The overall vision for Bangladesh’s development in the AGEP implementation period has been embedded in the GoB Vision 2021, which is a political statement on where Bangladesh intends to be when it marks the 50-year anniversary of independence in 2021: “a country with accelerated economic growth and empowered citizens.” This development is to take place in the context of better education, social justice, protection of the environment, climate resilience, respect for democracy, rule of law, human rights and equal opportunities. Vision 2021 proposes a set of concrete measures to achieve eight identified goals by 2021, through implementation of several short- and medium-term initiatives and interventions. The GoB recognises that the promotion of democratic, efficient and accountable institutions, and of gender equality are important means for making the Vision 2021 a reality. Improvements in these areas are essential to realise the GoB’s ambition of achieving an accelerated economic growth rate of 8% in 2021.
The 7th Five-Year Plan (FYP) 2016-2020 labelled “Accelerating Growth, Empowering Citizens” was approved by the GoB in November 2015. It was developed with a view to operationalising the Vision 2021 while also taking into account the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Bangladesh has followed the course of planned development since 1973 through development of FYPs. The 7th FYP articulates new strategies, institutions and policies, while strengthening the existing ones, to complete the remaining agenda of achieving the social and economic outcomes of the Vision 2021 agenda. The plan strives for job creation as the wheel to generate GDP growth. In Bangladesh, more than 2 million new workers enter the labour market every year. The 7th FYP also emphasizes that income distribution should be significantly improved, leading to a faster pace of poverty reduction. In this regard, the plan puts emphasis on policies, institutions and programmes that will support lowering of income inequality and empowering the citizens.
Bangladesh was widely acclaimed as one of the front runners of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) implementation. The country made outstanding progress in the areas of poverty alleviation, food security, primary school enrolment, and gender parity in primary and secondary level education, lowering infant and under-five mortality rates and maternal mortality ratios, improving immunization coverage, and reducing the incidence of communicable diseases. Many MDG targets were achieved ahead of time and most within the 2015 deadline.
Bangladesh has also made good progress towards most of the SDGs (UNDP SDG Progress report). The starting time of the SDGs (2016-30) and Bangladesh’s 7th FYP (2016-20) was a mere coincidence; nonetheless it provided the country a good opportunity to integrate SDGs into the 7th FYP, thus making Bangladesh an early starter of SDG implementation. All 17 SDG goals have been integrated into the plan, thus achievement of plan objectives and targets will at the same time contribute towards achievement of the SDGs.
Bangladesh managed, in 2015, to achieve the status as Lower Middle-Income economy in the World Bank rankings through a fast-paced GDP growth (an annual growth rate of 6.5% over the past decade, reaching 7.9% last year. In March 2018, Bangladesh entered into the process of graduating from UNs Least Developed Countries (LDC) to becoming a developing country in 2024, by fulfilling all three eligibility criteria (per capita income, human assets and economic vulnerability). The graduation process is expected to lead to opportunities but also to challenges for Bangladesh, e.g. in terms of future mobilisation of development finance, including official development assistance (ODA). The ODA has declined from 3.1% to 1.5% of GDP over the past two decades.
Bangladesh has, over the past three decades, experienced a remarkable reduction in the poverty rate (reduced from 44.2% in 1991 to 24.3 in 2016). Between 2010 and 2016 poverty fell significantly and faster in rural areas than in urban areas. While the urban poverty rate declined from 21.3% to 18.9% between 2010 and 2016, rural poverty decreased from 35.2% to 26.4%. Poverty reduction in rural areas accounted for 90% of all poverty reduction in the period from 2010 to 2016.
Life expectancy, literacy rates and per capita food production have increased significantly during the last decades, maternal health has improved and the number of girls in schools increased. In the 2018 Human Development Report, Bangladesh ranked number 136 out of 180 countries, placing the country in the medium category of human development.
In terms of promoting women´s empowerment, Bangladesh ranks 48 in global ranking of countries with a score of 0.721, indicating significantly better performance in this area compared to South Asian neighbouring countries. While gender inequality in general has improved in Bangladesh, there is still a need to address gender-based violence and equal access to health, education and employment. Continued efforts in this area will also help increasing the economic participation of women, which is needed to accelerate growth.
Despite the impressive progress in many socio-economic parameters, poverty and inequality remain major challenges in Bangladesh. However, although poverty has decreased in recent years, the rate of poverty reduction has slowed down. Almost one out of four Bangladeshi’s still live in poverty and one in eight of the population live in extreme poverty.
At the same time, a worrying development is that the inequality in Bangladesh is increasing. According to the latest Household Income and Expenditure Survey of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics, the country’s Gini coefficient (which is the economic measure of inequality) increased from 0.458 in 2010 to 0.482 in 2016, indicating that the inequality is increasing in the country.
The increasing inequality has implications for poverty reduction and relative deprivation, as well as posing a main challenge confronting Bangladesh. Partly it is a problem resulting from the inability to bring all types of income under progressive taxation and partly it is a problem of not being able to appreciably increase the share of government expenditure on education, health, rural development, and social protection in total government expenditure. The country therefore faces an urgent need for more focused policies and programmes with larger impact on reducing inequality. Although the GoB has been following a pro-poor development strategy, combining acceleration of economic growth with the reduction of poverty and inequality, this has not yet succeeded in reversing the worsening income distribution.
According to the Gender Gap report from 2018, Bangladesh has considerably reduced gender gaps concerning education and health, as well as gaps in political empowerment. However, in terms of economic empowerment and women’s economic participation and opportunities, Bangladesh is ranked poorly as 107 out of 115 countries. According to the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI’s) Women’s Empowerment Index in Agriculture (WEIA), the areas that contribute most to Bangladeshi women’s disempowerment are weak leadership and lack of control over resources. Discrimination against women in wages, continued low female labour force participation, inadequate representation of women in senior civil service positions and inadequate female managerial jobs in the private sector are some of the key challenges the 7th Five Year Plan strives to improve.
Women in Bangladesh are not traditionally recognized as farmers and their growing role in agricultural production, particularly among poor households, tends to be undervalued. Agriculture is perceived as a man’s domain and a woman, even if highly educated, may not participate much in agricultural decision-making.Apart from this, women face challenges that hinder them from full economic participation in agricultural production. This includes the religious practice of female seclusion (purdah), which requires women to be accompanied by men and/or covered when working outside the home or in public spheres.
In addition, women have severely limited access to and control over income, assets, credits, inputs and extension services and a transmission of property through the male line largely excludes women from landownership.
Data from 2011-12 showed that female land ownership was only 8.5%, and more recent studies indicate that this is still a considerable hindering factor for women’s participation in agriculture.
Bangladesh is widely seen as a ‘paradox’ in terms of governance and development because of the perceived ineffectiveness of its political institutions. It scores low/very low on many indicators concerning the quality of governance. 
Bangladesh is close to the top of the global league table for corruption. In Transparency Internationals Corruption Perception Index 2018, Bangladesh was ranked number 149 out of 180, which is below neighbouring countries like India and Pakistan. This is down from rank 143 in 2017 and from rank 134 (out of 178 countries) in 2010. The main explanations for this decline are: no practical commitment to curb corruption; little or no steps to stop high-profile corruption; uncontrolled scams and corruption in banking and financial sector; and the Anti-Corruption Commission’s failure to act effectively.
At the same time, Bangladesh’s score in the latest Democracy Index 2018 fell to its second lowest level in a decade. Bangladesh ranked 88 on the Democracy Index 2018 out of 165 countries, the second worst performance since the index was introduced in 2006. Given the overall score and ranking, the 2018 index classified Bangladesh as a “hybrid regime”, which in the report is defined as countries where “substantial irregularities are recorded during elections, governments repress opposition parties and their candidates, and weaknesses prevails in civil society and political culture, (and in) the functioning of administration and political participation”.
Bangladesh has, generally, developed high quality policies, but implementation and enforcement remain a challenge. Capacity constraints in the public administration have resulted in delays and slow implementation progress of the GoB’s development plans and have resulted in difficulties in implementing complex institutional reform processes. Likewise, the GoB’s capacity to engage with the private sector and create good conditions for private investments and public-private partnerships is an area where improvements are yet to be made. The public sector is currently not adequately equipped to address the key challenges, which are required to achieve the needed economic and social reformation.
The respect for universal human rights remains high on the agenda in Bangladesh. The National Human Rights Commission has identified a series of challenges within civil, political, social and cultural rights in its second five-year strategic plan for 2016-20. This includes discrimination against women and gender-based violence, and full and prompt implementation of and compliance with, the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Accord focusing on land rights.
The issue of sustainability is a key concern, both in light of the environmental implications of the economic growth achieved by Bangladesh in recent years, and in relation to threats to both sustainability and growth in the coming years. This section highlights some key tendencies, with emphasis on issues of relevance to this evaluation.
The threat of climate change is of particular importance to Bangladesh as stated by the World Bank Vice President for the South Asia Region: “… especially for Bangladesh, climate change is an acute threat to development and efforts to end poverty… In addition to the coastal zones, the warming weather will severely affect the country’s inland area in the next decades. To deal with climate change, the country needs to focus on creating jobs outside the agriculture sector and improve the capacity of its government institutions.” This indicates both the risk to agriculture – and the need to ensure an effective agricultural production to maintain food security. At the same time, the economic growth has introduced increased environmental problems. A recent World Bank Report stresses how the environmental degradation and pollution is now a threat to higher growth, while pointing to the need for policies and institutions for green growth and to ensure implementation of clean technologies.
Studies indicate that, in relation to diversifying agriculture and pushing for a high yield, farmers in Bangladesh often turn to (unsafe and problematic) use of pesticides. Pesticide use has long been highlighted as a problem both in relation to the environment and to public health in Bangladesh. Pesticide consumption increased dramatically from the 1960s onwards, with an increased awareness of the various adverse effects, and various attempts to curb overuse (the FFS initiative being one). With regards to recent developments, studies’ findings differ: Some point to an overall increase since 2006; others to a decrease. However, there is little doubt that consumption remains high and overuse widespread. The most recent Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) statistics show 2014 as the year with the highest average pesticide use per area of cropland in Bangladesh. A range of studies further point to high concentrations of pesticides in soil and water, while other studies have shown widespread overuse of pesticides. Pesticide use can be particularly high in vegetable farming, pointing to a particular risk of a shift towards high-value crops, with strengthened IPM as one possible aspect of addressing this risk. Thus, while agriculture is a key driver of economic growth, researchers stress that, after having made strong progress with regards to food security, the GoB now needs to strengthen the focus on nutrition security and safe food production, including the issue of pesticides.
Bangladesh has, over the past decades, experienced a declining share of agriculture in the economy (down from 30% of GDP in 1990 to 13% in 2017). Despite the GoB’s efforts to diversify the labour market by moving away from agriculture and favouring the manufacturing and service sectors, agriculture remains a key sector in the economy, providing more than 45% of total household income and employing nearly half of the country’s workforce. However, following urbanization and climate change, the amount of farmland is shrinking, and most rural households have very little cultivable land.
Bangladesh’s rural economy, and specifically agriculture, have been powerful drivers of poverty reduction in Bangladesh since 2000. Indeed, agriculture accounted for 90% of the reduction in poverty between 2005 and 2010. Furthermore, agriculture is a major source of rural jobs in Bangladesh. More than 87% of rural people derive at least some income from agriculture. However, two-thirds of rural households rely on both farm and non-farm incomes. Pro-poor agricultural growth has stimulated the non-farm economy in Bangladesh: a 10% rise in farm incomes generates a 6% rise in non-farm incomes. Poverty is however still much more prevalent in rural than in urban areas. Thus, growth in rural areas is still key to reducing overall poverty in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has made commendable progress over the past 40 years in achieving food security, with food grain production tripling between 1972 and 2014. It is notable that this has taken place despite frequent natural disasters and a population growth rate which has remained at a level of just above 1% over the past decade. Bangladesh has one of the fastest rates of productivity growth in the world since 1995 (averaging 2.7% per year, second only to China), and the country’s agricultural sector has benefited from a sound and consistent policy framework backed up by substantial public investments in technology, rural infrastructure and human capital. Nonetheless, Bangladesh is among the most vulnerable countries to climate change, which poses a long-term threat to the country’s agricultural sector, particularly in areas affected by flooding, saline intrusion, and drought.
From a total population of 165 million in Bangladesh, more than 70% still live in rural areas. About 87% of rural households rely on agriculture for at least part of their income and livelihood. Thus, the real power structure of Bangladesh remains reflected in the ordinary rural settlements and their businesses and employment and “the key to understanding Bangladeshi society lies in the appreciation of the dynamics of its rural settlements.” Therefore, in order to understand the challenges as well as the potentials of development programme interventions in rural areas, the power structures of the Bangladeshi society and rural communities need to be understood.
According to recent studies, rural power structures in Bangladesh are extremely complex. In addition, rural Bangladeshi society is stratified economically as well as socially, dividing people into power elites or power-poor, big landowners or tenants, merchants or salesmen, rich money lenders or poor peasants, artisans or landless labourers, literates or illiterates, and so forth. According to these studies, influential elites, through their power and economic supremacy, have open access to rural resources and derive direct benefits from development processes, while poorer groups (precisely those that many development projects target) face access-related issues and are often deprived of benefits accruing from development efforts. Thus, the power structures ‘extend from the elite control to central or national level institutions right down to the village or neighbourhood levels’ and encompass the range of individuals who seek to ‘broker’ elite relationships and resources across wider society.
The studies show that large rural areas in Bangladesh, historically populated by surplus farmers, are now predominantly comprised of power-elite patrons, poor peasants, bonded labourers, political elites and their followers and at the lowest tier, deprived power-poor illiterates. Lewis (2010) describe how local elites are diversifying their power base beyond landownership and money lending into multiple and often flexible party-political affiliations and other forms of income generation. The research also shows that the city-based elite, who have migrated from the smaller villages, still exercise some power over local communities by keeping in touch with the rural poor, mostly through renting their lands to peasants and contributing money to youth clubs and other local activities, mainly religious institutions such as mosques, temples and pagodas. Likewise, landownership is no longer the only determinant of rural power. Increasingly, political attachments to the ruling/opposition party have become an important determinant in maintaining power relationships and premeditated cultural exclusion of the power-poor.
An important observation from the studies is also that new accumulation of rural wealth is based on the privatised introduction of microcredit controlled by non-governmental organisations (NGOs), bringing new non-traditional rural business households into local power structures at village level. Both new and older elites are exploring new and diversified strategies of livelihood expansion and consolidation, including various economic activities, involvement in party and political networks, engagement through forming civil society action groups and setting up NGOs. Most influential among these new power relations is political party affiliation, making this connection truly crucial to increasing individual power, as it provides a person with more freedom to do as they choose.
The latest Union Parishad (UP) elections (January-March 2016) indicated that UPs are used as a base to consolidate the ruling party’s power through rural power elites. In such ways, national politics are reflected at village level. All accumulations of wealth, power and control are equivalent to the exercise of a ‘winner takes all’ notion of power practice when it comes to accessing certain privileges from association with different social and government institutions. It seems that what goes on at the national level is replicated in rural environments.
Within Bangladesh, elite-poor relationships are predominantly based on unequal exchanges of power and loyalty, with a general pyramid-like structure. As the pyramid grows, the patronage resources, including protection and benefits, flow downwards in exchange for loyalty. People likewise follow similar paths, selling their power to power-elite patrons, once surplus farmers but now often political leaders. These influential patrons, by virtue of their power and economic supremacy, enjoy privileged access to rural resources and derive benefits from all development processes, while the poorer groups, the clients, have minimal access and are also deprived of benefits accruing from development efforts.
Finally, the studies observed that power relationships in rural areas were increasingly becoming subject to common processes of change, specifically politicisation of all social institutions, increasing NGO involvement, livelihood differentiation due to images of urban cosmopolitanism, and political musclemen’s control of local socio-political institutions such as clubs, schools and bazars. All these corresponding changes bring different local outcomes and feed the observed array of asymmetric power relations.
CHT has experienced conflict since 1975 and the hills-people have suffered immensely, including through loss of land and resources. Although these apparently ceased with the Peace Accord in 1997, tensions still remain. The overall implementation of the Peace Accord remains an unfinished process, including issues related to land dispute resolution and local elections. The limited implementation of the Peace Accord has had ramifications in the current CHT society in many ways and at various levels. There have been frequent bouts of violence with palpable tensions along communal – indigenous and non-indigenous – lines and therefore the need for improving overall socio-economic conditions in the region poses formidable challenges. Failure to address general development needs and the rights of ethnic minorities has left the region lagging behind the rest of the country. Only 7.8% of all people living in CHT complete primary education and the prevalence of absolute poverty and extreme poverty in ethnic communities are 65% and 44% respectively.
The hill districts of CHT are inhabited by 11 indigenous ethnic groups in addition to the Bengali people. They differ markedly from the Bengali majority of Bangladesh with respect to language, culture, physical appearance, religion, dress and farming methods. The demographic equation in recent years has tilted overwhelmingly towards Bengalis, who now constitute almost 50% of the total population. There were only 3% Bengalis in CHT at the time of partition of India in 1947 and indigenous people constituted 97% of the hill population. Majority of the indigenous people are Buddhists, and the rest are Hindus, and few are Christians but all of them have significant animistic traditions. These traditions are influenced by their surrounding nature and influence costumes more than religion. Most of the ethnic groups are matriarchal. Bengalis on the other hand are mostly Muslims, and patriarchal, and their lifestyle is more shaped along religious dictates. The cultural differences sometime shape opposing attitudes and fuel tensions.
The indigenous people collectively identify themselves as ‘Jhumias’ or ‘Jummas’. The name derives from the practice of ‘jhum’ cultivation, which is a slash and burn agriculture. Traditionally, they lived on hunting and gathering, jhum cultivation, and some fishing. But their lifestyle is changing fast and adapting to modern ways. Traditionally, the hill-people have never lived as a cash-dependent society, but they do now. All the respondent indigenous people met by the evaluation team were keeping their growing children out of their homes to stay in the towns, apprehensive of being targets of arbitrary detention. None of the parents wanted their kids to return to their homes anymore after finishing their schooling. Therefore, they need lots of cash for education of their children while keeping them away from home. This has increased their interest towards adoption of technologies that could readily bring them cash.
The long conflict has prevented the hill districts from availing much of any public service or NGO coverage for decades. This is in contrast to the rest of the country that experienced unhindered and sustained development support (although also subject to power structure issues) during the period covered by the evaluation, and gradually progressed. So, when the services started coming in, the technology adoption for the hitherto unserved hill districts appears much brighter in comparison to that of area served by the IFMC.
Physiographic difference of CHT regarding agricultural production is striking; and whereas IFMC is practised in largely flat lands with floodplains that allow rice-dominant agriculture, the hill districts are largely forest areas. Forests are, however, disappearing due to conflict and forced settlement by ethnic Bengalis; in addition, CHT has very little rice-growing lands and these areas are either in narrow strips along valleys or lakesides or on limited hillside terraces.
 These goals are: to become a participatory democracy; to have an efficient, accountable, transparent and decentralised system of governance; to become a poverty-free middle-income country; to have a nation of healthy citizens; to develop a skilled and creative human resource; to become a globally integrated regional economic and commercial hub; to be environmentally sustainable; and to be a more inclusive and equitable society.
 “Bangladesh’s Graduation from the Least Developed Countries Group - Pitfalls and Promises”. Debapriya Bhattacharya, 2018.
 Bangladesh Household Income and Expenditure Survey 2016/17.
 World Bank, 2018.
 Gender Gap Report, 2018.
 Sabina Alkire, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Amber Peterman, Agnes R. Quisumbing, Greg Seymour and Ana Vaz: IFPRI Discussion Paper 01240 December 2012, The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index.
 7th Five Year Plan FY2016-FY2020, Accelerating Growth, Empowering Citizens, General Economics Division (GED) Planning Commission, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, 2015.
 Sabina Alkire, Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Amber Peterman, Agnes R. Quisumbing, Greg Seymour and Ana Vaz: OPHI WORKING PAPER NO. 58, The Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index, February 2013.
 Alessandro De Pinto, Greg Seymour, Elizabeth Bryan and Prapti Bhandari, IFPRI Discussion Paper 01849, Women’s Empowerment and Crop Diversification in Bangladesh, June 2019.
 Deborah Rubin et al., Qualitative Research on Women’s Empowerment and Participation in Agricultural Value Chains in Bangladesh”, USAID, 2018.
 World Governance Indicators http://info.worldbank.org/governance/wgi/index.aspx#home and Government of Bangladesh (2015): “7th Five-Year Plan (FY2016-FY2020) – Accelerating Growth, Empowering Citizens”.
 Transparency International, 2018.
 Economist Intelligence Unit, 2018. The Index is based on five categories – electoral process and pluralism; civil liberties; the functioning of government; political participation; and political culture.
 World Bank, 2015.
 See World Bank 2018: “South Asia’s Hotspots: Impacts of Temperature and Precipitation Changes on Living Standards” and “Bangladesh’s Hotspots – Conference Edition Country Snapshot, and the related press release: https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/press-release/2018/09/26/bangladesh-rising-temperature-affects-living-standards-of-134-million-people. While this report emphases urban problems and the role of industry, it also points to agriculture-related problems, such as pesticides in drinking water.
 See World Bank 2016: Gautam et al: Dynamics-of-rural-growth-in-Bangladesh-sustaining-poverty-reduction.
 Shammi et al (2018) Pesticide exposures towards health and environmental hazard in Bangladesh: A case study on farmers’ perception. Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jssas.2018.08.005
 See Rahman 2013.
 A. N. Faruq; Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Agriculture and Pesticide Consumption in Bangladesh, Conference paper Sep 2018; Effluent Control and Waste Disposal in Pesticide Industry, and Shammi et al. 2018.
 For a recent overview of studies, see Shammi et al (2018) Pesticide exposures towards health and environmental hazard in Bangladesh: A case study on farmers’ perception. Journal of the Saudi Society of Agricultural Sciences https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jssas.2018.08.005
 Gautam et al (2017): Impact of training vegetable farmers in Bangladesh in integrated pest management (IPM).
 A. N. Faruq; Sher-e-Bangla Agricultural University, Agriculture and Pesticide Consumption in Bangladesh, Conference paper Sep 2018; Effluent Control and Waste Disposal in Pesticide Industry.
 WB 2016; Gautam et al. “Dynamics of rural growth in Bangladesh : sustaining poverty reduction”; https://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2016/05/17/bangladeshs-agriculture-a-poverty-reducer-in-need-of-modernization.
 Chowdhury (2018): “Population Growth and Economic Development in Bangladesh”.
 World Bank, 2018.
 Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics.
 Khan (2015).
 See e.g. Afsar (2010); Lewis (2011); Khan (2015) and Ullah (2016).
 Ullah (2016).
 ESID (2017): “The Bangladesh Paradox: Why has politics performed so well for development in Bangladesh?”.
 However, it should be noted that as of May 2013, the GoB Cabinet has approved the amendment to the CHT Land Dispute Resolution Commission Act 2001 in line with the Peace Accord as a step toward resolving land disputes in the CHT. This is considered a major progress toward the implementation of the Peace Accord, though without much progress on the ground so far.
 Government of Bangladesh (2015): “7th Five-Year Plan (FY2016-FY2020) – Accelerating Growth, Empowering Citizens”.
 Chakma, Marma, Tripura, Tanchangya, Lushai, Pangkhua, Bawm, Mro, Khyang, Khumi and Chak.Top