Recent poverty literature in Bangladesh suggests that one key method of poverty alleviation is to create working opportunities for the poorest or to help them to achieve the ownership of productive means. Uttaran, a national NGO has been particularly effective in its attempts to distribute both Khasland and assets to extreme poor households in an effort to move them out of extreme poverty. Distribution of khasland is assumed to boost national GDP as individual households should be able to expand their agricultural and industrial produce for sale in markets. It is argued that if an estimated 3.3 million acres of khasland (Barakat, 2010) were to be distributed to the bottom 17.6% of the entire population, 6 million of extreme poor households (HIES 2010) in addition to IGA support, each household would have ownership of 55 decimals of khasland each, they might move out of extreme poverty. Moreover, individuals would become stronger consumers in the market which would stimulate demand and accelerate economic growth in Bangladesh, enhancing demand for employment and wages.
The majority of the 430 khasland receivers out of 11816 of 1st phase beneficiaries who have the permanent took part in a collective movement to get access to khasland in the 1990’s in Debdata and Kaligonj Upazila under Satkhira District. This study refers to those permanent lease holders as khasland receivers. There were other households who had taken part in the movement but were unable to gain khasland access. This study refers to those households as non receivers of khasland. To assess the effects of access to khasland an exploratory, qualitative study has been carried out in Noapara Union of Debhata Upazila under Satkhira District, Bangladesh by Uttaran. Six weeks of extensive fieldwork in between January and February 2013 aimed to assess the effects of khasland by comparing the perspective of khasland receivers with non-receivers.
This study highlights that access to khasland is a strongly political process where the collective movement played a pivotal role in shaping the livelihoods of land receivers. The paper shows that: 1. khasland provides insurance and security through creating diverse income opportunities which can often mitigate the negative and long term impacts of shocks and allow khasland receivers to cope better with shocks; 2. khasland allocation incentivises women’s engagement with labouring activities, household asset management, as well as their mobility within the village; 3. Livelihood comparisons between khasland receivers and non receivers of khasland show that the income diversification effect of khasland and the potential for women to contribute to the household’s income gives household beneficiaries the opportunity to save; 4. The norm of landless has changed. Now the father of a girl at daanga (highland) wants to marry off his daughter, which was previously unheard of; 5. Being a landholder has changed their identity opening them up to the benefits of the market; 6. Using one large piece of land has changed the structure of the market. They are the key market players as suppliers; 7. Social setbacks may still have implications for retaining khasland. Though bhumihin (landless) leaders’ contributions are undeniable, they have a controversial role which is creating social insecurity to some extent. However, the leaders are negotiating with the external institutions and personnel to solve their community problems. So, by following a similar process and organizing a community movement to get the landless access to khasland, similar benefits may be realized.
Sheikh Tariquzzaman; Sohel Rana. Understanding the effectiveness of access to khasland: Comparing khasland receivers to Non-Receivers. Shiree Working Paper No. 24. Shiree, Dhaka, Bangladesh (2014) 30 pp.