Improving market access in South-West Bangladesh

By Christa Ketting

“Of course, we can build 197 markets – if we would start tomorrow, then we could be finished in a couple of months. But that is not the point.” says Luthfur Rahman, project director of the Coastal Climate Resilient Infrastructure Project –CCRIP- in Bangladesh. “We won’t have any development impact when we randomly construct markets without taking their location into account” he concludes.

CCRIP constructs climate-resilient road infrastructure and markets sheds in order to improve market access in south-west Bangladesh. The project is implemented in 32 upazilas (unions) in 12 districts in the south of Bangladesh. The 12 districts are known to be among the least developed of the country and vulnerable to natural disasters such as tidal surges, cyclones and floods. The goal of CCRIP is to improve the livelihoods (higher incomes and food security) for poor households. In order to do so, it upgrades markets in the selected areas and rehabilitates the access roads towards them.

For monitoring and evaluation purposes, the location of CCRIP markets and roads are uploaded in Google earth. As Google earth allows you to consult historical images, the project is able to track how CCRIP markets develop over the course of years. For example, the footage below is that of the “Post Office Bazar” located in the Babuganj upazila of the Barisal district, which has been established in 1988. In 2013, most of the market activities took place alongside the main road. 

Photo credits: maps prepared by CCRIP Project Monitoring Unit Bangladesh
In 2014 CCRIP started with the construction of retail market sheds and open platforms, as you can see in the picture below.

These markets are constructed on government donated land, called “Kash”. Besides market sheds, CCRIP also rehabilitated access roads and internal roads, as well as constructing toilet facilities around the “Post Office Bazar”. Moreover, the project replants trees along side roads in order to make up for the logged trees. To date, 7 kilometers of trees have been replanted.

The number of sales points considerably increased in the last two years, as shown on the picture below. In particular, in the area West of the market sheds, a livestock market now takes place every Wednesday and Sunday. 

This growth can not only be attributed to the markets and roads constructed by CCRIP. Yet, it seems increased connectivity and by offering smallholders a place to sell surplus production contributes to livelihood development in the project areas. The majority of CCRIP markets thus saw an increase in goods traded and the number of traders.

Moreover, site selection seems key in order to trigger growth, especially for the rural poor. Most of CCRIP activities take place in the most remote and poor Upazila’s of Bangladesh. Moreover, the project upgrades “small markets” with around 10-50 outlets that serves the rural population. This stands in sharp contrast to the rural growth centres like the Gosairhat Bazar (below) that are upgraded by other financial institutions in line with their respective mandates. 

Bangladesh, which is one of the most densely populated countries in the world, has a fast growing economy. Small scaled interventions like the CCRIP road construction and market upgrading allows the rural population to benefit from this growth. However, as implied by project director Luthfur Rahman, these intervention should be carefully planned and well implemented.