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Microfinance was developed there in the late s before spreading. In BRAC, a charity, started giving assets such as cows and training in how to manage them to desperately poor women. That approach has spread, too. The latest poverty remedy to emerge from Bangladesh is different: it targets men, and rather than trying to make people more productive in their villages, it encourages them to move. In Rangpur, a northern district, agricultural labourers endure an annual hunger in the autumn, known as monga.
The rice crop has been planted but is not ready to harvest, so work is scarce. Jobs abound in the cities, but poor farmers are loth to use their dwindling savings on a bus ticket.
It is a good example of a poverty trap. So, for the past ten years, researchers led by Mushfiq Mobarak, an economist at Yale University, have tried offering cash to poor households so long as somebody moves to a city to look for work. The effects of this intervention have been measured through randomised controlled trials, including a large one, covering villages, which began in They turn out to be strong.
Predictably, money encourages movement. That suggests a snowball effect: if lots migrate, the hesitant may follow. Household income rises, largely because men are able to work more hours each day. Sree Jotin, an agricultural labourer with a small plot of his own in Rangpur, reckons that he earns about taka a day in the fields. In Dhaka, where he worked as a cycle-rickshaw driver last November and December, he pulls in about He pays taka to rent a rickshaw and for food, but makes far more than he could at home he sleeps in a corner of the garage, so has no housing costs.
Village life is profoundly affected, and not just because more men are sending money home. With so many workers absent, agricultural wages rise. Oddly, households that are encouraged to send somebody to a city end up earning slightly more from rural work than households in the control villages.