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New NGO–Elite Relations in Business Development for the Poor in Rural Bangladesh

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Abstract

Through observation of two programs in broiler rearing and silk production implemented by a Bangladesh nongovernmental organization (NGO), this article explores what role an NGO can play as an intermediary in business development for the poor with focus on the relations between the NGO and local elites. In theory, as market demand for a product or service increases, the business attracts more interest from local elites, to whom all the benefits tend to go in the end. However, the two cases suggest feasible ways for the poor with intermediary to open up a business opportunity in the elite-controlled rural economy: market differentiation and the use of a stagnant industry. As a result, new NGO–elite relations emerge. Considering the limited life of such relations, efforts should be concentrated on enabling the poor to make the most of the business opportunity in the short term under the new NGO–elite relations.

Résumé

En observant deux programmes, la production d’élevages de poulets et la confection de soie, implémentés par une organisation non gouvernementale (ONG) du Bangladesh, cet article explore quel rôle peut jouer une ONG en tant qu’intermédiaire dans le développement d’une entreprise destinée aux pauvres, en mettant l’accent sur les relations entre l’ONG et les élites locales. En théorie, lorsqu’il y a une augmentation de la demande pour un produit ou un service, l’entreprise attire davantage l’intérêt des élites locales qui finissent par s’accaparer de tous les bénéfices. Cependant, ces deux cas suggèrent la faisabilité pour les démunis avec l’aide d’un intermédiaire dans le but de générer une activité économique dans le cadre d’une économie rurale contrôlée par l’élite : la différenciation du marché et l’utilisation d’une industrie stagnante. Il en résulte que de nouvelles relations entre l’ONG et l’élite s’établissent. En considérant la durée de vie limitée de telles relations, des efforts devraient être faits pour permettre aux plus démunis d’obtenir le plus de leur activité économique dans le court terme sous l’égide des relations entre l’ONG et les élites locales.

Zusammenfassung

Durch Beobachtung von zwei Programmen in Hähnchenaufzucht und Seidenproduktion, die von einer Nichtregierungsorganisation (NRO) in Bangladesch implementiert wurden, erforscht dieser Artikel die mögliche Rolle einer NRO als Mittelsmann in der Entwicklung von Geschäften für Arme, mit Fokus auf die Beziehungen zwischen NRO und lokaler Elite. Theoretisch gesehen, wenn die Marktnachfrage nach einem Produkt oder Service steigt, findet ein Geschäft mehr Beachtung durch die lokale Elite, zu der im Endeffekt häufig aller Nutzen geht. Die beiden Beispiele zeigen mögliche Wege für die Armen, durch einen Mittelsmann eine Geschäftsmöglichkeit in einer von der Elite kontrollierten ländlichen Ökonomie zu erschließen: durch Marktabgrenzung und Nutzung einer stagnierenden Industrie. Als Ergebnis entwickeln sich neue Beziehungen zwischen NRO und Elite. In Anbetracht der begrenzten Lebensdauer solcher Beziehungen sollten sich Bemühungen darauf konzentrieren, die Armen zu befähigen, mittels der neuen NRO-Elite-Beziehungen kurzfristig das meiste aus der Geschäftsmöglichkeit zu machen.

Resumen

Mediante la observación de dos programas de cría de pollos y producción de seda llevados a cabo por una organización no gubernamental (ONG) de Bangladesh, este artículo analiza el papel que pueden desempeñar las ONG como intermediarias en el desarrollo de los negocios de los pobres, centrándose especialmente en las relaciones entre las ONG y las elites locales. En teoría, a medida que aumenta la demanda del mercado por un producto, el negocio atrae un mayor interés de las elites locales, que en última instancia suelen acaparar todos los beneficios. Sin embargo, dos casos sugieren que hay formas viables de lograr que los pobres con intermediarios consigan oportunidades de negocios en la economía rural controlada por las elites: la diferenciación del mercado y el uso de una industria paralizada. El resultado de ello sería la aparición de nuevas relaciones entre las ONG y las elites. Habida cuenta de la duración limitada de estas relaciones, los esfuerzos deberían concentrarse en permitir a los pobres aprovechar al máximo las oportunidades de negocios a corto plazo que proporcionarían las nuevas relaciones entre las ONG y las elites.

摘要

本文通过对孟加拉国非政府组织(NGO)实施的肉鸡饲养和丝绸生产两大计划进行观察分析,探讨了非政府组织(NGO)作为中介机构在促进贫困地区经济发展过程中所发挥的作用,同时重点阐述了非政府组织(NGO)和当地人才之间关系。从理论而言,随着市场对于产品或服务需求的不断增加,企业得以吸引越来越多的当地人才,最终促使所有利益相关方的参与。而这两个实例也进一步揭示了贫困地区借助中介机构打开商机以推广人才型农村经济的可行办法:注重市场差异性与对滞后产业的利用。非政府组织(NGO)与人才之间的新型关系也因此应运而生。考虑到这类关系的生命周期相对较短,故而应重点促使贫困地区在非政府组织(NGO)与人才之间的这种新型关系下,最大限度地在短期内拓展更多的商业机会。

ملخص

من خلال مراقبة إثنين من البرامج في تربية و إنتاج الحرير التي تنفذها المنظمات غير حكومية (NGO) في بنجلاديش، يستكشف هذا البحث الدور الذي يمكن أن تلعبه المنظمات غير الحكومية (NGO) بوصفها وسيطاً في تنمية الأعمال التجارية للفقراء مع التركيز على العلاقات بين المنظمات غير الحكومية(NGO) والصفوة المحلية. من الناحية النظرية ، كلما زاد طلب السوق للمنتج أو للخدمة، الأعمال التجارية تجتذب المزيد من الاهتمام من الصفوة المحلية ، الذين تميل كل الفوائد إلى الذهاب إليهم في نهاية المطاف. ومع ذلك ، فإن اثنين من الحالات تشير إلى طرق يمكن تنفيذهما للفقراء مع وسيط لفتح فرصة تجارية في الإقتصاد الريفي الني تسيطر عليه الصفوة: تباين السوق و الركود الصناعي. نتيجة لذلك، علاقات جديدة تنشأ بين المنظمات الغير حكومية(NGO) والصفوة. إذا أخذنا بعين الإعتبار العمر المحدود لهذه العلاقات، ينبغي أن تتركز الجهود على تمكين الفقراء من الاستفادة القصوى من الفرص التجارية في الأجل القصير في إطار جديد للعلاقات الجديدة بين المنظمات الغير حكومية(NGO) والصفوة.

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Notes

  1. There are 64 districts in Bangladesh; thana is an administrative unit under district.

  2. One acre is equal to 100 decimals.

  3. For instance, according to a survey conducted in a nationwide spread of 120 villages in 1994, the average sizes of cultivable land owned by members of three NGOs—RDRS, BRAC, and ASA—were 47 decimals, 41 decimals, and 50 decimals respectively (Zeller et al. 2001, p. 28).

  4. This amount was almost equivalent to the annual income of an agricultural laborer and was actually equal to 6.4 months of the participants’ average household income at the start of the poultry program (IIRD 2001). The currency rate for one US dollar was 58.8 Taka in 2003 (Economist Intelligence Unit 2004).

  5. The outbreaks of bird flu have been reported in several Asian countries since mid-December 2003. Although there were no physical victims of the bird flu in Bangladesh, domestic demand for chicken suddenly decreased due to rumors about the bird flu, which temporarily shrank the chicken market.

  6. Union is the smallest administrative unit under thana.

  7. CP (Charoen Pokphand) is one of the largest feed producers in the world. CP has fully integrated agri-industry activities in 12 Asian countries or regions, including Bangladesh (CP Group, no date).

  8. Cocoons collected from the silkworm rearers were classified by quality into good and waste cocoons. While good cocoons were conveyed to the reeling center and finally processed into silk cloth for garments, waste cocoons were distributed to home spinners and processed into silk cloth for home textiles.

  9. Waste cocoons were distributed to home spinners at a fixed price. IIRD provided each home spinner with a spinning machine on loan. Raw silk spun by the spinners was processed into silk cloth for home textiles in the weaving factories.

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Acknowledgements

I am indebted to the Center for Asia Pacific Social Transformation Studies (CAPSTRANS) at the University of Wollongong for a postdoctoral fellowship which enabled me to write this article. I would also like to thank participants in a seminar I held at CAPSTRANS and two anonymous reviewers for helpful comments on earlier drafts. The original fieldwork for this article was financially supported by the Australian National University, for which I am grateful to the staff of ANU. I also appreciate University Press Limited (Dhaka, Bangladesh) for permitting me to use some data from my book titled "Livelihood Diversification and Landlessness in Rural Bangladesh" (2007) for this analysis from a new perspective.

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Makita, R. New NGO–Elite Relations in Business Development for the Poor in Rural Bangladesh. Voluntas 20, 50–70 (2009). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11266-008-9077-5

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