Recent studies of migration in Bangladesh and elsewhere suggest that the poorest are the least able to move and, as a result, have less opportunities to improve their livelihoods. This paper describes the initial findings of a study of sixteen villages, in eight different ecological zones, in Bangladesh. The findings suggest that many of the poorest have very mobile livelihoods out of necessity rather than choice in order to survive, and these are people who are not reached by government social protection schemes or NGO development programmes. From the old without family to care for them who become itinerant beggars in their last years of life to divorced women refused refuge and support by natal kin who labour in the houses and fields of others, the poorest can be found on the move in Bangladesh. Some do better their lot by migrating alone to work as rickshaw pullers, garment workers, barbers, beggars and housemaids. Others, often forced by drought, flood or religious/ethnic tension, move from place to place in family groups working as agricultural labourers or on construction sites. These are people missing from official village lists and from NGO `baseline surveys of the poor', whose varied lives and livelihoods do not suit the static programmes of development interventions and thus remain dependent on their own ability to move on, and survive. The action research phase of this PROSHIKA research programme on the Livelihoods of the Extreme Poor is exploring how the mobile livelihoods of the poorest can be accommodated in NGO development interventions and thereby supported.
Surviving on their feet: charting the mobile livelihoods of the poor in rural Bangladesh, presented at Staying Poor: Chronic Poverty and Development Policy, Institute for Development Policy and Management, University of Manchester, 7-9 April 2003. Chronic Poverty Research Centre (CPRC), Manchester, UK, 24 pp.