Bangladesh Policy Research and Strategy Support Program

In Bangladesh, the Policy Research and Strategy Support Program (PRSSP)—the largest project IFPRI has in the country—has played a critical role in helping the country achieve  remarkable  progress  in  strengthening  its food and nutrition security. This builds on earlier USAID-IFPRI work in the country, notably the design and evaluation of the Food for Education program in the 1990s, which reached  11.2  million  people.  PRSSP,  launched  in  2010, fills the need for demand-driven food and agriculture research in response to Bangladesh’s country investment plan for agriculture, food security, and  nutrition.

The Transfer Modality Research Initiative (TMRI), a recent PRSSP  study  done  in  collaboration  with  USAID,  DFID, the  CGIAR  Research  Program  on  Policies,  Institutions, and Markets (PIM), the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, and the World Food Programme, evaluated the impacts of five types of social safety-net transfers on income, food security, and child nutrition.  The  TMRI  led  to  an  unprecedented  decrease in child stunting by 7 percentage points over the project period—an achievement almost three times the national average decline—by combining cash or food transfers  with nutrition education. This research was used by the Government of Bangladesh, along with other sources, to integrate nutrition education into the National Social Protection Strategy and the 7th Five-Year Plan (2016–2020). During consultations for the 2016 National Nutrition Plan of Action (NPAN), UNICEF and the World Bank missions in Bangladesh referenced TMRI findings to highlight the importance of nutrition education in improving  children’s nutrition.

The largest work that PRSSP has done in partnership with USAID is the Bangladesh Integrated  Household Survey  (BIHS),  which  was  developed in 2011.  The survey collects critical poverty, nutrition, food security, gender, and other data from 6,500 participating households. A part of the survey was designed to track the progress of USAID’s Feed the Future program.  As the most comprehensive, nationally representative rural household survey, the BIHS has been instrumental in guiding several policy and investment decisions that reduced  poverty  in  Bangladesh.  For  example,  through this survey, USAID and the Government of Bangladesh were able to demonstrate the positive impact of their development initiatives—a nearly 16 percent reduction in poverty from 2011  to 2015 within Feed the Future zones of influence. In addition, the World Bank used the BIHS dataset  to  prepare  a  US$500  million  loan  agreement with the Government of Bangladesh to help its safety-   net programs better target the most vulnerable. In 2016, IFPRI released the second-round dataset with additional insights on the long-term impact of education programs and the changing landscape of child marriage.

Working closely with the Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture, PRSSP helped launch the ministry’s Agricultural Policy Support Unit (APSU) in 2012 to deliver evidence-based information to policy makers. Some of the unit’s work included developing policies that helped improve agricultural productivity in the Teesta River Basin region, which includes about 14 percent of Bangladesh’s cultivated land. In addition, APSU, with technical assistance from PRSSP, successfully prioritized 147  projects with a total budget of US$2 billion from fiscal year 2014–2015 to 2018–2019.