K M Kabirul Islam

Postgraduate Research

Graduation Year: 2016

Research Area: Measures of Social Inequality & Wellbeing

Research Topic: Food security and social safety net programs: A study of Bangladeshi rural poor households
Supervisors: Dr Jennifer Skattebol, Prof Kelley Johnson

Description: Despite achieving self-sufficiency in food production in the late 1990s, food security is still a major policy issue in Bangladesh due to lack of access to safe and sufficient food for the poor. Consecutive governments have developed a range of social safety net programs (SSNPs) to address the issue. A number of studies have been conducted to assess these programs' impact on ensuring food security; however, the poorest people were not widely engaged in previous studies, nor in the design or implementation of the programs. This research explored the perceptions, insights and experiences of people in one of the poorest rural areas of Bangladesh. Two groups of people were interviewed: the beneficiaries of five selected SSNPs and non-beneficiaries who would have qualified for a program. This research focuses on exploring how people perceive their food security issues and how these issues could be solved to improve their lives. This research adopted a qualitative method to collect and analyse data: twenty interviews were conducted to explore the perceptions of both beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. In addition, two interviews and two focus groups were conducted to examine the responses of middle and senior officials to the perceptions of the beneficiaries and non-beneficiaries. This study draws on a range of empirical and theoretical approaches to deepen our understanding of the perspectives of people involved in SSNPs in one of the poorest regions of Bangladesh. The findings suggest that the programs partially acted to improve the beneficiaries’ food security, women’s empowerment, income, earning dignity, and medical care. However, the meagreness of the amount delivered and the short length of some programs meant the impacts were limited. In addition, the efficiency of the programs was further reduced due to corrupt practices such as bribes, leakages, nepotism, and political interference by the selectors and program managers. Some participants perceived the government support as charity and said they preferred to work rather than to accept charity for themselves and their children. The majority of participants argued to increase the amount of benefits for the people who need it most. In order to create work opportunities for the poor who are physically able to work, participants advocated for establishing local industries to provide sustainable livelihoods.

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