) up to the end of June 2013, when a new phase of Danida support was due to start. With the lukewarm support from MOFL, the Embassy of Denmark began to shift resources away from RFLDC towards the former Rural Roads and Market Access Component, which had been planned to close in June 2012.
In July 2012, the Economic Relations Division of the GOB approved the extension of ASPS-II as a whole to June 2013, but in September once again the Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock found reason to refuse the extension of RFLDC under a second revision of the Development Project Proforma, which actually increased the resources available to RFLDC in Taka terms. Again a change of heart was brought about by the efforts of the Project Directors of the Technical Support Units in both Barisal and Noakhali and the proposals for the second revisions of the DPPs are now with the Planning Commission. By mid-January 2013, both proposals had been accepted in principle at the Project Evaluation Committees in the Planning Commission, pending some minor adjustments in the GOB budgets. However, further damage was done and the Embassy of Denmark began to construct an ‘Exit Strategy’ to ensure the ordered phasing-out of RFLDC so as to facilitate a smooth transition to the next phase of Danida support under the so-called ‘Agricultural Growth and Employment Programme’ (AGEP).
RFLDC, Noakhali, is now operating under the assumptions included in this ‘Exit Strategy’ which has naturally affected morale and the scope of activities it has been possible to implement since mid-2012. There have been several resignations, some of them of senior staff, which have required a reshuffle of resources among field staff, and a phasing out of other staff, notably in the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit has begun in January 2013. Most field activities will be curtailed by April 2013 and the final closure of the Component is planned for the end of June. The Senior Advisor of RFLDC, Noakhali, has been hired by the Embassy on a short-term contract to oversee the phasing out.
Nevertheless, RFLDC, Noakhali, has tried to remain positive in the face of these uncertainties. The usual Annual Planning Meeting was held in September 2012 to prioritize substantive activities in the 8-10 months remaining in the Project The strategy developed at that meeting was based upon three key principles:
- A smooth process of phasing out of Component activities so as to ensure the maximum benefit to Component beneficiaries from the improved fisheries and livestock extension systems created by the Component;
- Handing over of responsibilities for that system to key stakeholders in the respective regions including a range of community level service providers, Community-based Farmers’ Organizations, private agribusiness, local government institutions and the regional units of Government of Bangladesh departments at Upazila and District level. In some the handover may be to other partner projects in the Component area.
- Ensuring maximum sustainability by consolidating the capacity already built to a large degree of the key stakeholders so that they may continue to serve resource-poor farmers through their own resources and those available from other projects.
In this context, the Annual Planning Meeting placed the need for further capacity building of the Community-based (Farmers’) Organizations (CBOs) in the region as the main emphasis for the period, along with further support to the Local Facilitators involved in operating the Farmer Field Schools so that they could continue to form a key resource for sustainable development in their communities. Less emphasis was placed upon further work with local private agribusiness and little upon the capacity building of Local Government Institutions. It was decided to make some further effort to restore relations with the local offices of the Departments of Fisheries and Livestock Services in the region to enable them to offer support to the CBOs after Project withdrawal.
The updates to this websites presented here and in subsequent updates during the first part of 2013 will reflect the circumstances described above. The elements of the update can be found in the various sections of the website: Outputs and Progress; Project Documentation; and, below, Forthcoming Events and Latest News.
The updates will also reflect the need to record the important lessons learned from RFLDC and the Noakhali Component in particular so that these are made available to readers in the future through the conversion of this ‘dynamic’ website to a ‘static website’ in July 2013. This will be managed initially by the Integrated Farm Management Component of the new Agricultural Growth and Employment Programme.
RFLDC Noakhali has offered financial support to six projects under its allocation of funds under the Agricultural Sector Programme Support Adaptive Research grant and one other project under its own informal research funds. Although the activities of these research projects have, on the whole, been encouraging and some promising results have emerged which may serve to feed into both policy and local development, it is sad to relate that, with one exception, these research projects have failed to deliver their final reports on time or of the necessary structure and quality, despite a number of friendly reminders to the Principal Investigators. As these reports are delivered, they will be loaded onto the RFLDC, Noakhali, website under the Research Reports section of the Project Documentation menu.
The Poultry Research and Training Centre (PRTC) at the Chittagong Veterinary and Animal Sciences University held the 7th Meeting of its Board of Governors on September 29, 2012. The Senior Advisor and Project Director of RFLDC, Noakhali, attend the Board Meeting of PRTC as observers since the activities of the Centre funded by Danida are administratively part of the RFLDC and with a view to encouraging the sustainable operations of the Centre. In that context, it was pleasing to note that PRTC has at last begun to earn substantial income from commercial services offered to the private sector by the laboratory facilities which have been developed under the Danida grant. The laboratories were officially opened earlier in 2012 by the Minster of Fisheries and Livestock, but their operation required further support for the salaries of laboratory technicians from the Danida grant to realize their earning potential. Between June and December 2012, the laboratories had gross earnings of almost Tk0.5 million. Unfortunately, the 8th Meeting of the Board of Governors held on January 24, 2013 showed that this development had been to some extent at the expense of the training activities of the Centre. It is now important to ensure that both activities should be contributing to sustainability.
Emphasizing the growing importance of certification issues in the aquaculture sector, representatives of RFLDC and Upazila Fisheries Officers from Noakhali District were invited to attend a one-day training on Good Aquaculture Practices, organized by the Bangladesh Shrimp and Fish Foundation (BSFF) in association with the Department of Fisheries and the Bangladesh Aquaculture Alliance, held at the Deputy Commissioner’s Office on December 2, 2012. The training, which emphasized food safety issues and the role of local officers in implementing the principles of Good Aquaculture Practice, was mainly presented by Dr Mahmudul Karim of BSFF with the support of Syed Istiak, a former staff of the Greater Noakhali Aquaculture Extension Project.
The changes in the World Fish Bangladesh and South Asia Office were probably partly responsible for a small gap in the regular monthly coordination meetings between RFLDC, Noakhali, and the IFSQP World Fish team between August and December. Another reason was the movement of Dr Mrityunjoy Kunda to take up a position as Associate Professor in the Sylhet Agricultural University. Dr Mrityunjoy has been the key figure in coordination on the World Fish side and we must congratulate him on his new position, while at the same time hoping that he will still have time for IFSQP. In fact, he has been present at the latest two meetings of the Project in December and January, when the main focus has been to review the progress of the carp and tilapia brood stock development in the various contact hatcheries from fry supplied from BFRI and World Fish, the Halda river and, in the case of the Indian Major Carps, the Karnafuly Breeding Nucleus.
Other important developments in the IFSQP have been decision to replace the Bholua Hatchery in Noakhali Upazila with the Kadirpur Hatchery in Begumgonj as a Satellite Centre for carp and the designation of the Greenfield Hatchery in Lakshmipur as a second Breeding Nucleus for tilapia. The latter development has been particularly pleasing since it will further contribute to the rehabilitation of the Greenfield Hatchery, long a partner of RFLDC in the prawn sector. RFLDC has extended its technical support to Greenfield, as well as two other sex-reversal tilapia hatcheries in the region, the former Godhuli Hatchery (now known as Hi-Tech Aquaculture Enterprises) in Dagonbhuiyan and the newly established Bismillah Hatchery south of Noakhali town. Both these hatcheries have also received the 14th generation tilapia strain from BFRI as a basis for their breeding operations.
The cooperation between the World Fish Centre, Bangladesh and South Asia Office and RFLDC owes a good deal to the vision of Bill Collis, who sadly stepped down as Director of that office in October. Amongst many farewell parties to goodbye to Bill on what is expected only to be a temporary retirement was one organized by the Bangladesh Fisheries Research Forum at the Spitfire Restaurant in Gulshan, at which a series of tributes were paid to his long commitment to aquaculture development in Bangladesh. RFLDC joined in expressing its thanks to Bill for the excellent co-operation with World Fish in the last few years under the Improved Fish Seed Quality Project.
The IFSQ Project have also been active in running a series of workshops at CBO and hatchery levels with a view to creating awareness about the need for quality fish seed, market promotion of hatcheries collaborating with the Project, networking among the different stakeholders and confidence building of the hatchery owners. One hatchery level workshop and 4 CBO level workshops are scheduled for each of the contact hatcheries, with the participation of District and Upazila Fisheries Officers of DoF, hatchery owner/technicians, CBO presidents and secretary, Local Facilitators and Community Agriculture and Aquaculture Resource Persons, nursers and grow-out farmers. By late December 22 such workshops had been arranged including 665 participants. One of these workshops, organized by the IFSQ project with the Upazila Fisheries Office of Begumgonj Upazila was reported in the national press; the article has been reproduced in the Short Articles section of this Website.
The Upazila Fisheries Officers in Noakhali have also involved in several activities under the cooperation with the World Fish Project on Improved Fish Seed Quality. On October 19, 2012, a Regional Certification Workshop for Chittagong Division was held in Noakhali under this Project to introduce the Government of Bangladesh Fish Hatchery Law, to introduce the IFSQ Project and to stress the importance of certification of those hatcheries following best practice. The Director-General of the Department of Fisheries was present as chief guest and the new Director, WorldFish, Bangladesh and South Asia Office, Dr. Craig Meisner, was present as special guest in the workshop. Dr. Harvey Demaine, Senior, Advisor, RFLDC-Noakhali delivered the welcome speech and Dr. Benoy Kumar Barman, Research Coordinator, WorldFish presented the Keynote. The Director, Marine, Department of Fisheries facilitated the open discussion session in which all the participants actively participated in the discussion. The Deputy Director, Chittagong Division, all DFOs, all SUFO/UFOs, all Farm Managers from Noakhali, Laxmipur, Feni, Chandpur, Brahmanbaria, Comilla and Chittagong districts participated in the workshop along with some delegates from DoF Headquarters.
One of the elements in the process of phasing out of RFLDC is that certain activities should be taken over by the partners in the Government of Bangladesh, the Department of Livestock Services and the Department of Fisheries. This hand-over has been going on for some time in the fisheries sector, where several Upazila Offices have been involved in the development of waterlogged paddy lands in Noakhali District. In the livestock sector, a welcome development over the past several months has been the initiative taken by the District Livestock Office in Noakhali, under the leadership of Dr Abul Khair, the District Livestock Officer, to encourage the Upazila Offices to propose a series of small development projects to address specific problems in the region for RFLDC funding. These proposals have included initiatives for censuses of the livestock situation in three Upazilas with the help of the Union Parishads, development of fodder plots on the campuses of the Upazila Livestock Development Centres, a proposal for setting up biogas plants in areas with a concentration of small dairy farms with the support of Grameen Shakti, erection of signboards to demonstrate farms practicing proper biosecurity measures and development of a campaign for de-worming and vaccination cards in all Upazilas. The small projects began in December and are expected to end by the end of March.
In Noakhali the main activity in relation to the Local Facilitators in the last quarter of 2012 has been a series of workshops oriented to the phasing out of most of them at the end of Cycle 10 (scheduled for the end of 2012). The intention of the workshops was to assess what further help the LF might need to enable them to become technical resource persons in their CBOs and in their communities. In the event, it seems clear that most of the LF are already well-established as key resource persons, either as the operators of their own integrated farms or as formal resource persons (Poultry Workers, Community Livestock Workers, Community Agriculture and Aquaculture resource Persons) or as small input traders and marketing agents. Many have invested a part of their monthly salaries in such enterprises and are earning considerable amounts from these enterprises. Nevertheless a considerable number seem still to be interested in continuing as trainers for the future phase of Danida support under the DAE in Noakhali, at least partly since this would enable them to maintain their links with the government system. The net result of the SLL training of these young people is that they have become another important element of sustainability for the fisheries and livestock extension system in the region.
A short report on the outcomes of the LF phasing out workshops in Noakhali District has been produced by the Farmer Field School Coordinator and may be found in the Short Articles section of this Website. A longer report based upon a more objective sample study of 188 ongoing LF produced by the Monitoring and Evaluation Unit is to be found in the Working Papers Section of the Website.
Partly based upon these inputs, the Agricultural Extension Component called a workshop for revision of the draft curriculum for the IFM Component at the end of November. This turned out to be overambitious since there were many comments on the drafts, especially related to the introductory sessions oriented to whole farm planning and with respect to how to incorporate meaningful study experiments for long-duration activities in ruminant livestock and fruit. Teams from RFLDC Barisal and Noakhali both attended the workshop. The curriculum already schedules 52 learning sessions difficult to incorporate in less than one year, not including high-value agricultural crops and playing down the process of development of Farmer’s Clubs. A further workshop was planned for the beginning of 2013, focusing in particular on appropriate learning exercises for ‘study plots’; however, this has yet to get off the ground.
Meanwhile, various Master Trainers (District and Upazila Coordinators) of RFLDC, Noakhali, have been involved in regular support to the training sessions in aquaculture and animal husbandry (TOT/SLL) for Farmer Trainers (FT) of the Agricultural Extension Department in northwest Bangladesh, to prepare the FT for the wider roles in the forthcoming integrated Farm Management Component of the Agricultural Growth and Employment. This support has placed a considerable strain on the resources of RFLDC Noakhali in particular, but it has been a useful input and well appreciated by the Agricultural Extension Component (AEC).
The last major effort for conceptual and technical training of Local Facilitators was also completed in November. This was run in Subornachar (Boyar Char) for around 50 new LF from the Water Management Groups and the Local Area Development Committees of the Char Development and Settlement Project, Phase IV, as a well as a small number of replacement LF from a number of different field units. These LF began to conduct their own FFS (two per LF) in the normal staggered way shortly after the beginning of the SLL in July 2012. The CDSP-IV management team has continued to pay visits to the SLL throughout the 4-5 month period of its conduct and have been highly positive at the experience. In a meeting with CDSP-IV management in September, it was resolved that CDSP would continue with this training mode for fisheries and livestock sector in the future, taking over the salaries of the LF after the phase-out of RFLDC in 2013.
Another key issue in the future development of the CBOs is their ability to maintain their financial affairs in an open and transparent manner. While considerable progress has been made in the past two years in improving financial management, a significant problem remaining in the sustainability of efficient financial management has been the turnover of the cashiers of the CBOs. This problem was raised by the RFLDC District teams in the second quarter of 2012 and a decision was taken to try to widen out the training of CBO executives and resource persons through a crash program of practical accounts training along the lines of the Season-long Learning. More properly called a Participatory Learning Approach for Accounts Resource Persons (RPA), this training was held for groups of CBO members by each of the different field units. Some of the more experienced RPA were then recruited from each group – and given honoraria - to work with the individual CBO members through regular visits to the CBOs in their areas. The training program extended over a period of 4-5 months and ended in November. It is hoped that this effort will create a wider cadre of persons able to take up the responsibilities for accounting in the CBOs into the future.
As mentioned in a previous entry, an outstanding case of human rights abuse taken up by Human Rights Committee with the support of BITA and RFDC was the physical assault on a female member of the Meghna CBO Theatre for Development Group in Kamalnagar (see Archive). After the protests launched by the HRC and the suspension of the Madrassa teacher involved, the case of Rasheda Begum came to the attention of the national press. In a major article in Prathom Alo, a national daily newspaper, Rasheda’s picture was placed alongside that of Nelson Mandela, the founding father of the modern Republic of South Africa, and her experience in threatening the established order compared with that of Mandela. While the dimensions of the two experiences may have been different, such a reaction is interesting to note.
The project of co-operation between BITA and RFLDC Noakhali over a period of more than two years came to an end in October. This project involved the development of awareness on human rights issues and the establishment of Human Rights Committee (HRC) in a total of 73 CBOs under RFLDC in Lakshmipur District, the Noakhali charlands and in Hatiya Upazila. Some of the activities of the HRC involved celebration of important international days, but several took up different human rights abuses on behalf of the CBO members, including early marriage, associated false registration of births and dowry. Four groups were also established to promote rights awareness through Theatre for Development (TfD) in Meghna CBO of Kamalnagar, Char Amanullah and Progoti CBOs in Subornachar and CADO in Hatiya. Details of the progress of this activity are given under the Outputs and Progress Section of this Website, while the Final Report of the project will be available soon under Project Documentation, Papers and Publications Section.
Sadly, the core members of the LIFE team over the past two years, Senior Upazila Coordinator, Udayan Dewan, and Upazila Coordinator, Bipul Chakma, resigned in December, having found better opportunities after the end of RFLDC in June 2013. Their experience will be sorely missed in the coming months, but Feni IDO, Mizanur Rahman, and Noakhali Upazila Coordinator, Kazi Shahabuddin, have accepted the challenge to continue the work at least until the start-up of the new project.
The nine CBOs and the HFA in the Chittagong Hills are of course relatively younger foundations than many of the CBOs and their Associations in the lowlands, dating from the development of the LIFE (Livelihood Improvement Facilities for Ethnics) program in 2009. For this reason, RFLDC Noakhali has been somewhat concerned about their future. It was good news therefore when the Embassy of Denmark suggested at a meeting in late November than RFLDC Noakhali approach its long-time partner, the regional NGO CODEC (Community Development Centre) to utilize some funds to be transferred from the reclaimed NGO credit funds from the Agricultural Sector Programme, Phase I, to develop a proposal for a modest extension of the LIFE to consolidate the activity in this area. RFLDC Noakhali Project Management thus duly approached CODEC with a Concept Note which involves a smooth continuation of the work of RFLDC in the hills from May 2013 in the development of the Field Laboratory concept and further co-operation with both IDE (see above) and the Bangladesh Institute for Theatre Arts (BITA) in the area of Human Rights awareness and capacity building in the CBOs. CODEC has agreed with the basic concept and it is expected that one or two field visits will be made to the area in February-March 2013 for detailed activity planning before the Project gets formally underway in May.
Reference has been made above to 7 CBO Associations. This figure takes into account the recent foundation of the Hill Farmers Association (HFA) which has been established to serve the nine CBOs in the hill areas of Mirsarai and Fatikchhari Upazilas in Chittagong District. Like the other six Associations in the lowlands, the HFA is meant to support the individual CBOs to establish business linkages at a level that the CBOs themselves cannot reach. The HFA is being financed by a grant from the individual CBOs carved out of their hitherto unutilized Block Grant facilities; Tk40,000 from each CBO will be for investment purpose and a further Tk10,000 for administrative support. It is hoped that, in particular, the HFA will maintain good links with the Feni Zilla CBO Association (FCA) through which it is already marketing a range of products from the hills.
Partly in preparation for the IDE exercise, but partly stemming from the Annual Planning Meeting, the RFLDC Community and Institutional Development Officers under the leadership of the Community Management Specialist have been preparing short profiles of all the CBOs in the region. These profiles offer the background and location of each CBO, the contact details of the main officers, their main activities and financial situation, the human resources available to them and the general development situation. A brief business development profile from the IDE project investigations has been added. These profiles are being brought together in four ‘Profile Books’, one for each District, which it is hoped will offer the necessary information for government, non-government and private sector actors seeking to take opportunity to channel their services through the CBO network in Noakhali in the future. They will also form a basis for websites which will be created for each CBO Association.
Following the prolonged delay in and final cancellation of the proposed project for agribusiness development of Community-based Organizations with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), RFLDC, Noakhali, in July entered into negotiations for a similar project with the international NGO, International Development Enterprises. Unfortunately this in turn was held by the uncertainties regarding project extension in the third quarter of 2012 and a contract was only finally signed in early November for a six month period.
The project, termed ‘CBO Sustainability through Market Deepening”, has two main thrusts: a review of the status of all 180 CBOs in the Noakhali region to identify their potentials and needs for further capacity building to become small business enterprises; and a detailed assessment of approximately 50 CBOs and 7 CBO Associations with a view to developing business plans and linking them to potential buyers (market actors) at the regional and national levels. The pilot project began with a meeting between RFLDC and IDE management in Dhaka and was quickly followed up by the appointment of the IDE Field Team Leader and four young Business Development Consultants. The latter have been paired with 5 RFLDC Community Development and Institutional Development Officers and throughout December these teams are now working together to undertake a detailed assessment of market potentials and capacity of the targeted CBOs and Associations, which should be finished in early January. IDE consultants, Gijs Herpers, Nurul Amin and Neeraj Nepali have been guiding this process and the development of guidelines for market assessment. The immediate outcome will be four District reports which it is hoped will be made available on this Website.
The initial outcomes were reviewed in early January and drafts of the District CBO Assessments produced at a further meeting between January 15-17, 2013. Two major points emerged from this meeting: first, that the perspective on the market in the CBOs emerging from the studies was at the grass root level, with little attention focused upon regional and national level markets; second, that there might a need to separate the views of the individual CBOs and CBO Associations, since the latter did have a broader perspective. The meeting in mid-January also introduced the District teams to (a) the so-called Pre-season Planning Meeting, met to be a matching exercise between market actors and the local level produce suppliers in the CBOs and the Producer and Marketing Groups at the grass roots level; and (b) the outline of a Business Plan for the chosen CBOs. The first was intended to build upon the CBO Business Assessments and the second to focus on a small group of promising commodities for marketing in each organization. In late January, the management of the two organizations held a further meeting in Dhaka to plan for the second phase of the cooperation between February and May 2013.
It gives us great pleasure to welcome all visitors to the website of the Regional Fisheries and Livestock Development Component, Noakhali. The site has been developed by the Noakhali Technical Support Unit (TSU) of the Regional Fisheries and Livestock Development Component (RFLDC) of Danida’s Agricultural Sector Programme Support, Phase II, in Bangladesh. The Noakhali TSU site is one of three websites developed under RFLDC; it is nested under an umbrella site of the Component as a whole and is matched by a similar site hosted by our sister project, RFLDC, Barisal. The website of RFLDC, Barisal, has been open for some time now and the design of the RFLDC, Noakhali site closely follows that example.