Understanding Rural Poverty in Bangladesh

August 19, 2008

Rohima (not her real name), a 25-year- old woman, lives in a new corrugated iron one-room house in the Manikganj district of Bangladesh with her husband and two daughters.

In 2004, her husband, a day laborer, suffered a stomach ulcer which required expensive medication and surgery. With the help of neighbors and private loans from a money lender they were able to pay for the treatment, but it left them in financial ruin. Rohima took out a microfinance loan to repay the high interest loan from the money lender, and she was also able to purchase a cow. The family’s income is supplemented from sale of milk from the cow.

Gradually, with the help of small loans, investments in livestock, and her husband’s steady employment, her life has improved and the family is accumulating assets. Now they are able to send their eldest daughter to primary school and have built a nicer house.

According to new research by IFPRI and collaborators, her story is similar to many others in Bangladesh, where one quarter of the population lives in extreme poverty. Rohima and her family were one of 1,800 households to take part in quantitative and qualitative surveys to determine the factors that create and perpetuate poverty.

The study provides insights into why some households and communities in rural Bangladesh remain trapped in poverty, while others have successfully moved out.

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