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Proshika Manobik Unnayan Kendra (Bangladesh) - Qazi Khaze Alam

Deputy Director, Proshika Manobik Unnayan Kendra

5/2 Iqbal Road, Mohammadpur, Dhaka-1207, Bangladesh


PROSHIKA is a Bangladesh NGO aiming at creating group self development processes in rural poor through self organizing, becoming critically conscious of their position and making united and collective efforts to improve their socioeconomic condition. PROSHIKA provides: collective organization, training (human and practical skills), credit and technical assistance in income generating activities. To date 29,726 groups in 4,102 villagers in 32 Districts have been formed. Lessons learned in social forestry activities are: direction to poverty alleviation; involvement of women in choice of species; collective participation on usufruct rights; locating nurseries in the rural area with production dependent on local demand; dynamic collaboration of GO and NGO teams. Activities (1992-93) include: homestead plantation (178,356 saplings), strip planting (1,097 km roads), nursery establishment (247), agroforestry and woodlot forestry (4,282 groups, 12,886,900 seedlings, 12,074 ac.), forest protection (2,367 ac.). In homestead plantations, more emphasis is placed on multi-purpose species than timber species (agroforestry, woodlot forestry 20% eucalypt; strip planting 2.5%; homestead 0.2%).

Key words: Eucalyptus, Bangladesh, NGO, social forestry, agroforestry, road planting, strip planting.


The name ‘Proshika’ is a Bengali acronym made of initials of three words: Proshikhan (training), Shiksa (development education) and Kaj (action). Since its inception as a Bangladesh non government development organization in 1976, Proshika’s aim has been to create a self reliant development process among the rural poor by extending support for getting themselves organized, becoming critically conscious of their situation and making united and collective efforts to improve their socioeconomic condition. The promotional organization of the rural poor is recognized as the core activity of Proshika. The activity extends from the formation of primary groups (with an average membership of 20) to the creation of groups’ broader organizational structures at the village, union and thana levels. The beneficiaries of Proshika are men and women of the two large sections of the rural population, i.e., the landless labourers and marginal peasants and some rural professional groups, e.g. fisherfolk, weavers, potters, etc.

Training plays a crucial role in the Proshika process and through this activity development education is imparted to the people to raise the level of their awareness, confidence, capacity and skills. Two categories of training are organized: human development and practical skills. The subject areas of human development training courses include: social analysis, development concepts and approaches, analysis of development constraints, techniques of building organization, communication, development management, leadership and participatory planning. Practical skills training courses provide the skills that are required for making efficient use of the resources and for effective implementation of economic projects.

Proshika extends credit and technical assistance to the groups to take up income and employment generating projects in various fields such as agriculture, irrigation, pond fishery and open water fishing, sericulture, bee keeping, cattle and poultry rearing, homestead gardening, social forestry, handicrafts and cottage industry, etc.

Other programmes that Proshika has initiated include: popular theatre; participatory research; development support communication through video medium; health and nutrition education; literacy and women’s programmes. In 1990, Proshika was involved for the first time in urban areas with the Urban Poor Development Programme. To date Proshika has organized 29,726 groups of which 15,370 are women’s groups. It currently employs 1,677 staff and 1,133 of them are based at the grassroots level. It operates in 67 project locations called Area Development Centres (ADCs); work is now spread over 4,102 villages of 451 unions under 91 thanas in 32 Districts.


Proshika from its inception has engaged in development of group consciousness to restore natural resources and their protection. The initiative was taken up primarily to arouse consciousness among group members, to preserve natural wealth and also for homestead cultivation. It arranged free distribution of saplings to group members or sometimes at a negligible price. In its original programme, the need for the benefit of valuable trees was intimated to the people in the presence of elites during the specific period of a year. With that view we made plans and worked accordingly. The result was not as was expected. We had not thought of species choice and of the participation of the people. Experience from continuing Proshika’s effort at the grass-roots level and from the 1986 action research, brought out the following lessons for social forestry activities as enumerated following:

1) Forestry activities should be directed towards poverty alleviation;

2) Selection of species of different trees, depends on different economic classes;

3) The role of women is widespread regarding homestead cultivation and in the choice of species;

4) Collective participation of the organized group is urgent to address social constraint usufruct right;

5) It is necessary to establish a rural nursery in remote villages;

6) The production of seedlings/saplings in rural nursery should depend on the local demand; and

7) Collaborative effort among GOs and NGOs should be dynamic.

In the light of the above, Proshika encouraged group members to produce homestead vegetables and other tree seedlings. Importance was given to group participation regarding the choice of tree and vegetable seedlings. The group members gave advice on the selection of their unused land with irrigation facilities in the project areas. The members worked responsibly even during their leisure time. This type of work organisation not only ensured members of a chance to participate but also gave them no scope of avoiding any responsibility assigned to them. The saplings produced were sold in neighbouring villages and the local market.

Based on the objectives of tree plantation on the homestead, the Proshika Sirajgonj Development Centre has involved village coordination and has introduced agroforestry technology in strip plantations since 1985. Simultaneously, Proshika Kaliakoir, Mirzapur and Sreepur ADC’s group members started protection of degraded sal forest. This process gave the group members of the villages the opportunity to participate in this viable programme. Besides these activities, Proshika’s group members participated in different new social forestry component, including agroforestry/woodlot forestry and block plantation. Based on the grassroots experience to address increasing environmental crises, Proshika’s social forestry activities are being extended faster in different social forestry components.


The problems of afforestation are deeply related in rural poverty and rural power structure. The landless and small farmers are extremely exposed to poverty deliberately. The rural society is based on socio economic, political and religious power structures. Economic power plays a key role for the control of other powers as well as the means of production. It is one of the major problems and constraints for the socio economic upliftment of the rural poor as well for afforestation activities. The majority of the people (70%) have very limited access to and control over the means of production. Their role is mainly to provide labour during agriculture season as per demand. They are not also important as consumers as their purchasing power is extremely limited.

The controlling power of the rural elite is one of the major reasons for this. Another important reason which is related to the above, is the strategy for survival pursued by the poor. Apparently, they do not organize themselves on the basis of common interest with other poor people. Rather, they pursue a strategy where they ally themselves with various factions, led and controlled by the elite in the village. Their solidarity is not with their fellow poor but with one or another of the local elite. Both the phenomenon and sub-phenomenon enhance the landlessness and poverty.

The rural power structure, poverty and deforestation are critically interactive and interrelated problems, which are again accelerated by land scarcity, insecure land tenurial right, natural disasters and inadequate remedial responses.

The nature of Proshika’s social forestry activities is directed towards poverty alleviation of the rural poor through a comprehensive approach in implementation strategies. Socio-economic awareness building activities are ensuring peasants’ participation in the programme. The beneficiaries have taken initiative to face the social constraints related to tenurial right. This institutional setup is one of the major preconditions to create positive environment for successful afforestation activities.

Proshika are in an advanced stage to implement social forestry activities by the active participation of organized group members. It is difficult for an outsider to understand and face local social constraints, because a success of the programme not only depends upon technical know-how, but also needs to give more thrust on the social problems solution approach.


Based on the need, objective and experience, Proshika has provided technical and credit support to groups to implement the following components of social forestry activities:

Homestead Plantation

Homestead plantations are one of the major fields for Proshika’s workers to learn from the villagers and to educate themselves for expanding the programme activities in other plantation areas. The implementation nature of the homestead plantation is individual, but Proshika is encouraging collective efforts of the group members in selection and production of saplings. This stage is addressed as a preparatory one for group members, as well as for the staff, to face social constraints for switching over their activities to the other plantation areas. Proshika’s group members have planted nearly 178,356 saplings in their homesteads in the financial year of 1992-93.

Strip plantations

This is one of the large programme areas of Proshika’s social forestry activities. It included feeder roads, high ways, embankments, railway strips, pond dykes and other categories of marginal land belonging to the Government and to individuals. The Government has policies to ensure benefit sharing in these lands. A number of feeder roads in rural areas are constructed over farmers’ lands without giving compensation to farmers and still farmers are paying the taxes. The land owners and the local elite, from the very beginning of the implementation stage, follow the activities with suspicion and they do not want to give up their right from the strip. Over and above this, inter Ministerial coordination gaps also raise some constraints to make efforts for embankment plantation more difficult.

Currently, we have planted 1,097 km road and 47.15 acres of marginal land; nearly 550,600 seedlings were planted over the year providing employment opportunity for 1,088 group members. Selection of roads and species of trees is decided by the implementing groups and the technical worker. Proshika is also ensuring technical assistance in relation to plantations. We have also undertaken joint collaborative activities this year with the Thana Afforestation and Nursery Development Projects of the Forest Department. Nearly 206 km of roadside and embankment plantation was carried out under the activities. Proshika is providing credit assistance to the group members for protecting and nursing the seedlings. The Forest Department is also providing seedlings and the costs related to plantations.


An urgent thrust has been given to promote rural nurseries to produce seedlings required in afforestation activities by providing credit, formal and non-formal training support and field technical assistance; 247 nursery projects were set up. Nearly 140 nursery projects are being established by the assistance of a revolving loan fund and the rest of the projects by group savings. Nearly 4,912,874 seedlings were produced by 247 male and female groups in the financial year of 1992-93. Timber and multipurpose species are the main seedlings produced in rural nurseries. Species selection and seedlings production capacity of a rural nursery depend upon the villagers’ choice and demand.

Rural nurseries promote income and employment generation as well as minimizing production cost and risk of high mortality rate due to dehydration caused by transportation. The group members earned about 3,045,981 taka from the nursery projects.

Agroforestry and woodlot forestry

The agroforestry and woodlot forestry activities are the finest examples of joint collaboration of GO and NGOs. A MOU was signed in May 1992 by Proshika and the Forest Department with a view to addressing socio-economic problems related to deforestation as well as to the burning need of afforestation in the sal forest (Shorea robusta) areas. Proshika’s group members have opportunity to participate and organize some economic classes of people in the project areas. Proshika is providing credit assistance for cultivating the land from its on-going Revolving Loan Fund. The Forest Department is also providing seedlings and financial assistance in the first year of the project. The participating group members will receive 100% of the agriculture crops and 50% of the trees from the agroforestry project and 60% from the woodlot forestry project; 4,282 group members of Proshika are involved in agroforestry and woodlot forestry project. Nearly 12,886,900 seedlings were planted in 12,074 acres of encroached sal forest land.

Forest protection

Our experience in this programme has evoked concern at the Government level. It is learnt that more bilateral aid agencies are also showing interest in this type of programme and approaching the Government to formulate a suitable tenurial policy. However, the tenurial policy will not suffice the objective of encouraging the participation of the rural poor unless the policy also guarantees a priority of benefit sharing arrangement. A very general tenurial policy may also encourage vested interests to infiltrate and sabotage the whole objective of the programme. Under the circumstances, Proshika’s group members undertook 2,367 acres of degraded sal forest land in protection programmes from 1985. The groups do not require any material input from Proshika except policy support, guidance and advice in managing the programme. Proshika is trying to coordinate with the Forest Department and to take adequate measures to establish groups benefit sharing right.


Collaboration is the means of bridging between GOs and NGOs in order to ensure appropriate use of the existing opportunities to reach the goal. Proshika’s continual efforts and the role of the Coalition of Environmental NGOs (organized by ADAB) has successfully integrated the GO and NGO efforts. Currently Proshika’s organized group members are implementing activities undertaken by the Forest Department with benefit sharing arrangements. Proshika ensures collective participation, requisite credit and technical assistance. Besides, the Forest Department provides benefit sharing and material assistance to groups. This is one of the finest examples of how GOs and NGOs can work together for a better future. Currently the nature of the problems of collaboration is basically related to attitudinal understanding, identity, and acceptance of the grassroots workers; it needs more thrust on usufructory rights, participation, technical know how and bringing back converted forest land to the Forest Department.

In repeatedly uttered dialogue on Eucalyptus sustainability, respect of technical and social acceptance, Proshika give more thrust on people’s participation from the planning and implementation to the management of the activities. We found that a negligible percentage of Eucalyptus has been [homestead] planted over the last ten years. Homestead forestry is one of the major plantation areas in Bangladesh, but here people give more emphasis on planting multi-purpose fruit trees rather than timber species. The rest of the marginal land is not used by the people because of their reluctance to plant this to trees. The following statistics provide the scenario of Eucalyptus planting, over total seedlings plantation of the Proshika social forestry programme.

Figure 1. Activities and achievements of the Proshika programme

Social Forestry component

Total seedlings planted

Percentage of Eucalyptus

No. of Eucalyptus seedlings planted

Agroforestry/woodlot forestry












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